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21 Jul 12:39

thecarefree-art: procrastination = hijabi babe power Also...


procrastination = hijabi babe power

Also available on my Society6 !

21 Jul 07:44

How The Evil Dead's Tom Sullivan Mastered Low-Budget Effects

by David Konow

When Sam Raimi went to college at Michigan State, he formed a tight group of filmmaking friends. Scott Spiegel, who wrote Evil Dead 2, bonded with Raimi over their mutual love of The Three Stooges. Bruce Campbell became Raimi’s square jawed leading man, and Rob Tapert would become Sam’s long time producer. Another important member of that filmmaking fraternity was Tom Sullivan, who did the make-up effects for The Evil Dead. If Raimi's seminal horror debut is renowned for its low-budget production, it was Sullivan who gets the credit for providing those memorable scares with such limited resources.

Part of what made The Evil Dead so enjoyable was its very homemade feel. It was a completely independent movie, and like the best low budget movies that break out into the mainstream, enthusiasm and spirit triumphed over whatever technical flaws the movie had. Sullivan was a major facilitator in bringing Raimi’s insane vision to life, and as a long time horror fan, I welcomed the chance to talk to him about his memories of working on The Evil Dead.

Tom Sullivan first met up with Sam Raimi because his girlfriend was attending Michigan State as the same time as the wunderkind director. Sullivan had heard about Sam’s Creative Filmmaking Society, where he would show his 8mm movies he made in junior high and high school, and charge a buck or so for admission. “Sam was surrounded by a group of friends who were all interested in filmmaking and acting,” Sullivan says. “He had his own little company.”

When Sullivan met Raimi, they immediately hit it off because Tom was fascinated with stop-motion animation, special effects, claymation, and puppets, and these were all filmmaking techniques that were right up Raimi’s alley. All were solitary pursuits for Sullivan, and now he found a filmmaker with a like mind he could collaborate with.

After making a bunch of 8mm movies, Raimi wanted to make a full-length movie that would play in theaters and drive-ins. With the incredible success of Halloween, a horror film seemed the way to go. “At the time, there were drive-ins all over the country,” Sullivan says. “There were tripe features every week, and there was a huge demand for movies. The audiences were teenagers with disposable incomes, and the plan was to make a horror movie, get it shown, and hopefully make more movies.”

Raimi originally wasn’t a fan of horror films, but he began to respect the technique and skill it took to pull off an effective, scary story. Yet Raimi could never leave his love of The Three Stooges behind, and he injected a lot of slapstick humor and comedic violence in the Evil Dead trilogy. “Since Sam had done comedies before, we weren’t really sure he would pull off a horror film,” Sullivan says. “But I had confidence in him because the kid was so gung-ho about everything. He studied film at an amazing level.” As part of Raimi’s research, he took the gang to as many horror films as he could, and in this case, the worse they were, the better.

As Sullivan explains, “The theory was, and I agree with him, is you can learn a lot from bad horror films because they come up with (good) ideas, but they don’t execute them effectively. One of Sam’s mantras was, ‘Steal from the best, just make it your own.’”

Raimi was being secretive with the Evil Dead script, so Sullivan didn’t have much time to look through it and see what he needed to put together. “For an FX guy, that’s panic time!,” he says. “I had enough time to go through the script a few times, figure out supplies, figure out how I might approach the special effects, then find the supplies I thought I needed, search for them, and order them. Fortunately, other than the foam latex, pretty much everything else was available through hobby stores, hardware stores, or supermarkets.”

The blood in Evil Dead started with the usual formula, corn syrup and food coloring, but with coffee as an added ingredient. Sullivan also got his foam latex from R&D, the same company make-up wizards Tom Savini and Dick Smith used as well. “It was simple to use,” Sullivan says. “Just whip it up like cake mix and bake it.”

Sullivan saw Evil Dead as a great opportunity to show what he was capable of, “so I was doing everything I could do to enhance what was in the script, even though Sam wasn’t asking for it,” he says. “The most obvious example was the Book of the Dead. In the script it was described as having some kind of animal skin, which I took to be leather, and a few letters from an ancient alphabet on the cover. I said, ‘Sam, is this a book of evil? It should be something that looks so evil, you don’t even want to pick it up.’” (Sullivan’s Book of the Dead was inspired by the legend of Ilsa, the She Wolf of the SS, who used to make book covers, curtains, and lamp-shades out of human prisoner skin.)

As for the famous Shaky-Cam, which became one of Evil Dead’s greatest trademarks, Sullivan recalled that Raimi “told us to lie about how it was shot. He wanted us to tell a story that we created the Shaki-Cam footage with a motorcycle, Sam was on the handlebars, that we smashed through the doors, ran into Bruce and broke his arm, a leg, and one of his ribs! That was Sam. Even on the set he was trying to help build the myth of the making of the film.”

Another effect that was tough to pull off were the blank white eyes on the Evil Dead girls. This was not in the days of soft lenses, and it was like putting a silver dollar under your eyelids. All the sterile solution went quickly, and since they didn’t have clean water on the set, they used coffee instead. The girls were blind when they wore their blank white contacts, and they were doing some pretty wild stunts while they were visually impaired, “But they were all troopers,” Sullivan said. “Everyone played along like it was nothing.”

Like many who had to put on heavy make-up for the first time, the actresses got claustrophobic underneath it, and there was what Sullivan called “the latex point.” “Make-up is a lot of fun for the first hour, then it’s kind of annoying,” he explains. “Then after fourteen hours, you’re reaching ‘the latext point’ where you want to rip the stuff off even though you know you can’t!”

The Evil Dead shoot was famously grueling, and as Sullivan recalls, there were “no days off, the food wasn’t the greatest, you can only go on macaroni and cheese for so many days, but everybody was really focused on what they were doing.” Sullivan recalled he was running on just a few hours of sleep a night. “I was the last guy to bed, and the first guy to get up,” he says. “Almost all the make-ups were build up every day by scratch. I’d wake the actors up, grab ‘em, bring them into the make-up section, lay them down on the cot, let them go back to sleep, and dab latex paints on their face for the next four or five hours. Then we’d wake them up, and they’d go act.”

The first Evil Dead movie cost about $350,000, and as for the make-up budget, there probably isn’t an exact number anyone can recall today, but Sullivan doesn’t believe he spent more than $400 for supplies. He once asked Rob Tapert if they ever added up a budget for FX, and Tapert replied, “What budget?” Sullivan recalls that on Evil Dead 2 he had an FX budget of $2,000.

Once Sullivan finally saw the finished movie, “I was astounded. It was scary, it was a riot, it was a lot of fun to watch, everything worked in it. I couldn’t have been more proud of what we had done, and it was really gratifying.” Raimi and Sullivan learned how to make movies and create FX through trial and error, and as Sullivan says today, “Necessity is the mother of invention, and it forces you think about what you need to do with the resources at hand. I would highly recommend starting out like that. Film school is essential, but I would do that at a later stage. I would just jump in, start making movies, and figure it out for yourself.”

Sullivan is now the subject of a new documentary, called Invaluable, and looking back on his Evil Dead days, he realizes it was really a special experience that could never be repeated. “I feel like I used up all my good luck on Evil Dead,” he says. “I’ll never win the Lottery now!”

22 Jul 16:13

It's Important to Love Your Work

by Christopher Wright
22 Jul 18:10

The Extraordinary Future of Shoes


These are neat, but the average American buys seven pairs of shoes a year? That's crazy talk.

On a recent Monday morning in Portland, Oregon—that walkable mecca routinely voted one of the country's most livable cities, and also home of the North American headquarters for Nike and Adidas—I found myself mesmerized by the feet of passersby. We look to our shoes not just to bring us from place to place but also to telegraph our identity. They're a little like cars in that sense, except we can buy a whole lot more of them, so we can change that identity from one day to the next. But despite the varying looks of shoes, the basics of making them haven't changed much. Until now.

