Friday, July 29, 2005

More Asian Architecture Than You Can Handle

A Daily Dose continues to come correct with the interesting resources.

I'm sure the PRADE readers, all 10 of you, will enjoy perusing this site, a photographic survey of Asian Historcial Architecture. The site is easy to navigate and basically features a ton of photos and written commentary for just about every important Asian building ever constructed. From ancient to modern, Chinese to Afghan - this site has you covered.

It is fantastic to see the diversity of Asian architecture - and the photos are pretty spectacular in most cases. Here are a couple that caught my eye - but I encourage everyone to wander the site and discover your own favorites.

Xuankong Si Temple ("The Hanging Monastery") in Hunyuan, China

Shanghai Bund in Shanghai, China

Preah Ko Temple in Angkor, Cambodia

Kiyomizudera Temple in Kyoto, Japan

Digital Cinema

The technology is now available to essentially eliminate film reels as a medium of exhibition for Hollywood movies. A combination of digital projectors and high powered servers would allow studios to beam their movies to cinemas around the country. These cinemas could then show movies with just a push of a button - allowing for increased flexibility in terms of what movies they show when. If a certain showing sells out - they could add another one (something they can't currently do, because they have a limited number of hard copies of the film).

However, Hollywood has never been quick to change its ways. Even though studios stand to save considerable sums by not having to print copies of the film for 3,000 theaters anymore, arguments are still arising between theaters and studios about security concerns and who has to foot the bill for the new projectors, servers, etc. However, it seems that digital projection is on the horizon, with heavyweights like George Lucas, Robert Zemmeckis, and James Cameron all supporting the initiative.

Now, what's exciting about this technology for true film fans is that distribution of smaller, independent movies would potentially become much easier. A movie like March of the Penguins could easily be beamed to just as many theaters as Stealth because it wouldn't require any additional costs to distribute it wider. And if a movie like Stealth bombs, the theater has nothing invested in yanking it right away (something the studios probably aren't thrilled about) Also, a theater would be able to offer a better variety of films by easily switching which movie plays in a given theater - a 6:00 screening of one movie could be immediately followed with another without having to change reels. Also, other content could easily be shown in theaters - including sporting events or other live coverage.

Unfortunately, like most new technologies that offer the consumer more input and freedom of choice, most of this potential will likely never be realized. Too much is at risk for the studios and theaters to actually let the market dictate what they want to see. These companies will devise ways to keep the control of the financial futures of their products in their own hands. Still, a new Hollywood distribution model is long overdue - and digital projection may be the answer to some of Hollywood's present woes.

Via Wired.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Raul Midon

I really appreciate talent when it comes to music. It doesn't so much matter what genre of music you play, if you do what you do well, I'll probably be into it. That attitude leads me to listen to everything from Salif Keita to Outkast, Israel Kamakawiwo'ole to Red Hot Chili Peppers, Enya to Buena Vista Social Club, and Nina Simone to MF Doom. (Yes, I did just admit to listening to Enya, what of it?!!)

Josh Spear definitely just expanded my horizons further. Raul Midon is a TALENT. The blind musician has a unique sound that is difficult to describe, but basically is a kind of acoustic R&B guitar. He sings with an honest, soulful, and silky voice, and the cat plays a mean "trumpet." He has a new CD out called State of Mind, and his older material sounds just as amazing.

To check out Raul in action, check out video from his performance on
Letterman and an extended set from the Kennedy Center Millennium stage here in DC.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Google Homepage

My brother introduced me to yet another helpful Google application.

Google is offering a new personalized homepage feature. All you need is a Google login to start setting up your personalized homepage, which can feature everything from weather and local movie times to RSS news feeds and inspirational quotes of the day. It's amazingly easy to add the content and move things around on the page. I'm still tweaking mine, but here's a snapshot of what it can look like (with labels of the different features).

Another example of how Google improves on an existing idea (I know these types of home pages have been around for a while) and turns it into a simple and well-designed solution.

Beautiful Is A Relative Term

As my friend Clay says, "Politics is show business for ugly people." I think he's right.

Exhibit A. The Hill's 50 Most Beautiful People.

By no means do I claim to be Derek Zoolander, but I really think they should have come up with a more accurate title for this list. Like - The Hill's 50 People Who Are Slightly Better Looking Than The Rest or The Hill's 50 People That Don't Mind Being Endlessly Ridiculed For Being on This List.


In response to an MSNBC report that card-playing bots may be fleecing people on online poker sites, Future Feeder posits an interesting idea:

"Online poker sites have two choices: fight the bots or embrace them. And why wouldn’t they embrace them? Poker bots still pay the rake for each pot, so the online casino continue to flourish. Who knows? Online poker may turn into a virtual battlefield for AI."

While I don't think most players would be thrilled knowing they lost their money to a computer program, the idea of a poker tournament between various Artificial Intelligence programs would be interesting. As someone points out in the MSNBC article, programming a computer to play poker is much more complicated than chess - as it involves complex logic and reason (such as bluffing) that would test the boundaries of many AI programs. The article mentions an advanced program called Vex-bot that can consistently beat human opponents, but currently it is only capable of playing two-player games.

And while online casinos claim to be cracking down on poker bots, it is debatable how successful or committed they actually are in their efforts.

So if you needed another reason to think twice about gambling on online poker sites, just rememebr it could be C3PO kicking your ass from across the internet!

"I'll raise you $300 R2! Put your money where
your hologram projector is"

Whitebread Wired

Wired posted a truly strange article about a cultural trend in Britain that has teens and aspiring MCs rhyming over instrumental beats played on their cell phones. While that sounds like an interesting grass roots use of technology, the author of the "article" proceeds to put "quotation marks" around a bunch of "slang" terms she has interjected into the story.

Nothing makes your analysis of pop culture sound more ridiculous than putting these quotation marks around slang terms. These are the people that ask Will Smith in interviews what "getting jiggy" with it mean, or want Ludacris to give a dissertation on the origins of the word "chickenhead."

