Monday, October 19, 2009

Ghost Riders

Some photos and clips of The Horrors live Detroit last week:

The Horrors
The Horrors

The lads from Central Saint Martins have traded in their ghoulsih growls and stomping garage beats for swirling melodies and sweet arpeggiations. Well... mostly. Their live sound is still massive, but more of a smoldering, just-barely-controlled detonation than explosive bolts of plasma and sonic sex. This isn't to say ears weren't shattered and souls destroyed. Oh they were.

Sea Within a Sea clip

Ghost Rider [Suicide cover] clip

Full Flickr set here.

You Are Here

Just because it's a sunny, cold autumn morning, and I woke up with this song in my head.

Nathan Fake You Are Here [2007]

Future Fashion

Fashion predictions for the year 2000 in the 1930s
[clip via Benson, via T0ybreaker]

Fantastic film reel above. They nailed it with at least one prediction.
I wonder if many at the time would have imagined something like Gareth Pugh's "dark euphoria."
Actually... probably yes! He's like an anachronism from the golden age of science fiction:

Friday, October 16, 2009

Merlin Mann on Time and Attention (Getting Things Done)

Continuing on the subjects of creativity and working methods, here's a talk Merlin Mann gave at Google last year.
(Great to listen to in the background while you're getting things done.)

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Work smarter, not harder.

Rarely do I ever re-post an entire article, but I've been preaching this method to mostly deaf ears much of my professional career. So glad Fast Company published this piece.

The workforce is full of what I call "inefficient martyrs": people who believe that putting in long hours, sucking up to people they know are unqualified to be in management, and sacrificing their personal lives is somehow equal or superior to accomplishing something significant with smarter methods and less effort. Good planning, time management, allowing yourself pleasure, traveling frequently, daydreaming, actively making time and effort to expose one's self to different cultures and radical ideas... just taking time to experience things outside of "work" which make one a more insightful, productive and valuable contributor to the workplace [and ultimately society] has all been demonized by American corporate culture as lazy and flaky. These "lazy and flaky" afflictions on corporate America are the ones who innovate, become successful entrepreneurs, speak at TED conferences, and generally make the world a better place. The inefficient martyrs will rise like stars within their companies, be paid too much to leave, contribute nothing of value to society and continue to hate their lives - while livin' The American Dream.

Fast Company | Design & Innovation | Hard Work's Overrated, Maybe Detrimental.

A co-founder of Flickr argues that hard work often doesn't amount to much--and neuroscience offers some backing for the claim.

Caterina Fake, who, with her husband Stewart Butterfield, founded Flickr, knows a thing or two about bliztkreig work schedules. But she points out that late nights are seldom very useful in the grand scheme of things. Hard work? Overrated:

When we were building Flickr, we worked very hard. We worked all waking hours, we didn't stop. My Hunch cofounder Chris Dixon and I were talking about how hard we worked on our first startups, his being Site Advisor, acquired by McAfee--14-18 hours a day. We agreed that a lot of what we then considered "working hard" was actually "freaking out". Freaking out included panicking, working on things just to be working on something, not knowing what we were doing, fearing failure, worrying about things we needn't have worried about, thinking about fund raising rather than product building, building too many features, getting distracted by competitors, being at the office since just being there seemed productive even if it wasn't--and other time-consuming activities. This time around we have eliminated a lot of freaking out time. We seem to be working less hard this time, even making it home in time for dinner.

Much more important than working hard is knowing how to find the right thing to work on. Paying attention to what is going on in the world. Seeing patterns. Seeing things as they are rather than how you want them to be. Being able to read what people want. Putting yourself in the right place where information is flowing freely and interesting new juxtapositions can be seen. But you can save yourself a lot of time by working on the right thing. Working hard, even, if that's what you like to do.

That raises the question: How do you set aside the mind space to see patterns, make connections, and read what people want? How do you find the right thing to work on?

Fake points to the salient example of Watson and Crick's discovery of DNA. They spent a lot of time lollygagging and goofing off, going to parties and bullshitting over coffee.