Since pretty much the dawn of the Industrial Age, shoes have been made like this: pieces of leather and other materials cut and sewn together in what's called the "upper," then glued to a hard sole. Despite the machine element, much is still done by hand, with skilled workers needed to put the shoes together; materials are often sourced from different places, with shoes shipped back and forth several times before completion. But two years ago, in the lead-up to the London Olympics, Nike and Adidas released their first knitted running shoes: Flyknit for Nike, Primeknit for Adidas. Each sneaker's upper is machine-woven from a single piece of fused yarn. Less waste, less labor, and a cool new look.


The Future of Transportation

Ever since, the two shoe giants have been waging a Flyknit vs. Primeknit war, with Nike suing Adidas for patent infringement (Nike lost that court battle; much as you can't patent a knitted sweater, it's tough to patent a knitted shoe). In March, Adidas released the first knitted soccer cleat, followed by a knitted cleat-and-sock hybrid; Nike's knitted neon Mercurial and Magista cleats are what you saw on Cristiano Ronaldo and other star players during the World Cup.

Feuding and football aside, knit technology just might transform the entire traditional shoemaking process. Athletic shoes make up 30 percent of all footwear sales, and Nike and Adidas dominate, with $14.5 billion and $9.5 billion in sales, respectively, in 2013. Widespread use of the knitting technique could boost the industry's efficiency—cutting down on materials, labor, shipping, and time, as the products can be made start-to-finish in one place. In its latest sustainability report, Nike states that a Flyknit running shoe is made with 80 percent less waste than a typical Nike design. Consider that Americans buy an average of seven pairs of shoes a year—that's more than two billion new pairs annually—and you begin to see the difference that a change in manufacturing could make.

Primeknit, a new shoe from Adidas, is made from knit-technology that could transform shoemaking. (Courtesy Adidas)

Sneakers, of course, aren't just for sports. What a star athlete wears one day informs what a teenager wears on the street the next. In 2012, the fashion crowd fell hard for the knitted-shoe look; every other man at that season's fashion shows was "suddenly rocking orange-and-electric-blue Nike Flyknits with his summer suit," Gilt Groupe's Tyler Thoreson later told the New York Times. Both Nike and Adidas fully intend the new technology to apply to lifestyle footwear, not just athletics, and smaller companies are already adopting the designs.

With more Americans than ever saying they prefer to live in walkable places, footwear has a role to play into the future of U.S. transportation. And for two of the world's biggest shoe companies, lifestyle footwear—what you wear when you're walking around all day, every day—is where the money is. Sustainability is their future.

•       •       •       •       •

James Carnes, the global creative director of sport performance for Adidas, tells me that the conventional, high-waste method of making shoes is like working with a roll of cookie dough. "You always end up with something," he says. "You start with bulk materials and cut things out. But with leather and mesh, you can't roll it up and use it again. You end up creating waste, using thread, glue, and so on. Every single step is an additive process." Carnes says Primeknit was conceived first and foremost as a sustainability solution—how do we build products with zero waste?—but unlike other processes tried to date, it ended up being one that didn't sacrifice performance.

With knitting, you start with a single thread, and you only use as much yarn as you need. "Picture a flat pattern in a butterfly shape," says Carnes. "With the knitting process, you only make that. That's the breakthrough. You can build into the single knitted layer all the functionality you need, by adjusting the density of the knit in different areas"—a tighter weave to give the foot more arch support, say, or a thinner, breathable weave to create more airflow. The possibilities are limitless, he adds, because you can knit anything that can be made into a yarn: carbon, wool, Kevlar, even gold and stainless steel. Knitting also makes it easy to experiment with new colors and patterns.

Designers took inspiration from other knitted materials—fashion staples like sweaters, socks, and gloves, which are supple and movement-friendly; furniture and car upholstery, which stand up to hours of daily wear and tear. They've spent four years refining machines that can create a complete shoe shape as an outline, without the wasted square around it. The ultimate goal, says Carnes, is to have machines create the entire three-dimensional shoe shape, without any hand-sewing necessary.

Like 3-D printing, shoe-knitting is a self-contained process, one that saves time, money, and energy, and one that can benefit smaller companies, keeping production local to customers. Carnes says sooner or later this technology will be universal. It's already possible to buy a small-scale knitting machine for $60,000. "Maybe it's not home production yet, but we're getting there," he says. "The landscape is changing—that whole idea of having 100,000 workers to do these small processes, in giant facilities, with individual machines, is going away."

"This is good not only for consumption, energy use, and waste, but good for the bottom line."

Jennifer Beaudry, who covers athletic and outdoor shoe trends for Footwear News, the industry trade magazine, says knit technology could be the culmination of a "big shift" in footwear design. "The knits are possibly the most elegant, most streamlined expression of that," she says. "Using one material, we can engineer it to do all the things that many pieces used to do. This is good not only for consumption, energy use, and waste, but good for the bottom line, which is obviously a good investment."

•       •       •       •       •

Though the high-tech method was created for sports, knitting has opened the floodgates for creativity from a design standpoint, says Mikal Peveto, director of running at Adidas. I met Peveto at Adidas America for a preview of the new Prime Boost running shoe. (It was released in mid-July, marking the first time that Primeknit will be available in the United States, following the nullification of Nike's patent.) While there, I strolled the company's "village"—five brightly-hued buildings designed in a layout that encourages walking between the various offices, cafeteria, and gym, complete with outdoor soccer field. A bus line runs right by the Portland headquarters, and bikes and pedestrians were everywhere. Looking around, it occurred to me that you couldn't invent a better tableau for witnessing the company's designs in action.

The knitted Prime Boost, from Adidas, was released in mid-July. (Courtesy Adidas)

"This knitted process opens up the limited real estate of a shoe to be an unlimited canvas for colors, patterns, and what you can do with a shoe," Peveto told me. On the new shoe, he points out the way a heavy black weave signals where the usual reinforced toe cap would be, knitted continuously into softer, breathable black and white yarn at the top of the foot. A dramatic gradation to red separates the firmer, structured heel from the decorative "three stripes" iconography. The design potential extends directly to lifestyle shoes (the pixelated, street-cool Element Refine, released in April, also uses woven techniques). The combination of Primeknit with Boost—Adidas' immensely popular, light, efficiently-made soles—makes its manufacture easier on resources. Though it's merely a bonus for most customers, Peveto says "it allows us to have a new conversation with people" around sustainability.

"Let's be honest: This is beyond a need-based industry—it's also a desire-based object," says Peveto. "From an aesthetic standpoint, when our style group really gets into it, there's no horizon." Considering that Kanye West is now designing limited edition shoes with Adidas, and quite likely utilizing the Primeknit technology, style will have a big part to play in its continuing popularity.

Nike has already expanded its use of knit into just about every arena: running, soccer, training, even a Flyknit high-top basketball sneaker designed with Kobe Bryant. Though Nike representatives were cagey when I asked them to describe their technology or talk about specific new products on the horizon, the company's broader strategy of using knitted tech across all shoe categories is clear. Tony Bignell, Nike's vice president of footwear innovation, told me that designers are constantly exploring different ways the shoes can be knit together, as well as experimenting with new materials.

"It feels like a big breakthrough," he says. "Looking back in 20 years, maybe we'll laugh at how rudimentary these early designs are—kind of like with the first cars." The depth and breadth of the technology, he adds, is what feels the most promising, and the company has all hands on deck: Engineers with doctorates in biomechanics work alongside graffiti artists and industrial designers. Bignell describes Flyknit as akin to Nike Air cushioning, first introduced in 1987—a foundational technology for the company that would be used in just about everything going forward. "It's a nice trifecta of performance and style and sustainability benefits," says Bignell.