If you are writing a hip piece on a cutting edge trend, write it well enough that your readers can figure out these words from the context of the story. The second you insert quotes around words like "hype" and "jam," you undermine any insight you think you are providing into this street culture. You immediately sound lame and it becomes dubious that you have any type of insider perspective on what your writing about. If I wrote about ballroom dancing and had to put quotes around "fox trot" it would be ridiculous. But somehow, because it is a street culture phenomenon, all the pale-faces feel the need to put quotes around everything because young people use some creativity in their vocabulary. Anyone that took the SAT's can figure out what "flow" means in the sentence "rappers want to try out their flow over beats." The quotes are "unnecessary."

Rant over.

(The second page of the article is actually interesting - it talks about how cell phone companies haven't been able to capitalize on the trend at all. The tie-in to Grime is interesting too, as the music's low production quality makes mimicing the sound fairly easy for aspiring youths. This could have been a great article, but I tuned out about three paragraphs in)

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Freedom Tower Ain't Easy On The Eyes

A Daily Dose sums up quite succinctly just how ugly the plan for the new Freedom Tower is. James Kunstler calls it the eyesore of the month.

My own take on what it looks like . . .

And someone really needs to change the name of this project. It has come so far from what it was originally intended and Freedom Tower sounds as ridiculous as Freedom Fry right about now. Can't we just call it Safety Tower or something?

DangerDoom Goes Pop Like Snot Bubbles

Beware - the DangerDoom collaboration is coming. Danger Mouse and MF Doom unite for the powers of good.

In typical Doom fashion - the album won't be your run of the mill hip hop album. According to the press release, "The album will contain character voices and skits from Adult Swim's most popular original shows, including Aqua Teen Hunger Force, Sealab 2021 and Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law."

Check out a preview track via Lemon Red.


We have liftoff!

The Discovery launched just now, marking the return of the space shuttle to the great beyond.


If you blog him, he will come.

My blog guru Chris Abraham just posted something about Craig's list, and lo and behold, Mr. Craig himself commented on Chris's post.

Check it out here.

Monday, July 25, 2005

So Icey

In a book on cool hotels I read about the Ice Hotel - a temporary hotel constructed every winter in Jukkasjärvi, Sweeden entirely out of snow and ice. The hotel features a reception area, an ice art exhibit, a cinema, an ice church and a series of 60 guest rooms. It also features the Absolut Icebar, a bar constructed entirely of ice - right down to the carved glasses.

In addition to the Icebar at the Icehotel in Sweeden, there are permanent Icebars in Stockholm and Milan. Well now the Icebar concept is making its way to London too.

Via Cool Hunting.

Retired Primates

Apparently it isn't just humans that move to Florida to retire.

The New York Times Magazine had a great article this weekend about the latest efforts to create retirement villages for the ballooning number of former research chimps in America. Two such facilities, Chimp Haven in Louisiana and the Save the Chimps sanctuary in Fort Pierce, Florida, are trying to reward research chimpanzees for their contribution to science by allowing them to live out their days with fellow chimps in specially designed sanctuaries. Apparently, after age 6, chimps become too strong and unruly to remain research subject, even though they will likely live for another 35 to 40 years. That leaves a growing number of chimps who need care from research facilities that are ill equipped to provide anything beyond basic food and holding cages.

The Save the Chimp sanctuary is particularly interesting - because the organization basically inherited over 250 chimps from a huge research program called the Coulston Foundation that went bankrupt. After renovating the existing Coulston center in New Mexico, the organization set its sights on creating an island paradise for the chimps in Florida. Eventually, all the residents of the cold steel cages of the Coulston facility will be transferred to a series of island habitats being constructed in a former orange grove - complete with everything an aging chimp might want from a senior center.

Chimp Haven is also fascinating in that it is actually a government funded sanctuary as a result of the Chimpanzee Health Improvement, Maintenance and Protection Act passed in the final days of the Clinton administration. Chimp Haven is truly a state-of-the-art, first class chimp retiree resort complete with staff physicians and top of the line entertainment (in the form of the traditional climbing structures and TV/DVD players for the chimps) . Apparently chimps have very particular tastes when it comes to the boob tube, with the younger generation digging Woody Woodpecker and Barney, and the older chimps more content to watch General Hospital or an aggression filled Jerry Springer episode or NFL game. Nature documentaries are apparently popular for chimps of all ages.

Both these facilities demonstrate a new dedication to improving the quality of life of these chimpanzees without exploiting them for scientific research of entertainment and education. Together the facilities will be able to provide homes for hundreds of retired primates.

The article also details the current ethical issues with chimp research, as well as outlining the challenges of teaching chimps to live together in a natural habitat when many of them have been socialized to be more comfortable with humans than their fellow species. While these research chimps would not be capable of being re-introduced into the wild, the thinking is that they deserve a higher quality of life for their remaining years - to be able to run free and do as they please in return for the involuntary roles they play in scientific research.

The article leaves you with the question of whether scientists should even continue to conduct experiments on chimps. For a species that is remarkably similar to us, both physically and socially it seems, the question of conducting research on essentially our genetic cousins becomes a real moral quandary. I was also intrigued by the notion that captive chimps have become a sort-of unique social class of chimp - more comfortable in a mixed human-chimp environment than they are in purely a natural habitat. I'll leave you with a passage from the article that definitely struck me . . .

Most surplus chimps were born in captivity and, after years of proximity to and interaction with human beings, they are, as primatologists say, ''highly enculturated,'' or habituated to life on human terms. Indeed, staff members cited a particular sense of urgency about getting Rita and Teresa to Chimp Haven. They are among the few remaining wild-born captive chimps, and it was hoped that they would ''remember what they did as little kids,'' as Brent put it, and teach those habits to their captive-born brethren, animals that have essentially become hybrids of us and them, a cosmopolitan monkey for whom a sudden and complete severance from us and our ways would constitute the next form of abuse.

Friday, July 22, 2005

The Gift of Moving

What great timing. I'm moving to a new apartment this weekend (if you want to volunteer to help haul our crap, please let me know. I'll pay bribe you in whatever form you like, be it beer, lapdances, or Hooters wings).