That might seem like a historical footnote, but our everyday experience vindicates it. After all, have you ever had a great idea at your desk? But how often does that bulb go off in the shower, or in bed?

Modern neuroscience actually vindicates this apparently lackadaisical approach. It turns out that the best way to find breakthrough ideas might be to avoid working hard. As the Wall Street Journal reported this summer:

By most measures, we spend about a third of our time daydreaming, yet our brain is unusually active during these seemingly idle moments. Left to its own devices, our brain activates several areas associated with complex problem solving, which researchers had previously assumed were dormant during daydreams. Moreover, it appears to be the only time these areas work in unison.

"People assumed that when your mind wandered it was empty," says cognitive neuroscientist Kalina Christoff at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, who reported the findings last month in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. As measured by brain activity, however, "mind wandering is a much more active state than we ever imagined, much more active than during reasoning with a complex problem."

She suspects that the flypaper of an unfocused mind may trap new ideas and unexpected associations more effectively than methodical reasoning. That may create the mental framework for new ideas. "You can see regions of these networks becoming active just prior to people arriving at an insight," she says.

The researchers found support for the idea that blinding insights favor a prepared mind--that is, you've got to really internalize the problem at hand if you're to find any sort of solution. (More more on that, check out this article from last year in the New Yorker, by Jonah Lehrer.) But to actually bring those insights to life, you've got to step back. (See why graphic designer Stefan Sagmeister advocates taking time off.)

But if the daydreaming hypothesis is right--and it seems hard to deny--more hours at your desk are actually counterproductive. You'd do better by setting aside lots of playtime, to let your mind wander. Only then will you stumble your way onto what's important.

Modern office design is actually converging upon this idea, without any prodding from neuroscience--for example, Facebook's new offices seem to be organized more around living rooms and DJ booths than cubicles. Elsewhere in office design, conference rooms are quickly being crowded out by lounge spaces. In other words, the very types of places that Watson and Crick found so useful.

Boba Fett + Front 242

[If you're reading this blog, no explanation required.]

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Large Hadron Collider is being sabotaged from the future?

“For those of us who believe in physics, this separation between past, present and future is only an illusion.” -Albert Einstein

core of the superconducting solenoid magnet at the Large Hadron Collider

This is equally insane and awesome.

Basically, two very credible scientists came up with a theory that perhaps the Large Hadron Collider's string of misfortunes is no accident, but a deliberate result of a future event to prevent observation of the Higgs boson - an as yet unverified elementary particle. Nuts? People have believed in crazier things.

New York Times: The Collider, the Particle and a Theory About Fate

Then it will be time to test one of the most bizarre and revolutionary theories in science. I’m not talking about extra dimensions of space-time, dark matter or even black holes that eat the Earth. No, I’m talking about the notion that the troubled collider is being sabotaged by its own future. A pair of otherwise distinguished physicists have suggested that the hypothesized Higgs boson, which physicists hope to produce with the collider, might be so abhorrent to nature that its creation would ripple backward through time and stop the collider before it could make one, like a time traveler who goes back in time to kill his grandfather.

Holger Bech Nielsen, of the Niels Bohr Institute in Copenhagen, and Masao Ninomiya of the Yukawa Institute for Theoretical Physics in Kyoto, Japan, put this idea forward in a series of papers with titles like “Test of Effect From Future in Large Hadron Collider: a Proposal” and “Search for Future Influence From LHC,” posted on the physics Web site in the last year and a half.

According to the so-called Standard Model that rules almost all physics, the Higgs is responsible for imbuing other elementary particles with mass.

“It must be our prediction that all Higgs producing machines shall have bad luck,” Dr. Nielsen said in an e-mail message. In an unpublished essay, Dr. Nielson said of the theory, “Well, one could even almost say that we have a model for God.” It is their guess, he went on, “that He rather hates Higgs particles, and attempts to avoid them.”

This malign influence from the future, they argue, could explain why the United States Superconducting Supercollider, also designed to find the Higgs, was canceled in 1993 after billions of dollars had already been spent, an event so unlikely that Dr. Nielsen calls it an “anti-miracle.”