Tony Bignell, Nike's vice president of footwear innovation, describes Flyknit (above, the Racer) as "a nice trifecta of performance and style and sustainability benefits." (Courtesy Nike)

It may also be a big boost to production speed. The current product cycle for footwear—for something that's not a completely new model—is 18 months from design to delivery on the showroom floor. With machines that could produce shoes in North Carolina for customers in North Carolina, using local workers and cutting out global shipping time, knitted technology can allow companies to be more nimble. "We're only at the beginning," says Bignell. "With the reduction in waste, the more we can spread the technology across our categories, the better it is all around. Every sport is asking for how they can move faster, get stronger, stay cooler or warmer, at all ends of the spectrum. The challenge is just moving quickly enough."

•       •       •       •       •

Adidas and Nike aren't alone in recognizing the need for the sustainable shoe. The North Face and Timberland have been environmental leaders with streamlining materials; dozens of smaller companies make shoes with recycled rubber and plastic, water-based glues, and fast-growing natural materials like bamboo, hemp, and cork. A Spanish company called One Moment debuted a biodegradable shoe in 2012; a Hungarian designer took recent inspiration from knit and sewn shoes like moccasins to create DIY shoes that come in three pieces of leather and are easily woven together with a colorful customized shoelace. One startup even designed a minimalist wool sneaker and sold it on Kickstarter.

None of these makers have the market share of Adidas and Nike, or the same-scale energy footprint. And, with the exception of The North Face and Timberland, none of these are likely to be most people's top choice for heavy walking or running—for looks or performance purposes. But the landscape is changing. Beaudry, the industry expert, points out that though a company like Nike has very tight control over its production, almost all factories are shared facilities that work with multiple clients and companies. That communal setting facilitates the cross-pollination of ideas.

Enter challengers like Athletic Propulsion Labs, or APL, a basketball shoe manufacturer that launched its first woven running shoe in June; APL's biggest claim to fame is that its Concept 1 basketball shoes were banned by the NBA in 2010 for giving "unfair competitive advantage" by increasing vertical leap. Its new TechLoom Pro sneaker, designed to rival Flyknit and Primeknit, comes in eye-catching colors like electric purple, blue, and orange.

"It will be the best way to make shoes for our planet, because it has to be."

"We felt that the industry was moving in a certain direction, and we wanted to be at the forefront of that," says co-founder Ryan Goldston, explaining the decision to commit research and development to a knitted upper. "With other materials, you're forced into a position where it's dictating what you can do. With this, you can efficiently create something all from one material, on one machine, and you can be much more creative with it—it's definitely lifestyle, and it works for basketball, training, tennis, soccer, running. It can hold up performance-wise across different disciplines. That's the most exciting part about it." And all of APL's shoes, he adds, are stylish enough to be carried at Saks Fifth Avenue.

Though it began with a patent war, the technology of the knitted shoe is quickly going mainstream. It's the story of innovation: any time something can be done better—and better and cheaper, with less waste—others will pick up on it. "In the very beginning phases, we had knitting as something that was on the forefront, but it has to be something that is eventually universal," Carnes of Adidas says. "It will be the best way to make shoes for our planet, because it has to be."

Back home, as an experiment, I bought myself a pair of retro-cool maroon and white Adidas Campus 80s Primeknits, ordered through a U.K. website, and hopped on the train to work. To be fair, I also picked up a pair of fiery orange and pink Nike Flyknits, and took them for a run along the waterfront near my office in downtown San Francisco. Perhaps the most significant observation to be made about these efficiently made, next-generation shoes is that they felt no different than the sneakers I already have. But out on the street, everyone told me how great they looked.

This article is part of 'The Future of Transportation,' a CityLab series made possible with support from The Rockefeller Foundation.

25 Jun 20:29



You don't want the death stare, do you?

19 Jul 11:25

Moral Effects of Socialism

by Alex Tabarrok

I would add that East Germany is hardly what one would call a high functioning example of socialism, with serious issues of inequity and a blatantly dishonest, corrupt system. I would imagine that the degree of corruption in a society would directly relate to the amount of "cheating" that is considerable acceptable.

Dan Ariely and co-authors have an interesting new paper looking at moral behavior, specifially cheating, in people who grew up in either East or West Germany.

From 1961 to 1989, the Berlin Wall divided one nation into two distinct political regimes. We
exploited this natural experiment to investigate whether the socio-political context impacts
individual honesty. Using an abstract die-rolling task, we found evidence that East Germans
who were exposed to socialism cheat more than West Germans who were exposed to
capitalism. We also found that cheating was more likely to occur under circumstances of
plausible deniability.

…If socialism indeed promotes individual dishonesty, the specific features of this socio-political
system that lead to this outcome remain to be determined. The East German socialist regime
differed from the West German capitalist regime in several important ways. First, the system
did not reward work based to merit, and made it difficult to accumulate wealth or pass
anything on to one’s family. This may have resulted in a lack of meaning leading to
demoralization (Ariely et al., 2008), and perhaps less concern for upholding standards of
honesty. Furthermore, while the government claimed to exist in service of the people, it failed
to provide functional public systems or economic security. Observing this moral hypocrisy in government may have eroded the value citizens placed on honesty. Finally, and perhaps most
straightforwardly, the political and economic system pressured people to work around official
laws and cheat to game the system. Over time, individuals may come to normalize these types
of behaviors. Given these distinct possible influences, further research will be needed to
understand which aspects of socialism have the strongest or most lasting impacts on morality.

It’s interesting that Ariely et al. try to explain cheating as a result of socialism. My own approach would look more to the virtue ethics of capitalism and Montesquieu who famously noted that

Commerce is a cure for the most destructive prejudices; for it is almost a general rule, that wherever we find agreeable manners, there commerce flourishes; and that wherever there is commerce, there we meet with agreeable manners.

See Al-Ubaydli et al. for a market priming experiment and especially McCloskey on The Bourgeoise Virtues for more work consistent with this theme.

22 Jul 04:05

An "E" For Effort


This is all I hear.


Tonight’s comic is why no one asks me what I think of their work. It took me years to learn how not to do this… sometimes.

22 Jul 05:01

D20 (20 sided dice) with additional braille numbers by idellwig


Speaking of custom dice...


A blind friend of mine likes to play pen and paper RPGs. He was searching for a D20 with braille numbers since ages. So I modeled and printed one. ;-)
## Revision history
- Version 1.5:
- celebrating, that this D20 got featured!
- sum of opposite numbers is always 21, now
- Version 1.4:
- rounded edges

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This answer will be a bit longer... ;-) I've thought about that long before I started modelling. There are many reasons, why I didn't do that:

First of all: This model is for 3D printers. They have a lot of different settings. Say, I'd add a little hole under the surface to move the center of mass, it could work for someone who prints with 100% infill. If someone else prints with 10% infill and three shells, there would be added more plastic around the hole which would have the opposite effect to the center of mass.

The second reason is, that most infill prints are not balanced. Even if it seems so in X and Y axis, at least the Z axis is out of balance.

I've also found a third issue: Even if you print with 100% infill, most printers don't print homogeneous enough. They produce round "snakes" of plastic and print them as close next to the other as possible. There are some areas with less plastic and some others where the plastic was squeezed in. Even a perfect printed sphere would not be in perfect balance.

There would be a chance, if someone would like to mill the D20 out of a solid block of say aluminium, but than he could not mill a hole inside the dice. ;-)

So: I would think of that issue again, if we can print perfectly solid, homogeneous material.

Hope that answered your question. ;-)

Did you make the cutout on each face the same volume, so that the dice would be truly random rather than favoring lighter sides?

Thanks. I'll play with it.

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If you print this Thing and display it in public proudly give attribution by printing and displaying this tag. Print Thing Tag


We found out, that you should resize this thing down to 70% to make it more comfortable to handle. That size still has a good readability for the braille numbers.