Well today Cool Hunting is featuring just the type of moving gift that I know not a single person I know will be buying me to welcome me to my new diggs.

Elsewares offers this toolbox by Dina Bean that includes everything you need to make your arrival in your new place special - including champagne, cookies, cheese and crackers, an issue of Dwell, some tools (hammer, screwdriver, tape measure), a flashlight, and an extension cord. It's all packed into a tidy red metal toolbox, and if you bless a friend with it, they'll know you care because it runs about $120.

Seriously though, thanks in advance to all my friends that will be helping me out this weekend. Helping someone move is like getting a prostate exam - it's uncomfortable and potentially painful, but you know it's the right thing to do. You guys are the best - and I don't need no stinking toolbox to know that.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Eye Catching Ads

Someone once said to me "There is no bigger waste of creative talent in this world than the advertising industry." While I do love creative ad campaigns, especially ones that are actually tied to a decent product, I still agree with him. As a society we spend way too much money slanging crap people don't need.

However, I do acknowledge that companies face somewhat of a prisoner's dilemma. If even one company is marketing and advertising their products aggressively, then others will have to engage in similar activities if they hope to remain competitive. Unfortunately, marketing in its basic form does work. But now, the flood of ads that bombard consumers every day basically ensure only one thing - that every single ad is diluted in its effectiveness. Now it almost seems that it isn't advertising that works, it is lack of advertising that hurts. If you aren't keeping up with the Jones', you'll likely be left behind and pushed out of the consciousness of your consumers.

That is why it takes such a concentration of brain power and creativity to craft campaigns that can cut through the clutter. Most campaigns fail to do this, but the ones that do offer the promise of increased revenue and profits for their clients. Of course, that just lures more companies to spend even more money on advertising and marketing . . . and the vicious cycle continues. (I wonder if we'd actually get better products from companies if the only thing they had to stand on was their product reputation and not their carefully crafted image)

That being said, when you do come across a smart and eye-catching ad - it almost becomes noteworthy in itself. Consumers are becoming increasingly aware of advertising efforts, which also makes them more sensitive to tuning them out. However, this means that these discerning consumers will appreciate a well-crafted ad even more - because they can recognize its superiority to the garbage that fills the marketplace. They'll applaud the creativity of the ad as much as they will be engaged by its message.

All that was a long introduction to a very smart billboard ad for suntan lotion featured on Things Magazine that both crafts an effective message and actually has something to do with the product. The billboard is made of tiny pegs that cast shadows when the sun is out to reveal the image on the billboard.

So basically, it is creative billboards like this that ensure we'll continue seeing billboards for the rest of our lives - even though these are the exception and not the rule.

A Daily Dose links to two great examples of artists playing with the impact billboards can have - one in which the artists covers the billboards from an entire cityscape and another in which the artist erases the cityscape and leaves behind only the billboards and ads.

Not too sure what the point of all this was, just thought it was some interesting stuff to marinate on for a minute. I wonder what it was even like to live before the Age of the Advertising and the dawn of The Brand. Easier on the eyes I bet.

Note: An addition to this post - apparently a group in Canada wants to put a tax on billboard advertising that will help fund public art projects. Now THAT is a great idea that helps balance the aesthetic eyesore that a city full of billboards creates.

Links Updates

I updated the links section to include some new favorites. If you have some time on your hands, I recommend checking some of the sites out. Here is a brief description of what they offer

This is just a snapshot of the hundreds of blogs I try to peruse on Sharpreader every day. If you have a link that you think I might be interested in, please send it my way.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

The Tipping Point

I am somewhat of a literature snob. I generally refuse to read books that haven't been around for more than 20 or so years to avoid reading the serial crap that seems to pervade book stores recently. It generally allows me to avoid the pitfalls of wasting my time and money on "page turners" like the DaVinci Code and Insert Generic Crime/Courtroom Thriller Novel Here. I do make exceptions for specific authors or personal recommendations from people who's opinion I trust. (If you have to ask, you are probably not one of those people)

I also avoid self-help books and non-fiction books from the latest author who claims to have some intrinsic understanding of the cultural moment. I just prefer to see how these theories stand the test of time before investing myself in reading about them.

Well one book I never got around to reading was
The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell's book that examines patterns of social and cultural change using the intellectual framework of epidemiology - the study of epidemics. Well, lucky for me, someone has posted an outline version of the entire book that allows you to investigate Galdwell's theories and examples quickly and easily before committing to launch into reading the book. It's like the Cliffs Notes version - and we all know how easy it was to write a book report on something after only reading the Cliffs Notes!

While on the subject, one of these type of cultural analysis books I did read and do recommend is Susan Blackmore's
The Meme Machine, as it is a great introduction to the very compelling field of memetics. What is memetics you ask? The study of memes. What is a meme? Well, why don't you read the book!

Outlined Tipping Point is via

One Small Step For Google . . .

36 years ago today, the first manned Moon landing took place. Despite what the haters say, it is still one of the most important events in history.

Google not only acknowledges this historic day, they also keep their sense of humor in doing so with Google Moon (zoom in!)

Is Google Moon the first step in the conquering of the universe by the multi-purpose search engine empire?

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

David LaChapelle Is Lost

In between taking strange but cool pictures of every celebrity alive and documenting LA street dancing culture, David LaChapelle apparently found time to film a promo for the ABC series Lost.

I am a fan of the show, and generally find LaChapelle's work interesting at the very least - but even I admit that this clip is straight weird. Like, having a dream about your dog playing hopskotch with Hitler-in-drag weird.

Watch it here. I wish there was more of Locke in the footage though.

Via Pop Culture Junkies


The game of chess has a long history that might date back as far as the 6th century. It is currently played around the world by aficionados and novices alike, everywhere from parks to tournaments to your home computer. The game is studied so thoroughly that there are a host of books that detail every possible opening tactic with the appropriate counter move - essentially scripting out at least the first 20 or so moves of the game for anyone capable of memorizing these variations. Memorization and analysis of these texts will help make a dedicated player capable of knowing the time-tested response to essentially any move their opponent makes.