Read on.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Ripley and Mad Max making out to Vangelis = awesome.

Sigourney Weaver and Mel Gibson in Peter Weir's brilliant film The Year of Living Dangerously

Monday, October 12, 2009

Death By Ackermann

Oliver Ackermann

The third post in our unofficial creative minds series, A.V. Club New York examines the wiring of one Mr. Oliver Ackermann - Rhode Island School of Design grad and former toy designer, founder of Brooklyn-based effects pedal factory/recording studio/live-work-performance space/"DIY empire" Death By Audio and frontman of plasma-hot band A Place To Bury Strangers:

Oliver Ackermann is trying, and failing, to describe the sound of his effects pedals. He builds them all from the ground up—designing the circuits; attaching the transistors, capacitors, and resistors; and drilling and silk-screening the metal cases—so it comes as something of a surprise that he has trouble finding the right words. "You could almost describe these sounds," he says, but then stops himself. Ackermann is enthusiastic, manic, and charming; his mouth remains locked in a permanent smile. He starts again: "I guess it's about making something that I think sounds badass."

"Badass" is an apt description for Death By Audio, Ackermann's DIY empire, which occupies two adjacent lofts in Southside Williamsburg. One of them houses a concert space, which showcases acts that occupy the interstitial spaces between rock, noise, and sound-art, while a nearby loft houses a recording studio, a rehearsal space (for Ackermann's band, A Place To Bury Strangers), a room for silk-screening and painting, an electronics assembly room, and a wood and metal shop. It's the pedal business, though, that keeps Death By Audio humming—not to mention ringing, shrieking, and twisting into and out of eardrums in basements and garages across the country...

Read on.

The Horrors tonight in Detroit

Friendly reminder, one of my favorite bands in the world The Horrors are playing at The Magic Stick tonight.
[Yeah, it's Monday. Go!]

The Horrors Who Can Say [2009]

The Horrors Sea Within A Sea [2009]

Joshua Eustis interview

Finally getting around to posting this fantastic interview with Josh from Telefon Tel Aviv for Ellen Allien's BPitch Control label. This is kind of a follow-up to last week's Bill Viola post. Like Viola, Josh articulates the details of his creative process in a manner that is both thoughtful and straightforward. Plus, not only does the guy have without question the best album of 2009, he has a great punk ethic and sleeps with staff paper next to his bed to write down song ideas from dreams...

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

SKETCH3D on Core77

Core77 has a nice write-up on o2's SKETCH3D at Gizmodo Gallery, including a clip of yours truly giving a demo.

Gizmodo Gallery opening party

+ If you haven't checked it out yet, o2 has a brand new website. Erick Carlson, Mike Miller and the whole team busted serious ass to get it up in time for GizGallery. The new site has more and bigger images, is much easier to navigate and update, and no more Flash!

Bright Nights in Brooklyn

If you're in NYC, do go see Bright Nights presented by Random Number tonight on the Manhattan Bridge Anchorage in DUMBO.

Bright Nights is a curated program of digital artwork that celebrates the projected image, draws attention to the iconic architecture of the Manhattan Bridge, and electrifies the arts friendly DUMBO neighborhood. The program will be projected onto the Anchorage, to coincide with the 100th birthday of the bridge and the 10th annual Walk21 conference in October 2009.

Four internationally renowned Brooklyn-based artists created new works that interpret the unique physical, spatial, and historical components of the bridge. The artists were chosen for their ability to energize a public space, in celebration of the major thoroughfare’s 100th birthday.

Artists include Motomichi Nakamura, Burak Arikan, Lee Wells and our very own Marius Watz.

Wednesday, Oct. 7th | 7PM - 10PM
Manhattan Bridge Anchorage, Front & Adams Street side in DUMBO, Brooklyn

Marius Watz, "Bridge Hypothesis" from Random Number on Vimeo.

Motomichi Nakamura, "Steel Monster" from Random Number on Vimeo.

More sketches and video clips of Marius' project Bridge Hypothesis on Flickr.