You must be logged in to post a comment.

daegs on Jul 16, 2014 said:

Did you make the cutout on each face the same volume, so that the dice would be truly random rather than favoring lighter sides?

idellwig on Jul 16, 2014 said:

This answer will be a bit longer... ;-) I've thought about that long before I started modelling. There are many reasons, why I didn't do that:

First of all: This model is for 3D printers. They have a lot of different settings. Say, I'd add a little hole under the surface to move the center of mass, it could work for someone who prints with 100% infill. If someone else prints with 10% infill and three shells, there would be added more plastic around the hole which would have the opposite effect to the center of mass.

The second reason is, that most infill prints are not balanced. Even if it seems so in X and Y axis, at least the Z axis is out of balance.

I've also found a third issue: Even if you print with 100% infill, most printers don't print homogeneous enough. They produce round "snakes" of plastic and print them as close next to the other as possible. There are some areas with less plastic and some others where the plastic was squeezed in. Even a perfect printed sphere would not be in perfect balance.

There would be a chance, if someone would like to mill the D20 out of a solid block of say aluminium, but than he could not mill a hole inside the dice. ;-)

So: I would think of that issue again, if we can print perfectly solid, homogeneous material.

Hope that answered your question. ;-)

alandarkdale on Oct 10, 2013 said:

I started this one, seems to begin in the middle of the die. Not sure what went wrong.

idellwig on Oct 10, 2013 said:

I guess you didn't move it to the build plate. If you use MakerWare, it asks you, when opening the file. Other software should have an option like that, too.

21 Jul 19:32



Via Cooper Griggs Via Carnibore

21 Jul 05:01


by Ian


21 Jul 16:30

The Problem in a Nutshell

by Christopher Wright
20 Jul 18:56

so confused 

so confused 

21 Jul 01:32

Sometimes I am filled with whimsy...

by Christopher Wright

I am not helping with the temptation.
Maybe I am a bad friend?

... and this is what happens.

I have to admit, I am sorely tempted.

20 Jul 19:36

No Moods, Ads or Cutesy Fucking Icons (Re-reloaded)


Peter Watts: reliably pessimistic.

Cool term, huh?  Liquid surveillance. I learned it from Neil Richards’ 2013 paper “The Dangers of Surveillance” in the Harvard Law Review (thanks to Jesus Olmo for the link); it’s a useful label for that contemporary panopticon in which “Government and nongovernment surveillance support each other in a complex manner that is often impossible to disentangle.” My recent IAPP talk looked at privacy from a biological point-of-view; I’d recommend Richards’ overview for its legal and historical perspective on the same subject.

But while we come at the issue from different directions, both Richards and I disagree profoundly with David Brin. We both think that privacy is something worth protecting.

As a number of you have noticed, the good doctor took exception to my Scorched Earth talk of a while back. We’ve since gone  back and forth over email a few times. David was miffed by my failure to give him a heads-up when I posted my transcript, and fair enough; that was thoughtless of me. He also objects to my simplistic “rainbows and unicorns” caricature of his transparent society. Also fair enough(1), these days anyway; the dude does seem to have changed his tune since back in 2003 when he expressed the hope that the authorities would “let us look back”. Nowadays he takes the more defiant stance that we’ll fucking well look back whether they “let” us or not.

My argument wasn’t so much that we shouldn’t look back as it was that the silverbacks would come down hard on us when we did. I wholeheartedly endorse David’s current perspective, even though he sometimes gets so caught up in his own heroic defiance that he has an unfortunate tendency to describe the rest of us as mere “whiners” in comparison.

Quibble Appetizer

He uses the word repeatedly— here, when he engages me, and here, where he takes on the URME line of surveillance-foiling full-face masks.  Privacy advocates— hell, people who walk down the street wearing masks— are just a bunch of moaners who keep “whining don’t look at me!‘”

I think Dr. Brin might be protesting a bit too much. Has he ever worn a mask in public, or (like Ladar Levison of Lavabit) given the finger to authorities who show up with their hands out? These are not craven acts. Wearing a mask in public is the very opposite of hiding: it doesn’t avoid attention, it draws it. It’s not just a middle finger raised to a gauntlet of cameras; it’s an invitation to any badge-wearing thug within eyeshot, even in those places where wearing a mask isn’t outright illegal.  It’s about as whiney, moany, and hidey an act as— well, for example, as getting out of your car during a protocol-violating border search to ask what’s going on. (Or as David puts it on his blog, “scream and leap”.)

I’m quibbling, though. So the dude slants his semantics for dramatic effect; I’m Mr. Unicorns-&-Rainbows, so I can’t really complain. Besides, I think Dr. Brin and myself are pulling in the same direction. We’re both outraged by abuse of power; we both regard our governments as— if not an outright enemy— an adversary at least, a group organism whose interests cannot be counted on to align with those of its citizens. We both think it needs to be resisted (and if we don’t, I’m sure David will set me straight, because this time at least I’ve given him a heads-up.)

I still think he’s dead wrong about privacy, though.

The Trouble With Transparency

I’ll give him some points right out of the gate. The use of cell phone cameras has depressed the number of incidents of police misconduct, has even resulted in charges now and then.  That’s a positive development.

I don’t know how long it will last.  Laws written by cats have a way of adapting when the mice figure out a workaround.  Sneak cameras into factory farms and you may get public outrage, grass-roots momentum, the passage of more humane animal-treatment laws.  Then again, you might get laws that outlaw undercover journalism entirely, redefine anyone who documents the abuse of agricultural animals as a “domestic terrorist”. Record video of police assaulting civilians and you’ll certainly get a lot of front-page coverage for a few days. You may even get public enquiries and actual charges, at least until the next Hollywood celebrity overdoses on horse tranquillizers and moves the spotlight.

But how much of that theater results in conviction?  The Mounties who killed Robert Dziekański in the Vancouver International Airport got off the hook, despite video footage of their actions.  James Forcillo is back on the job after repeatedly shooting a crazy man to death in an empty streetcar, despite hand-held recordings from multiple angles establishing that the victim was not a threat. (He’s since been charged; conviction, in my opinion, is unlikely.) And the cops who vandalized, robbed, and assaulted bodega owners in Philadelphia were never even charged, despite video showing them cutting the local securicam wires before partying down.

Of course, anyone can google for newspaper headlines showing this corrupt cop or that crooked politician getting away with murder. That’s called arguing by anecdote and— while the anecdotes are valid in and of themselves— you can’t hang rigorous statistics off that kind of cherry-picking. My sense is that we’re in an arms race here; the authorities are still coming to terms with the presence of ubiquitous civilian surveillance at street level, the cops haven’t quite internalized the fact that they might be suddenly accountable in a way they never were before, but I expect countermeasures to these countermeasures. (Which, now that I think of it, serves as a rejoinder to David’s suggestion that I’ve never heard of Moore’s Law. I confess the term does sound familiar— but I think it applies to both sides in the struggle, so rather than a monotonic climb to a transparent utopia, I see something more cyclical. Maybe that’s just the ecologist in me.)  Brin himself points to a patent that would let the authorities shut down every inconvenient cell-phone and tablet within reach (interestingly, he proposes a response similar to my Cylon Solution from back in March).  I expect that generally, those in charge will figure out how to put back whatever rocks we manage to turn over.

But that’s just my sense of things, and I could be wrong. So let’s be optimistic and grant the point.  Let’s assume that our cell phones and skeeterbots permanently level the playing field down here at street level, that cops no longer get away with assaulting civilians whenever they feel like it, that our masters and their attack dogs finally have to treat us with a modicum of respect.

It will be an improvement. Not a game-changing one. Because even in this optimistic scenario, society is only transparent down here on the street, where the cell phones are. Elsewhere, the glass in the windows is all one-way.

Take a Man’s Castle, for starters. Even Brin draws the line at domestic privacy: his Transparent Society ends on our doorsteps, explicitly allowing that our homes, at least, will remain unsurveilled. It may have seemed a plausible extrapolation back in the nineties, before Moore’s Law and Surveillance Creep produced such a litter of unholy love-children: the television in your bedroom that reports your viewing habits and the contents of your thumb drives back to corporate headquarters. The back doors built into every Windows operating system from Xp on up. The webcam that counts the people in your living room, so that it can shut down your TV if it sees four faces when your subscription to Game of Thrones is only licensed for three. And of course the government, lurking overhead like a rain-swollen overcast sky, turning all of corporate America into its bitch with a wink and a National Security Letter (and even an actual warrant on rare occasions). The Internet of Things has barely even got off the ground, and these are only a few of the intrusions we’re already facing.