Well the game of chess is about to be revolutionized thanks to a new variant of the game pioneered by the aloof and controversial chess star Bobby Fischer. He has developed a version of chess that randomizes the starting position of the back row pieces - essentially eliminating the possibility of memorizing possible opening scenarios. Here's how it works:

"Pawns begin where they always do. However, the pieces behind them on the white side are arranged at random, with the proviso that bishops must end up on opposite colors, and the king dwell somewhere between the two rooks. The black pieces are lined up to mirror the white." - Wired

With 960 starting possibilities, Fischer's version forces players to rely on creativity and skill rather than rote memorization. Essentially, this enables casual players to challenge experienced players competitively without the preparation time previously needed to memorize strategies and openings.

One of the 960 possibly starting positions of Chess960

Introduced in 1996, Fischer Random Chess (aka Chess960) is gaining popularity among the grandmasters of the world and might soon become the standard format for testing the skill of the world's best players.

Well, the computer programmers are also taking notice - with the Chess960 Computer World Championship set to take place in Mainz, Germany in August. With Chess960, programmers will no longer be able to rely on pulling data from expansive tables of the opening scenarios featured in chess books. Instead, it will be a true test of their logic algorithms and processing power.

This might be the nerdiest post I've ever written, but I like to think of chess geeks as the modern intellectual gladiators. Plus, I can't really make fun, considering I used to play mental Connect Four on the bus trip to math competitions in high school. Did I really just type that?

Via Wired.

Tape Baby Takes Flight

I know artist Mark Jennings gets more shine on PRADE than Mr. Clean's dome, but I'm just really digging his stuff.

Well now, the tape babies are doing what a lot of us in DC sometimes dream about . . . they are flying away.

For all of Mark's latest works check out his blog here and his Tape Men blog here.

Via Clayton "Bigsby" Dunn

Monday, July 18, 2005

Break Your Graf Cherry

Most of us are observers in the graf world - passive recipients of street art rather than active participants. We aren't climbing up billboards

Well, now that BORF is dead, it's your turn to bomb the neighborhood with a little intelligent vandalism of your own.

Myfirstgraffiti.com will provide you with a graf starter kit - complete with paint, a customized stencil and instructions. The rest is up to you.

Seems like everyone these days feels their opinion merits broadcasting through their own blog - but will they step up to the plate and put their prophecies right on the wall?

Via Wooster Collective - who gives the My First Graffiti project a big thumbs up.

The Coolest Keys

Any computer nerd or carpal-tunnelled gamer will definitely want an Optimus keyboard for Christmas.

Instead of your typical QWERTY keyboard, the Optimus from the Art Lebdev Studio features keys that light up with function-specific color icons based on the application you are using. So if you are playing Quake, the shift key lights up to say "Run/Walk" instead of Shift. This isn't just for gamers though, as Photoshop functions like Zoom and Crop would be just one key away for a graphic designer - without the clutter of still having the QWERTY keys displayed. It's also great for multiple languages - as the Optimus could easily switch between layouts for different languages. There are also shortcut keys that you can program to run applications - with cool logos to match.

Quake key layout (top) and the purty color application shortcut keys (bottom)

An invention like this seems long overdue, but that probably means it was cost prohibitive up until now. The Optimus is not yet available for sale - but I'm sure it won't be too far off, although you'll likely have to throw down considerable cheddar to own the coolest keyboard on the block.

Via Cool Hunting and Core 77

Friday, July 15, 2005

Katzen Arts Center

I realize the last few posts have been slightly off topic - so allow me to move back to the design world with a local DC story.

American University's Katzen Arts Center will be un unveiled to the public this Saturday. It is rare that a cultural building is opened in DC that is of any modern architectural interest - but the Katzen Center is definitely not your normal square DC building with columns and marble stairs.

Designed by lead architect Steven Kleinrock of the Einhorn Yaffee Prescott firm, the new center is a slender, long structure with a dramatically rounded entrance punctuated with several expansive rectangular windows.

But beyond its appearance, the 130,000 square foot Center is meant to provide a variety of functions, including 30,000 sq feet of gallery space, a 200 seat recital hall, a black box theater, a dance studio, and classroom and art studio space.

I've only seen the building from the outside (and it definitely stands out), but Washington Post critic Benjamin Forgey seems to think that although the building balances the long, narrow site with its interesting curves and details, the Center fails in some respects including providing gallery space that allows the art to stand out more than the gallery. However, the bottom line is that the gallery's size alone (larger than the Philips and Freer galleries) will likely garner significant esteem for it in the DC art world.

For more info you can check out AU's site for the Center

Stem Cell Research

StemPac is urging bloggers to rally behind the Stem Cell research bill heading to the Senate this month that could determine the future of federal funding for the controversial research. A bill already passed in the House, but President Bush has vowed to veto the bill if it clears the Senate.

Celebrity and Parkinson sufferer Michael J. Fox sent out a personal plea for Congress and President Bush to support this "pro-living bill."

If you want to get involved to help StemPac you can find more details here. Regardless of your personal religious beliefs, I think it is important to support this important research that could lead to medical breakthroughs in treatment for at least 70 diseases. This should not be an ideological fight but a medical one.

Via Humanitarian extraordinaire Chris Abraham.

Architectural Prison Reform

Cool Hunting hipped me to an interesting story coming out of the UK.

Apparently, architect Will Alsop plans to help innmates design their own prison.

In an effort to switch the emphasis of incarceration to rehabilitation instead of reprimand, prisoners at HMP Gartree in Leicestershire will be asked to help Aslop reimagine the facility as a creative prison that stresses the importance of education and the arts.

Although the project is purely conceptual, the goal is to spark a debate about the nature of the prison system.

I'm all in favor of prison reform - as the current attitude doesn't appear to be doing much to break the cycle of poverty and crime. While I don't believe rapists and murderers should be allowed to fingerpaint next to landscaped gardens, I do think emphasizing education and social reintegration for less serious inmates might help discourage repeat offenders from crowding US prisons and, ultimately, reduce crime.