Dark Ass Bats tonight

Dark Ass Bats 5

It's the first Wednesday of the month, which means it's time again for Dark Ass Bats. Now that's it's cold out, we're moving downstairs from the Alley Deck to the new performance space in the Majestic Cafe. Come on out and get your weird on.

Wednesday, October 7th
Resident DJs Dethlab & Glühüfr + special guests Ataxia live
Majestic Cafe
4120 Woodward Ave., Detroit MI
10PM | free!

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Alexander McQueen live

SHOWstudio is producing a live webcast for Alexander McQueen's Spring/Summer 2010 collection in Paris. This is like a MacWorld keynote for Prada-Goths. Tune in here.

+ Watch a collection of past show highlights below:

Alexander McQueen: Iconic Moments from Jean Hürxkens on Vimeo.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Bill Viola's creative mind

I've been aesthetically captured by Bill Viola's video art since first seeing it in person at Cranbrook in the '90s, but have recently developed an entirely new appreciation after listening to him speak about it. He has a lucidity about his own process few visual artists can express with words. There are few things I enjoy more than learning about an artist's creative process - not just the technical how, but the why, the motivations and all the steps in between. That's why the clips below are such a treat.

"The Passage", 1987 - Flickr photo by 17 SIP

I got on a renewed Viola kick over the weekend, when Adam Greenfield posted a couple long photos of rather sublime just noticeable difference street ads for H&M in Helsinki. These immediately made me think of the jnd master. This also got me thinking about Nine Inch Nails' '00 Fragility tour - with backing films that looked heavily influenced by Viola's work. Being such a fan of both, I was surprised to learn Viola had actually created said films for Trent Reznor.

In the two clips here, Viola articulates both the creative motivations and technical processes in the making of the Nine Inch Nails media:

Bill Viola about his work for Nine Inch Nails Part 1: La Mer

Bill Viola about his work for Nine Inch Nails Part 2: The Great Below + The Mark Has Been Made

For a deeper look into Viola's mind, also see this DesignBoom interview from 2007. An excerpt below about twilight, thresholds and "moments of instability" [subjects very near and dear to our mission at Burnlab]:

Friday, October 02, 2009

FACT mix 88 by Traxx


Traxx has a brand new mix for FACT Magazine has been warping my mind all day. Check it out.

FACT’s latest exclusive mix comes from the man with the best real name in dance music, Melvin Oliphant III. You probably known him as DJ Traxx.

Traxx is one of the strongest adherents to, and evolvers of, the Chicago house sound. This month he releases a blinding new album, Faith, for his own Chi-town-based Nation label, which shows just how distinctive he's grown as an artist while keeping the original box jam aesthetic alive. His career really kicked off in 2001; over the years he's worked under his given name as well as Traxx, Mysterio and XX Art, and he's recorded for International Deejay Gigolo an Crème Organization, collaborating with people like Green Velvet, Jamal Moss, DJ Hell and Legowelt - and building up a sizeable cult following along the way. Tad Mullinix, better known as Dabrye and James T. Cotton, offers this ringing endorsement:

"Traxx is possibly my favorite DJ in the world. And while many DJs can't successfully execute their ideals in their own productions, his music is exactly the kind of amazing stuff that he would spin. His overwhelming passion for great music comes through in his production. The pinnacle of his art, whether he is DJing or producing, is his ability to seize the moment and make crucial changes only when they are necessary. His art is not just a 'back to basics' approach, but a refinement of styles that have been abandoned for music with slick transitions and needless ornamentation. This is Jakbeat in its rawest form."

FACT Mix 88, which Traxx put together exclusively for us using only vinyl, is a fine illustration of Traxx's musical animus. As well as a liberal supply of jacking acid house, techno and electro, there are also gripping diversions into EBM, industrial and synth-pop; tellingly he opens the mix with Chris & Cosey's recent remix of Excepter. The resulting mix is heavy, loud, intense and riotously entertaining; it will stir even the most jaded house fan.

Be sure to listen to some of the other FACT mixes, including a truly superb one from Andrew Weatherall a couple weeks ago.