And don’t even get me started on LOVEINT

David, dude— it was a beautiful dream back in 1998, and how I wish it had turned out that way. But do we have back-door access into Dick Cheney’s web-surfing habits? Did I miss some memo about the White House camera feeds going public-domain last week? That giant supercomputer complex going up in the Utah desert: when it goes online, will they be using it to help mothers keep track of their wandering children? Do we know what books David Cameron keeps on his Nook, do we know what passages of Mein Kampf he tends to linger over?

Will any of these insights be within our grasp in the foreseeable future?

And that’s just in people’s homes, in the private little bubble that we all agree should remain sacrosanct. Is it better when you step outside, and lose not just the reasonable expectation of privacy but of anonymity to boot? If you were attending a rally to protest— oh, I dunno, illegal drone strikes on foreign nationals— would you feel not the slightest chill when informed by one of our Boys in Blue that yes, you’re perfectly free to exercise your right to public dissent— but before you do we’re going to take down your name and address and bank details and employment history and phone records and any past interactions you may have had with Law Enforcement stretching back into childhood? Would it make you feel any better to know that no Boys in Blue were exploited in the making of this film, that all those data— and orders of magnitude more— were collected by an unmarked autonomous quadrocopter talking to a computer in the desert?

Is it okay that someone without any relevant qualification can access psychiatric records of people in other countries, the better to arbitrarily restrict their freedom of movement? Is it acceptable that people who’ve never been convicted of any crime— who’ve never even been charged with anything— have lost jobs, been turned down for educational programs, been denied travel, all because the police keep records of everyone they come in contact with for whatever reason, then hand those data out at the drop of a hat? Would all that somehow be redressed, if only we had guerrilla cellphone footage of some asshole behind a desk stamping REJECTED on a job application?

Don’t count on enlightened legislation to turn the tables. The original surveillance program that grew into PRISM and Stingray was regarded as illegal even by many in the Bush Administration; the White House went ahead and did it anyway. None of those folks will ever be held accountable for that, any more than they’ll be charged with war crimes over the waterboarding of prisoners or the dispatch of flying terminators to assassinate civilians without due process.

I have a friend who practices law in California. The last time we hung out she told me that what disillusions her the most about her job, the thing she finds most ominous, is the naïve and widespread fairytale belief that the law even matters to those in power— that all we have to do to in order to end government surveillance is pass a law against it, and everyone will fall into line. It’s bullshit. Only mice have to obey the law. The cats? They can take it or leave it. (I passed that message on to Canada’s Privacy Commissioner when we chatted after my IAPP talk. In response, she could only shrug and spread her hands.)

The damnable thing about David Brin is, he’s right: If the watchers watch us, we should damn well be able to watch them in turn.  Where the argument fails is in his apparent belief that both sides will ever have comparable eyesight, that an army of cellphone-wielding  Brave Citizens (as opposed to the rest of us moaning whiners) is enough to level the playing field. Yes, Moore’s Law proceeds apace: our eyesight improves over time. But so does theirs, and because their resources are so vastly greater, they will have the advantage for the foreseeable future. (Of course, if someone’s planning on crowd-sourcing their own supercomputer complex in the desert— complete with legislation-generating machinery to legally protect its existence and operations on behalf of the 99%— let me know.  I’d love to get in on the ground floor.)

Don’t get me wrong: I agree that we should look back whenever we can. Even when the gorillas beat the shit out of you. Looking back is necessary.

But it is not sufficient.

The Opacity Alternative

If we can’t level the field by spying on the authorities, the obvious alternative is to try and limit their ability to spy on us. Neil Richards argues not only that privacy can be protected but that it must be, because personal privacy is essential to a functioning democracy. His argument seems compelling to me, but I’m not a legal scholar (and I’m not entirely sold on the whole democracy thing either), so I’ll leave it to Richards to defend Richards. Brazil, at least, seems to be on board with his outlook, given the recent passage of their “Internet Bill of Rights“.

For my part, it just burns my ass that these fuckers arrogate unto themselves the right to watch me from the grasses.  I don’t like being targeted.  I don’t like being prey. So it resonates when Edward Snowden tells us that we don’t have to ask the government to give us back our privacy: we can take it.

Brin’s response is: Tough noogs, Bub. The Internet Never Forgets.  You can’t burn data to the ground when they’ve already been copied and recopied and stored in a million backup repositories throughout a network designed to remain operational after a nuclear war.

He’s got a point.

My porn-surfing habits from 2011 are probably immortal by now. I’ll never be able to disown this blog post no matter how many religious conversions I experience down the road. CSIS probably knows all about that little sniper reticle I superimposed on the forehead of a cat-cuddling Stephen Harper last decade. Those ships have sailed.

But that doesn’t mean we have to keep launching new ones.

There’s no shortage of online posts listing the various ways one might protect one’s privacy, from asymmetrical haircuts to sticking your cell phone in a Faraday Cage. Some are really obvious: if you don’t want your TV spying on you, don’t get a smart one(2). (Dumb TVs are cheap these days— we just bought one a couple of weeks back— because everyone’s clearing their warehouses to make room  for new devices that come with HAL-9000 as standard equipment.  When you can’t get a dumb TV any more, go dumber: my last 47-incher was basically just a monitor with a bunch of input jacks.) Keep your deepest secrets on a computer that’s completely isolated from the internet. Encrypt everything. Stay the fuck away from Facebook.

Start a Cylon Solutions boutique that specializes in backlash technology, machinery too dumb to be used against you(3). Start a franchise. Make it a thing. Hell, if vinyl staged a comeback decades after the entertainment industry banished it to the wilderness— if analog tech has become cool again for no more than the audio aesthetic— how much more potential might there be in a retro movement founded on the idea of keeping Harper and Obama out of our bedrooms?

Of course, not everyone cares enough to put in the extra effort. I was ranting to a friend the other day as she booted up her smart TV, ran down the usual list of grievances and suspicions and countermeasures. She listened patiently (as you know, I do tend to go on sometimes), and finally drawled “You know, your arguments all make sense, but I just don’t really care.”  A lot of people, seduced by the convenience of the tech and unwilling to make their own soap from scratch, are indifferent to the panopticon. I wish them well.

But to many of us the Snowden revelations have provoked a backlash, a renewed interest in drawing a curtain back across our lives. That backlash seems to be provoking an uptick in privacy measures that are actually easy to use, convenient enough for even the surveillantly-indifferent to embrace. Cyberdust is a free app that encrypts and anonymizes your communiqués, then burns them to the ground after they’ve been read no matter how often David Brin weighs in on the impossibility of such a feat (although you may want to stay away from Snapchat for the time being). Chrome’s new “End-to-End” encryption add-on has got so much recent press it’s barely even worth embedding a link. (Let us take a moment to reflect on the irony of Google in the role of privacy advocate.) And Snowden’s gift has also weakened the nonelectronic channels through which government spying often passes— the security letters, the secret back-room demands for data which corporations were only too happy to turn over before their clients knew what they were doing. Now it’s out, and customers are deserting in droves; see how Apple and Facebook and Microsoft have seen the light at last, now that their bottom lines are threatened. See how they’ve all pledged to give up their evil ways and join the Occupy movement. It’s not just Teksavvy and Lavabit any more; now even the lapdogs are showing a couple of teeth. (Whether they actually bite anything remains to be seen, of course.)