Either way, it will be interesting to see what Alsop comes up with at the end of the project.

Naked Locker Room Conversation Guy

My friend Drew, president of the Morgan Freeman fan club, proclaimed today “Naked Males Having Awkward Conversations in the YMCA Shower Day.

From Young Drewzy himself:

So I went to the YMCA this morning. I played basketball from 5:30 until 7:30 AM. As I do everyday, I hit the showers after I got done playing because I gotta get fresh and clean for work because the kid is a professional who occassionaly rocks cuff links.

The showers at the YMCA are your standard prison-rape issue showers: big open room with shower heads and a place near each nozzle to put soap or shampoo, small green and white tiles on the wall, central drain, and a general uncomfortableness that make you that much more careful not to let the soap slip off of the tray near the shower head. The hooks to hang you towel are a good 5ft from the shower room, and most of the men at the YMCA take the “opportunity” to make a long, slow, naked walk to towel rack, sometimes stopping for a much needed naked stretch or cough.

So about 7:45 AM I’m minding my own business, mid-shower. As with a lot of mornings, the hot water at the Y wasn’t working. It’s not pleasant, but it makes for an efficient, in and out shower.

So in walks this man who looks a lot like a professor at Vanderbilt (Prof. Brandon). No big deal. He walks over to his nozzle, giving me the appropriate at-least-one-shower-length-buffer-zone and starts doing his thing. Him and I were getting along fine until . . . “So how you doing this morning?” he asks.

Uncomfortable Drew: Fine, man.
NakedConversationMan: No hot water for you either?
Uncomfortable Drew: Naw man.
NakedConversationMan: Well looks like we’ll be wide awake when we leave here today huh?
Rinsing off and ready to leave Drew: Yep.
NakedConversationMan: The pool water was kinda hot today, and now no hot water in the shower. They got it mixed up.
Violated Drew: “Crazy stuff. Take it easy”
I left. What’s wrong with these people? I love being friendly, and I like to meet people. But shit, do you have to be friendly and meet people when we’re in this prison-rape shower at the Y? Can’t it wait? These are the type of dudes talking at funerals. I don’t know what to do? I just wanted to make sure you got the memo.

I've also run into similar problems with the naked gym talker, although the guy at my gym is just fond of striking up conversations while he bends over naked and dries in-between his toes. One time I think I physically jumped into the locker to avoid him.

I think this is one of the most pressing issues facing our nation right now, and needs to be the subject of immediate legislation from congress.
Forget abortion and gay marriage - the moral issue of the day is naked locker room guy.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Danny Is Nuts

I've been crazy busy today, but one quick post before I head home.

I have to agree with Josh, this video of skateboarder Danny Way jumping over the Great Wall of China is ridiculous. I could feel my stomach up in my throat just watching.

Even crazier than the jump though is the air Danny gets coming off the ramp on the other side. He's so high up he has to bail every time - which tells you how crazy it is considerin he just landed a 360 over a 65 foot gap.

Peep the 5 video clips here and get that queezy feeling you only experience on rollercoasters.

That little dude in red 15 feet above the wall is Danny, mid-360

Borf is Dead

Borf, perhaps the most recognized and accomplished street artist in DC history, was arrested yesterday.

The Post has the details. To be honest, I'm kind of disappointed. I, for one, was a fan of the reign of Borf, which helped spice up the often dull and conservative DC cityscape.

Props to 18-year-old art student John Tsombikos for keeping the legend alive for so long.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Gehry Rules The World

Is there a major urban project that this guy is NOT working on?

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Frank Gehry has been selected to design LA's $1.8 billion Grand Avenue redevelopment project adjacent to his iconic Disney Concert Hall. Plans will include a 40+ story tower across from the hall as well as restaurants, retail space, hotels and apartments. Gehry was selected after the developers considered several other firms, including Pritzker winner Thom Mayne's Morphosis.

And in related news, the rich continue to get richer.

Via Archinect.

Kozmo's Back

For a short window during my sophomore year of college in DC, there was a home DVD and grocery service called Kozmo.com that truly improved my quality of life. I hopped on the website, picked the movie I wanted to rent and some snacks (and staple groceries I usually was missing like milk and bread) and within an hour - everything was at my door. Nothing makes you happier than someone delivering The Big Lebowski and a box of Lucky Charms to your college dorm at 11:30 PM. The next day you could just drop the DVD at a campus Kozmo pickup spot and you were done. (It also came in extremely handy if you were sick - as a bottle of OJ, some Therflu and Ferris Bueller's Day Off could be at your door quickly to help get you through the day.)

Well, Kozmo.com folded soon after, mostly due to over-expansion in terms of the markets it entered and the variety of products it offered (I could have told them that no one was likely to buy a DVD player for delivery?!).

Apparently, a former Kozmo employee believes that there is still a future for Kozmo's formula of convenience store items delivered to your door within an hour. Wired has an article about a new service called MaxDelivery, originally created to help deliver diapers and baby supplies to overburdened Manhattan parents. Like Kozmo, the idea of the service is convenience and speed - this isn't a grocery delivery service like Giant's Peapod - but more of an online convenience store where you can grab some diapers, a bag of Funions, and a DVD.

Apparently the founder of Maxdirect, Chris Siragusa, learned from Kozmo's mistakes and plans a much slower growth strategy for the new service (it is currently only available in a small section of Manhattan). While these services really only work in densely packed urban areas, I do think they can be successful in those markets. This is also a great alternative to Netflix for users that don't watch movies enough to get a subscription, but still like the idea of rental DVD's being delivered to their doors (along with some gummi bears, popcorn, and some diapers to keep the little one quiet).

A New Perspective

A viral email has been making its way around the virtual world that features the sidewalk art of English artist Julian Beever. His work features an optical illusion called an anamorphosis that lets the image appear 3-D when viewed from the correct angle.

Since these types of pass-along assets often get directed to my trash can, I thought I'd post some examples of his work here so people that might not read the email could check it out.