There may even be some utility yet to be squeezed out of direct legislation, notwithstanding my skepticism about cat-authored laws. Sure, if you tell  the spooks they can’t spy on you, they’ll just do it anyway and lie to Congress about it afterward.  But what if you pass a law that cuts their budget— reduces their allowance so they can’t afford to spy on you, whether they’re allowed to or not? We’re about to find out, if the House of Representatives’ recent amendment to a Defense appropriations bill makes it past the Senate.

If worst comes to worst, just break the law.  It serves them, not us, and they can’t put all of us in jail.

Yes, they are vast and mighty and all-seeing, and we are small and puny, but we are scattered and so very many in number. We can’t keep the spooks out if they really want us— but they don’t really want most of us. The only reason They See All is because the technology makes it so damn easy to target everyone, to err on the side of overkill. Tangle up that driftnet enough and cost:benefit changes; at some point they’ll go back to using longlines.

There are things we can do, is what I’m saying. It’s what Edward Snowden is saying, too.  It’s what Neil Richards and  Bruce Schneier and Ann Cavoukian and Micheal Geist are saying. It what activist organizations like the Electronic Frontier Foundation and national governments like Brazil and a myriad others are saying. We’re saying we can burn things, and here’s how. We’re saying we can take it back.

We’re saying that David Brin is wrong.

About this, anyway.  Because— and I’ll say it again— I am totally on board with the way the man rallies his troops to join battle on one front. What I diss is his unconditional surrender of the other.

To me, that’s the very opposite of being a Brave Citizen.

Deleted Scenes and Extras

In a way I believe Ed Snowden’s inspirational example has misled us, misled me. In hindsight I think I was wrong to write that he “looked back”— as though he was one of us, just some guy on the street staring at the gorilla.  He wasn’t. He was the gorilla; he was a trusted part of that network, he was Agent Smith, he was one of the watchers. That’s the only way he had access to all that information in the first place: not through “souseveillance”, not by looking back, but simply by being a gorilla who happened to grow a conscience. We can’t aspire to follow his example because no matter how hard we stare, we will never enjoy the access he once had.

In a way, that doesn’t even matter—because whether Snowden was a true metawatcher or just a gummint voyeur plagued by a sense of ethics, the real metric of progress is whether the Society has grown more Transparent in the wake of his revelations. Will the next Ed Snowden have an easier time, or a harder one, casting a spotlight on the powerful? Does anyone really believe that the keyholes he peeked through haven’t since been plugged?

Obama, finally exposed, utters mealy-mouthed platitudes about transparency and accountability while continuing to lie about PRISM and Stingray and all those other programs with Le Carré names. Debate is suddenly “welcomed”, our leaders are suddenly willing to contemplate new restraints on their unbridled power. And yet their minions continue to lean on local law enforcement to keep their yaps shut about ongoing surveillance efforts, rewarding them with AVs and machine guns for their cooperation. And over in that dark corner, Thomas Drake— a conscience-afflicted NSA employee who leaked unclassified documents to the press concerning the unconstitutional and illegal surveillance by the US government on its citizens— found himself charged with espionage by the simple expedient of taking unclassified documents found on his computer, reclassifying them after the fact, and then laying charges for possession of retroactively-forbidden fruit.

Think about that. If the state doesn’t like what you’ve done, it will reverse-engineer reality to make you a criminal. The law itself becomes quicksand, rewritten on the fly to favor the house: more than once US courts have thrown out suits alleging violation of amendment rights simply because the programs committing those offenses are “state secrets”. If the court doesn’t know a program exists, it can’t pass judgment on what that program may have done to you; and if the program is secret, the court is not allowed to acknowledge that it exists.

In the light of such Kafkaesque rationales, it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that criminality may ultimately be inevitable to anyone who truly values their privacy. Even if your countermeasures are legal today, they may not be tomorrow. If you’re not a criminal now, you might be then.

Might as well say Fuck the Law, and take your countermeasures. Avoid the rush.

(1) Although seriously: artistic license, right? A cheap laugh before a cold audience. I say it was worth it.

(2) You could always get a smart TV, put tape over its eyes, and keep it isolated from the web— but how long before the onboard AI simply refuses to run your favorite shows until you “confirm your identity” through an internet link?

(3) Brin urges his own Brave Citizens to adopt similar tactics, albeit to prevent the cops from protecting their own “privacy” rather than to further the protection of your own.

18 Jul 19:23

Blues Guitar Legend Johnny Winter Shines Live on Danish TV (1970)

by Josh Jones

Johnny Winter!

“Out of all the hopped-up Caucasians who turbocharged the blues in the late Sixties,” writes Rolling Stone, “Texas albino Johnny Winter was both the whitest and the fastest.” While brother Edgar hung a synthesizer around his neck and explored Southern rock’s outer weirdness, Johnny stuck closer to roots music, playing with blues greats like Mike Bloomfield, Junior Wells, and Muddy Waters (he produced three Grammy-winning Waters albums). Despite, or because of, his blues bona fides, Winter was always a stalwart in the rock scene. He played Woodstock, often covered Chuck Berry, Dylan, and The Rolling Stones, and released several albums with his own band.

Winter passed away Wednesday in his hotel room in Zurich at age 70. In tribute, we bring you the full performance above of Winter with his band on Danish TV in 1970. See Winter’s brilliant thumb-picking style on full display as he and the band rip through “Mama Talk to Your Daughter,” “Johnny B. Goode,” “Be Careful With a Fool,” and “Mean Town Blues.” Want to learn some Johnny Winter magic? Check out this video guitar lesson with the man himself. And just below, see a trailer for a new Winter documentary, Johnny Winter: Down and Dirty, that premiered at SXSW this past March.

Related Content:

Muddy Waters and Friends on the Blues and Gospel Train, 1964

‘Boom Boom’ and ‘Hobo Blues’: Great Performances by John Lee Hooker

Animated: Robert Johnson’s Classic Blues Tune Me and the Devil Blues

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Blues Guitar Legend Johnny Winter Shines Live on Danish TV (1970) is a post from: Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus, or get our Daily Email. And don't miss our big collections of Free Online Courses, Free Online Movies, Free eBooksFree Audio Books, Free Foreign Language Lessons, and MOOCs.

The post Blues Guitar Legend Johnny Winter Shines Live on Danish TV (1970) appeared first on Open Culture.

19 Jul 19:02

Did the Wayback Machine Catch Russian-Backed Rebels Claiming Responsibility for Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17?

by Dan Colman

Screen Shot 2014-07-19 at 11.16.42 AM

If you’re a long-time reader of Open Culture, you know all about — a non-profit that houses all kinds of fascinating textsaudiomoving images, and software. And don’t forget archived web pages. Since 1996, Archive’s “Wayback Machine” has been taking snapshots of websites, producing a historical record of this still fairly new thing called “the web.” Right now, the Wayback Machine holds 417 billion snapshots of web sites, including one page showing that “Igor Girkin, a Ukrainian separatist leader also known as Strelkov, claimed responsibility on a popular Russian social-networking site for the downing of what he thought was a Ukrainian military transport plane shortly before reports that Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 had crashed near the rebel held Ukrainian city of Donetsk.” (This quote comes from The Christian Science Monitor, which has more on the story.) Girkin’s post was captured by the Wayback Machine at 15:22:22 on July 17. By 16:56, Girkin’s post was taken offline — but not before had its copy.

To keep tabs on this story, follow Archive’s Twitter and Facebook pages.

Did the Wayback Machine Catch Russian-Backed Rebels Claiming Responsibility for Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17? is a post from: Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus, or get our Daily Email. And don't miss our big collections of Free Online Courses, Free Online Movies, Free eBooksFree Audio Books, Free Foreign Language Lessons, and MOOCs.

The post Did the Wayback Machine Catch Russian-Backed Rebels Claiming Responsibility for Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17? appeared first on Open Culture.

19 Jul 06:12

Art of the day: Look Up.

Art of the day: Look Up.

16 Jul 12:18

The Latest Kickstarter Smash: Smash Cup, a Collapsible Travel Mug


This seems like a terrible idea.


Coffee drinkers: How many disposable coffee cups do you go through a year? Some of you might carry a travel mug on your commute, but the bulk of you probably get your caffeine hits out of paper or plastic cups, which then go into the trash or recycling. Ben Melinger, the founder of NYC-based Smash Cup, claims that you worker drones each throw away some 500 cups per year.

Melinger, by the way, is essentially a self-taught industrial designer who quit his corporate job to make stuff. "A few years ago, I went on an adventure off the corporate track," he writes. "I had always loved the idea of making physical products, so with a product in mind... and some expert mentors, I learned 3D CAD modeling, protoyping, manufacturing sourcing, IP drafting, and so much more—all the ins and outs of making a great product."

And now he's got his first successful Kickstarter. Melinger came up with the Smash Cup, a collapsible travel mug that "smashes" from five inches to less than two, so it doesn't take up much space in your bag when it's not in use.


Here's the pitch video:

Since going live last week, Smash Cup has easily blown past its $10,000 target, with nearly five times the funding at press time. While the $12 buy-in units are all gone, there's still 23 days left to get yourself a Smash Cup at $15 or more.

19 Jul 00:13

Washington state just lopped up to $2,500 off the cost of solar panels. Here’s how.

by Heather Smith
solar panel rainbow

All new technology, no matter how innovative, arrives in a world of pre-existing laws and regulations. But not all technology catches the same breaks. A company like Lyft or Uber can do its thing right out there in the open for a surprisingly long time, despite being — essentially — appified versions of such already-illegal innovations as dollar vans and jitneys.

By comparison, solar energy, despite having made leaps and bounds both technologically and finance-wise, can’t show up at the block party without bringing down a lawsuit, a law, or some kind of extra fee.

Yet those impediments, intentional and unintentional, are beginning to remove themselves. A decision this week by the Building Code Council in Washington state is a prime example.

Until now, the process of legally installing solar panels on a building in Washington has been what it is in most of the U.S.: while there are state and national building codes, each county enforces them differently. What this meant was that the process of putting in solar ranged from the very simple (a solar panel installation was seen as the equivalent of putting on an extra layer of shingles)  to the complicated and prolonged (any installation, no matter how much of a no-brainer, required a full set of plans, signed by a licensed structural engineer, which added between $800-$2,500 to the final bill.) Solar installers were spending a lot of time learning about how permits were handled from county to county, and avoiding some areas altogether because the  process was so daunting.

Then this April, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee issued an executive order to deal with carbon emissions — and that order paved the way for the standardization and simplification of solar permitting. It was a surprisingly agreeable process, says Mia Devine, a project manager at Northwest Solar Communities, a coalition that helped with the rule changes. “The mandate of the governor’s office really made people pay attention. It actually passed unanimously.”

This whole “actually making it easy to put in solar” thing is still fairly rare, but the idea of having simpler rules seems like a popular one. In the coming months, expect to see more of these attempts to make rules around solar easier to navigate. It won’t be the wild west of the Silicon Valley startup world, but it’s shaping up to be a lot more open than it is today.

Filed under: Article, Business & Technology, Climate & Energy, Politics
15 Jul 15:26

Nomad: sherry maker González Byass ventures into whisky

by Lew Bryson

Be very interested to try this, and it actually sounds affordable.

Alia AkkamThe other night I was sitting at a bar, a hushed, handsome space awash in wood and leather, tucked behind an unmarked door upstairs from a more raucous joint dominated by a flat screen blaring the World Cup and gals in too-tight dresses. I could have been in a speakeasy-style lair anywhere in the world, except I was in Taipei, at Alchemy, in the slick Xinyi district. It is here that I watched a large group of dolled-up friends, tipsy from a wedding, keep the party going by passing around a bottle of the Macallan and greedily sipping it like water.

Soft and sweet, the Macallan, I learned a few days prior, is the single malt of choice among Taiwanese imbibers. Instead of feeling fierce pride for the lovely whiskies being turned out at Kavalan, a little over an hour away from Taipei, many locals are skeptical of single malts from their homeland.

imageIt is precisely this status-conscious demographic González Byass is targeting with its brand new whisky, Nomad. The Spanish wine producer, best known for its range of sherries, has decided to amp up its spirits collection—most notably marked by the London No. 1 Gin—with Nomad, a whisky crafted by Whyte & Mackay’s zany Richard Paterson.

Like any Scotch whisky, this cross-cultural creation is distilled, blended, and aged in Scotland. But then, in a romantic twist, it’s shipped off to balmy Spain, where it’s finished in Pedro Ximénez casks. For the debut of Nomad, González Byass first set its sights on Taipei, the world’s sixth-largest single malt market. The Taiwanese, I am told, have the power to turn their drink-swilling neighbors in Hong Kong and China onto new products and habits, making them an even more captivating audience.

For Nomad’s grand launch, González Byass brought writers from around the world—luckily including myself—to Taipei to taste the much-buzzed whisky, discover what makes it stand out from the bombardment of new releases on retail shelves, and give them a feel for Taiwanese nightlife in between dumpling runs.

Via Skype, Paterson, donning a suit in the middle of the night, UK time, walked curious attendees through the particulars of Nomad. For example, he told us he melded 25 single malt and six grain whiskies that are 5 to 8 years old for this blend, then aged it in oloroso casks for a year. Once shipped off to Spain, the whisky did time in the Pedro Ximénez barrels for up to another year. Although most bottles of booze boast 40 or 43% ABV, Paterson determined Nomad’s should be 41.3%.

I was almost scared to taste it. After all this anticipation, imagine what a letdown it would be to fly across the globe for a swig of something hot and one-dimensional. But it did not disappoint. Paterson kept emphasizing its heady raisin and marzipan notes, and the pastry buff in me was delighted each rich sip conjured a loaf of warm Christmastime Stollen and brown sugar-packed sticky toffee pudding.

He also encouraged us to resist the urge to plunk ice cubes into our glasses, and drink Nomad neat. This will not be a problem because it’s an approachable whisky, something I would have no qualms about opening on a Tuesday night while in yoga pants. At around $45, it’s not something you need to save for a white tablecloth feast, but guests will most certainly relish it when you bring it over for a potluck. They may even strike a conversation over how closely the flat, flask-like bottle resembles Knob Creek’s.

Perhaps the most interesting element of Nomad’s arrival is that it has given González Byass the opportunity to carve out a new category of whisky called Outland. The name exemplifies wanderlust and adventure, and it’s interesting to think of the future cross-cultural collaborations that will undoubtedly ensue. More whiskies making their way to Spain is inevitable— González Byass may have the audacity to take Scotland-meets-Spain whisky to a new level, but Paterson is no stranger to such international tinkering; he did this before with Sheep Dip—yet is Irish whiskey aged in Kentucky a possibility? Or maybe Japanese whisky will get sent off to Canada?

Lest bartenders be excluded from all of this intrigue surrounding Nomad, the González Byass folks asked local barkeeps to show off how they weave the whisky into clever concoctions. One of them even found Fireball a fine complement. With Paterson’s words warning us to drink it in as pure a state as possible, I only wanted to try it in an Old-Fashioned. Surely Nomad will make a splash on Taipei’s burgeoning craft bar scene—and New York’s when it hopefully hits the States in the fall. Dessert notes coupled with a European fairytale of a narrative might just get Taipei bar-goers to look beyond their beloved Macallan.

The post Nomad: sherry maker González Byass ventures into whisky appeared first on Whisky Advocate.

13 Jul 19:13

The Elements of Style - useful for all of us from time to time



The Elements of Style - useful for all of us from time to time

16 Jul 05:08

The Wartime Kitchen Garden  I wish I could see all the episodes...


This was a fun show.

The Wartime Kitchen Garden 

I wish I could see all the episodes from these series!

14 Jul 15:52

July Update

by Bob Crowley

I didn't realize so many SEM machines were laying around.