A comparison of his work viewed from "wrong" angle. If not viewed from the right angle, the work appears distorted.

Via Clay and Jenny who sent this along to me.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Landscape Awards

Land + Living made me aware that the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) announced their 2005 Professional Awards. The awards include several categories, including the first year of a Residential Design category co-sponsored by Garden Design magazine.

One of the winners was a roof deck that PRADE
featured back in April. Another of my favorites was this Key West, FL residential design by Raymond Jungles.

30 Days

I just watched two episodes of Morgan "Super-Size Me" Spurlock's new show on FX called 30 Days. They were both fantastic. The synopsis of the show is posted below:

From Academy Award nominee Morgan Spurlock (Super Size Me) comes 30 Days, a new series where Morgan will explore what life changing experiences are possible in 30 days. The concept for the show stemmed from the transformation Spurlock underwent when he ate nothing but fast food for 30 days in his movie Super Size Me. In this new FX series, Morgan Spurlock asks the question, what would happen if people spend 30 days living in someone else’s shoes? Find out the answer as he brings you 30 life changing days in one hour focusing on topics such as minimum wage, anti-aging strategies, and binge drinking.

The episodes I saw dealt with a conservative, straight army reservist going to live with a gay man in the "gayest" place in America, the Castro in San Francisco, and a Christian from West Virginia going to live as a Muslim among the largest population of Muslims in America in Dearborne, Michigan. What I liked about the episodes I saw was that they explored two issues that are controversial and common in America - homophobia and religious/racial prejudice. In both instances the theme was treated with respect and not sensationalized or exploited. The drama from the show comes in the form of honest, straighforward testimonials from the subjects as they deal with the issues they encounter as they live in someone else's shoes for 30 days.

Spurlock brings his documentary filmmaking style to the hour long show, providing background information when needed in the form of informative cartoons or interviews with experts and others that he conducts himself. However, he really stands back and lets the human story shine - allowing people and their experiences to speak for themselves. When the conservative homophobe basically tells his gay host that he'd be willing to go to war with him or when the Christian man experiences the hostility and stares he receives when dressed in traditional Muslim garb - the moments are powerful yet genuine.

In general, the show helps raise issues with prejudice and ignorance, while also bringing to light questions that it doesn't pretend to know the answers to. In the Muslim in America show, a dinner table discussion turns into a debate about what role American Muslims should play in condemning or apologizing for the terrorist acts performed by fellow Muslims. The issue isn't answered neatly - but rather fittingly interrupted by the Muslim call for prayer and left for the viewer to think about on their own.

While the other show topics don't sound necessarily as socially controversial, I'm very impressed with the show and will defintiely be tuning in to see regular people experience life in a new way. I hope the show generates meaningful dialogue about these various issues in a way that mainstream media has recently failed to encourage in the American public. Judging from the message boards on the site (which some of the subjects participate in) - it is doing just that.

A Shuttle Launch Gets No Respect

I came across a
Reuters article today announcing that the big three major television networks will be airing Wednesday's shuttle launch live during their daytime programming.

What startles me is that this needs to be announced. I really can't understand why more people are not more interested in the space program. This launch is basically only getting this type of coverage because of the Columbia disaster according to the article, which claims that it is likely that "public interest will wane after the first few successful missions." (Of course the 24 hour news networks will have extensive coverage because there is no major child molestation case for them to cover, so they need something to fill the air time between car chases and terrorist attacks.) It is startling to me that both the networks and the public are not as impressed with every shuttle launch. Think about what the fuck it means to travel to space! Yet the runaway bride - she gets primetime coverage?!! What the hell is wrong with you America.

I know some people might even view the space program as a waste of money. I couldn't disagree more. Cigarettes are a waste of money (both buying the pack and paying for your lung cancer treatments 20 years later). Most of Defense spending is a waste of money (and I realize there is an unfortunate overlap between NASA and Defense technology contractors). But to me, the space program is about the only exorbitant government spending I am in favor of in theory - it produces results, it has the potential to change humanity for the BETTER, and it inspires millions of people to think about existence beyond their own experience. Not to mention, it is really the only "cool" scientific field left in a time when less and less children are pursuing the sciences in schools. Still not convinced? Here are some contributions NASA has made to the world:
  • Kidney dialysis machines were developed as a result of a NASA developed chemical processes
  • Water purification technology used on the Apollo spacecraft is now used to kill bacteria, viruses and algae in community water supply systems and cooling towers
  • Cordless power tools & appliances are one of the most successful commercial spin-offs of space-based technology
  • Grooved runway techniques developed by NASA to channel water are now applied to highways (where they have reduced accidents 85%) and airport runways (where tire friction performance in wet conditions has improved threefold).
  • Your high performance shock absorbing running shoes and protective helmets utilize NASA technology from space suits
  • Bar coding was originally developed to keep track of NASA's millions of parts and tools - good thing that one never took off
  • Imaging devices developed for the much-criticized Hubble Telescope are now used in breast cancer scans that can detect difference between a malignant and benign tumor without the need for surgical biopsies.

There are about 1,400 other documented inventions that can be attributed to the space program - not including all of the offshoots that those inventions later helped to produce. And I didn't even touch on the satellite technology and environmental breakthroughs that effect our lives in more ways than we can even count. I don't want to get bogged down in statistics, but I did read that it is estimated that the space program earns up to seven times more revenue for the U.S. from the jobs and economic growth its innovations produce than from its R&D costs. And consider these innovations all come from less than 1% of our nation's budget.

Is there mismanagement of funds at NASA? Of course - it is a large government program. I'm sure improvements and reforms could be made. But to me, NASA is suffering from a PR problem. The fact that the public isn't more mesmerized by the achievements of EVERY space shuttle mission is incredibly discouraging. So please tune in tomorrow, visit the NASA website, and learn more about the amazing human achievement of space exploration. There is the potential for this type of research to change our future - and the least we can do is take an interest in the shuttle mission as brave astronauts risk their lives for science.

Monday, July 11, 2005


There is a new addition to the National Zoo - a baby giant panda that is no bigger than a stick of butter. Panda's are extremely difficult to breed in captivity, so apparently this little guy isn't out of the woods yet. The previous set of pandas at the zoo conceived five times, but all five cubs died within a month.

The public wouldn't see the new guy on display until after about 3 months, which is apparently a good thing as the little bamboo binger isn't a looker at this stage.

"Cute is not a word I would use in describing it. It's somewhat bald, eyes are closed, kind of pink and it wiggles around a little bit. It's this tiny, tiny thing."

Read more about the Panda cub here. And learn more about the Giant Panda in general because it is an interesting species. Did you know that because the Giant Panda is related to the bear family (Ursidae family) it is not physically designed to digest its mostly herbaceous diet, and must therefore eat up to 40 pounds of bamboo a day to extract enough nutrients to live?

In several weeks, the cub will only be this ugly

Via Wonkette.

Are Diamonds Forever?

Breath of Life has an interesting commentary on Kanye West's latest single from his new album Late Registration, called "Diamonds."

The man that made "Jesus Walk" in the club is now taking issue with conflict diamonds from West Africa - or is he?

Apparently the original single is mostly a bragging track, more touting that Kanye is forever than raising issues of bling and consequences, complete with references to himself in the 3rd person and complaints about celebrity.

Well the track was reworked into a remix with Jay Z in which Kanye instead touches on some issues of diamond conflicts in Sierra Leone. But even in the new track, Kanye mentions "When I speak of Diamonds in this song/I ain't talkin bout the ones that be glowin/I'm talkin bout Rocafella, my home" in the same verse as he spits "Over here, its a drug trade, we die from drugs/Over there, they die from what we buy from drugs." And Jay's verse is also much more about the Roc family then Sierra Leone - featuring gems like " Bleek could be one hit away his whole career/As long as I'm alive, he's a millionaire/And even if I die, he's in my will somewhere/So he can just kick back and chill somewhere."

But it sounds like, overall, the track does talk about the diamonds that glow and Kanye's inner "torment" at still rocking diamonds when he knows the price they cost in violence.

I'm sorry Kanye - but if you really are so torn up - why are you still rocking a diamond Jesus piece? Lose the bling if you want to be taken seriously for raising this issue. BOL's Mtume ya Salaam goes on a great rant about why he isn't a fan of the track (although still acknowledging that it will be a hit). Definitely go read the commentary on BOL, but here is a short excert:

Kanye, let me let you in on a little secret. It’s a cold, cold capitalist, racist, sexist, ageist world. If you spend $200,000 on anything, the chances are very, very good that someone poor and/or young and/or of color and/or female was in some way shitted on so that you could do so. If it really does bother you, quit the conspicuous and ridiculous consumption. If it really doesn’t bother you, call up Jacob and order a matching quarter-million-dollar Holy Mary piece to go with the one you’ve already got of Her Little Boy. The truth is, once we’ve spent our $15 bucks to have our ear drums massaged by the Greatness that is you, it’s your money. Do what you want with it. But don’t ask us to spend another $15 just to hear you whine about the dumb-ass shit you did with the last $15.

He also raises the often discussed issue of materialism in hip hop and how it dilutes the significance of the music. Mtume also personally dislikes the track - which I can't agree with considering the rotation it is getting on my ipod. I love the Shirley Basse sample and think the production is well matched to the verses. My issue is more that the lyrics sound confused - is the diamond just a metaphor for Roc-A-Fella records and Kanye's career - or is he actually trying to raises issues with the violence in the diamond trade. Most signs point to the former, especially considering Kanye continues to floss his diamonds and even encourage people to throw their diamonds "in the air" in a song that is supposed to be questioning why people are wearing diamonds ?!

To me, this is definitely an example of Kanye missing a great opportunity to make a socially significant yet still mainstream hip hop song. But then again, I don't find Kanye that "deep" as a person or an MC. His beats are dope though, so maybe he should just stick to the hit singles and wait to wax philosophical on social issues until he gets over his jewlery addiction and conspicuous consumption habits.

Another interesting twist is that Kanye apparently worked with a Chicago MC named Lupe who basically took the original Diamonds track and freestyled over it about conflict diamonds - which then inspired the Kanye/Jay Z remix. You can hear all three versions of the song on Breath of Life' jukebox this week - so make clicks over there and decide for yourself.

(They also have another single from Late Registration called Gold Digger - so feel free to also launch into a 'hip hop is sexist' discussion whenever you are ready)

Friday, July 08, 2005

The Greatest Sneaker of All Time?

ESPN's Page 2 has crowned the winner of their Ultimate Sneaker Bracket.

The winner?

The Air Jordan III.

Agree? Disagree?

I must say that this wouldn't be my choice for the best shoe ever, it wouldn't even be my pick for the best Jordan. But the fans have spoken.

Comment and submit your own suggestions below.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Nets Stadium Showdown

It looks like a real estate conflict may be brewing in Brooklyn. A plan from developer Bruce Ratner and architect Frank Gehry to develop a site in downtown Brooklyn to feature a new Nets stadium complex and a host of towering skyscrapers is running into some competition.

A rival, smaller development plan from Gary Barnett of the Extell Development Company envisions a plan for the site that is more in line with its Brooklyn surroundings. The plan, sans stadium and with no building exceeding 28 stories, is drastically different from
Gehry's 17 building behemoth.

Extell's plan will likely appeal to critics of the Ratner/Gehry vision who fear that the titanic development will displace residents and small business owners and clog traffic in the neighborhood.
With all the money and power that the Ratner/Gehry plan involves, I doubt this will present much of an obstacle. However, because the site is owned by the Metropolitan Transit Authority, things might get political very quickly.

While I am not very familiar with either proposed development, it does sound like the larger stadium/skyscraper plan would drastically change the character of downtown Brooklyn. The question is whether that would be better or not for the residents of NYC.

Gehry's plan features 17 buildings, some as high as 60 stories, with housing for
18,000 people, 1.9 million sq ft of office space, and possibly a hotel.

Via Archinect.

Houston Housing Explosion

A Daily Dose is featuring an eye-catching sculptural installation called Inversion by two Texas artists, Dan Havel and Dean Ruck.

The work was installed on two Houston houses, owned by the Art League, that were scheduled for demolition in order to make room for a new Art League building. Inversion is an interesting, whimsical exploration of space and perspective, giving a new meaning to the phrase "opening up the space." It looks like something from a cartoon in the way it plays with physics, and its location in a residential neighborhood probably helps reinforce its fantastic quality.

Maybe the vortex in the side of the house is where everyone's money is being sucked with the escalating price of housing (at least in DC!).

Image from Archinect.

Attacks in London

Startling and unsettling news today that London was hit by several explosions today. It has been a rollercoaster of emotion for that city in the past week - the Live 8 conference spreading goodwill, the Olympic announcement inspiring jubilation, and now the city struck with fear and forced into mourning.

The world seems to be getting less and less safe. They had police officers with guns and dogs sweeping the Metro trains here in DC today. You don't realize how something like that will shake your confidence in your safety until you see it. Then you realize all the days they haven't had to be there - and it makes you appreciate those days and that lack of "fear." It all makes you wonder where the world is headed.

My thoughts go out to those in London.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

London to Host 2012 Olympics

London played the guilt card, reminding the IOC that it stepped in and hosted the games while Europe was still recovering from WWII in 1948.

Well, apparently it worked. London was awarded the 2012 Olympics today in a close 54-50 vote, narrowly edging out Paris's bid. New York, Moscow and Madrid were eliminated in earlier rounds of voting.

For some details on the London bid, check out Wired's early coverage and this more recent article from ESPN.

And here's hoping that for the 2016 Olympics, the IOC might consider a South American or African country - but that's pretty unlikely isn't it?!

News from the 'Wood

PRADE will acknowledge that most movies that come out these days are garbage. Hollywood seems to have decided to play to the lowest common denominator in its recent offerings - so we get piles of remakes that no one asked for and way more focus on having gaudy special effects and hot young stars than storytelling and character development.

The best films seem to come from filmmakers who choose to reject those patterns and do something daring and different, whether that is the visual innovation of Michel Gondry's ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND or the simple intimacy of Alexander Payne's SIDEWAYS.

That being said, a couple of pieces of good news came out of Hollywood today - and PRADE thought it would be good to keep its readers informed and let them know that there may be hope yet.
  • The first piece of news is that the Coen Brothers and George Clooney are rumored to be teaming up again on a film called HAIL CAESAR. One of their collaborations was fantastic (O Brother Where Art Thou), and the premise of this sounds almost similar (in a weird, Coens brothers way). Clooney would play the lead actor in a 1920's theater troupe putting on a performance of Julius Caesar. Expect literary allusions and fantastic cinematography to ensue.
  • The next bit of news has a lot of potential, but that's all at this stage. One of my favorite novels ever, Kurt Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle, is being optioned to be made into a film by Leonardo DiCaprio's production company. Now the writing team they put on this isn't wow-ing me (the guy that wrote Sahara and his son), but I really hope Vonnegut's brilliance can still shine through. See the cat? See the cradle?
  • And in one more piece of good news, Christopher Guest (who has almost single handedly definied the mockumentary genre with films like Best in Show) is rumored to be teaming up with Ricky Gervais of Britain's The Office on a new mockumentary called FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION, meaned to skewer Hollywood and the Oscar campaign process.

And in unrelated news - when the hell do I get to see another Terry Gilliam movie in the way Terry Gilliam wants me to see it? Brothers Grimm sounds like it will be neutered, so I guess I'll have to wait until Tideland.

That's it for PRADE's Hollywood wrap up. Tune in again in about 8 months when we might hear a few more pieces of good news.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Live 8

I tuned into Live 8 this weekend and was somewhat disappointed that the network only aired one song from each artist, particularly disappointing in the case of Pink Floyd - who hadn't played together for 20 years but only graced the screen for a very appropriate performance of "Money."

Well, if you want to see the other performances that you missed, you can check them out at AOL.

Some other thoughts Live 8:

I thought it was great that the concert was really billed not as a fund-raising event but as an awareness raising one. I also was glad to see that the goal of establishing fair trade policies was included along with finanical aid and debt forgiveness - after all, allowing African countries to be economically self-sufficient should be the real goal.

Why did the Ethiopian woman that was brought on stage with Madonna have a microphone if they weren't going to let her talk?

As many other people pointed out, why weren't more African musicians invited to perform? I don't want to knock the Live 8 effort - because it is for a good cause and hopefully it will have an impact on the decisions being made at the G 8 conference, but it was very strange to see a performance by mostly white, European and American artists for a mostly white, European and American crowd and then have them cut away to video clips of starving African children for emotional impact. Where was Salif Keita? Or Mr Ebbo for that matter!

What genius sold advertising to Trimspa during a concert aimed at preventing people from starving to death?

I was really hoping for Will Smith to sing "I Think I Can Beat Mike Tyson" and bring Tyson out on stage, thus beginning Tyson's new career as a political activist.

Japanese Innovation

Kool Is Bollocks has a great post explaining why some of the coolest laptops and other electronic devices from Japan never make it to the US market. In particular, the post looks at a tiny Toshiba laptop called the Libretto that is exclusively available in Japan (Although you can buy it over here from importer Dynamism.com)

Included is this interesting observation on Japanese vs. American consumption habits.

"The Japanese are more feature-conscious than price-conscious. Japanese consumers want the smallest, lightest, most feature-rich laptop they can proudly show off to their friends. Americans are more likely to crow about the great deal they got. Take this test. If you could get a full-featured 3-pound laptop for $1,999, how much more would you pay for a 2.5-pounder? Or to get it an inch smaller? If your eyes glazed over just thinking about that question, you are in the American majority. If your answer was closer to "anything," break out the sushi. In your soul you are more Japanese than American."

My internet price scouring habits definitely place me in the American camp. Here is the tiny computer which would likely be too small to actually use and just require tons of adapters and plug-in devices.