Note: This identical text may appear in the Kickstarter update section as well, but may not contain links or images. We had the pleasure of a visit by Steve Herchen of The Impossible Project, and a great lunch at Stone's Public House which is highly recommended. TIP, and Inoviscoat, are a partly combined entity and are interested in doing synergistic work that could lead to OEM arrangements, which we will consider as we move along.  We'd like to hear your opinion on us working more closely with TIP going forward.

In general, progress has been steady and a number of important milestones have been met. These include:

The Sleeve Machine is operating and produces usable assemblies. The system still needs to be calibrated, mounted on a rigid base, and the feed system needs to be built. One problem is the motor control which is too coarse so we will have to replace the servo with a stepper. Another problem are the tape guides which are too wide and need to be redesigned. None of these problems require discovery.

The Receiver Sheet design has progressed considerably but is not near completion.  A new reduced-step formula has been experimented with by Ted McLelland and Jake Kellett, and a number of test impressions have yielded fair Dmax and image formation, with some evidence of color control. We discovered that the neutralization scheme used by Polaroid to stabilize their receiver sheet is not very aggressive. We also saw using scanning electron microscopy the original receiver sheet which has lower porosity than imagined from the literature.  This is a puzzle.  An intensive discovery experiment plan will remain underway for this important component. The versatility of silver and its many forms astounds us!   I like the Ag2S the best, personally.

The Secondary Operation Tools - ten or so of them - are being designed and the next one is the cutoff tool followed by the corner notcher. We need to invent a method of heat bonding or using another adhesive step for the sleeve formation, and this is ahead of us for August, in all likelihood.

Test Samples of paper bases from an important vendor have arrived in small quantities. This is just the first step in what looks like a circuitous chain of events including laminating, rerolling, converting, coating, and further converting, in at least three location widely separated by geography.  Still, it all seems possible.

Our first film supplier agreement was finalized by Sam and there is now a production, shipping and payment schedule in place which will - if all goes right - result in about a third of our first production order arriving at our dock in August. The hot weather at that time makes us worry about heat damage so some heat sensors will travel along with the first shipment.  Sam will be visiting this vendor along with our importer/agent to assure that there is a proper understanding and commitment in place as we progress to production quantities.

The infamous clip tooling has finally been ordered. There was a lot of back and forth on this deceptively complex part regarding dimensions and tolerances, surface finish, base material, and edge radii. The clip is still about 7 weeks out due to a delay in the tooling order, but that is now in place and the vendor appears to be getting to it this week.

The air conditioning in the upstairs lab now works well, which means we can operate in the safer environment with a good fume hood and not melt.   I can't imagine what the electric bill will be like this Summer.

I am also still running after acquiring our own scanning electron microscope. There are dozens of these surplus for under 10K, so one would think we could get one in here and operating for 25K or less.  It is not clear we can, but I am still trying.

In general, much progress has been made but there are many things yet to be done, and some discovery in the form of coatings technology that still will require attention, possibly up to product release - and perhaps beyond.

08 Jul 16:41

How Will the iPhone 6's Sapphire Screen Hold Up to Abuse? Watch and See


I'd really like my next watch to have a sapphire crystal, because I am constantly scratching and having to buff out the glass on mine.


Tech reviewer Marques Brownlee somehow got a hold of what is purportedly the screen for Apple's forthcoming iPhone 6. Made of sapphire rather than Gorilla Glass, the screen has been rumored to be a big step up in durability.

The material-minded will recall that Apple's current iPhone features sapphire covers for both the camera and the home button/fingerprint sensor, and in those roles it is crucial the material not be scratchable, otherwise the functionality would be compromised. But how will it hold up with a much larger surface area, comprising the entire 4.7" screen of the 6? On his YouTube channel MKBHD, Brownlee puts it to the test by working it over with a knife and a set of keys, before finally attempting to bend and break it. Have a look:

10 Jul 21:07

How You Get To Thunderdome! The Apache Racer Is One Badass Custom Bicycle


For the need of all Hipster "Indians" who want feathers on their fixies and not just in their hair.


Concept bikes come in a few flavors—go down that proverbial rabbit hole, if you dare—but the rarest one may be the Apocalyptic Battle Rat Rod. This fierce fixed-gear is made by Antoine Hotermans of McFly Customs in Belgium. Known as the Apache Racer, it's stripped down way past the normal hyper-simple classic profile to the point of architectural absurdity, with plenty of odd flair added back in. Hotermans' work shows plenty of love for traditional lines, like the direct nod to Café Racer motorcycles, and much of his work includes vintage parts and found frames. Meanwhile, the total design somehow turns out aggressively modern.

ApacheRacer-double.jpgCitröen handle bar ends!

14 Jul 21:59

"Casa Futebol" Concept to Turn World Cup Stadiums into Public Housing


This would actually be pretty amazing.


No Brazilian can be happy with their national team suffering two crushing defeats in a row, and now the country is dotted with brand-new stadiums that can only serve as a painful reminder. But now that the World Cup is over, perhaps those stadiums, so expensive and controversial to build, can be put to more enduring use.

Architects Axel de Stampe and Sylvain Macaux have put forth a proposal called Casa Futebol, whereby the twelve stadiums would be reappropriated for housing. The concept calls for the design of prefabricated apartment modules of 105 square meters that could be inserted into the periphery of each stadium's shape, along with "colonizing the outside facade" to give them a different look.



17 Jul 17:12

Meet the Trusty, Tasteful Trusco Toolboxes


Oh dear.


They've only just arrived but the Trusco Toolboxes have stored our hearts away. We searched high and low for these rare and glamorous tool keepers and they're finally here, just in time for summer projects! Don't be dazzled by the luxurious hue, their practical Japanese design shines through the blue. At heart these are sweet storage options that feel like high quality tools themselves. They're made from steel, well formed for strength, and reinforced in the right places for a long life of being accidentally kicked while your hands are full.

The two larger toolboxes have double lids and plenty of reconfigurable up-top storage. The cantilevered two-level has style for days, with a distinctive shape, neat metal dividers, super smooth action and pronounced strength forming (Citröen H Van, anyone?). The biggest box of all sports plenty of room, a removable upper organizer, and a sleek shape inspired by a traditional hip roof profile. The baby of the family is a tough little number, a simple standalone organizer box, formed for strength and stackability with an incredibly satisfying friction-fit snap top. It fits inside either of its bigger compatriots to protect your drill bits, sandpaper scraps, bobbins, widgets, lock picking tools, or exceptionally pretty pebbles.

Keep them in your garage, your trunk, your bedroom, or your studio, but don't keep them out of sight. Whether your work is big or small, these cool blue toolboxes are here to keep you gathered. Check them out online now!


18 Jul 14:11

Six Ways to Get the Obstacle Course Experience


Mighty Kacy, and so on.


This week social media has been flooded with the following vid, featuring twentysomething athlete Kacy Catanzaro. On Monday night's episode of American Ninja Warrior, the gymnast from Jersey became the first woman in history to clear the obstacle course and qualify for the final round, performing seemingly impossible tasks: The 5’0”, 100-pound Catanzaro doesn't have the height and wingspan to easily reach from one obstacle to the next, so she compensated by swinging back and forth, then tossing herself through the air on sheer arm strength and momentum.

Training for a competition like ANW is an unusual affair. If you're training for a marathon you can hit a treadmill or the road, if you're prepping for a run on Jeopardy you can hit the books. But obstacle courses, particularly ones filled with the fiendishly unusual challenges first devised on Japan's ANW progenitor program Sasuke, aren't exactly on every corner. And even Parkour experts can find themselves stymied on the ANW obstacles, which shift, rotate, tilt and sway it ways that static objects like mailboxes and bannisters do not.

So how do you get the obstacle course experience to train for a show like this? Here are six ways:

18 Jul 21:00

Started From the Stratosphere Now We're Here: Bonsai in Space


Fuck Your Plants: Japanese Artist at Black Rock Edition.


Gratingly early on the morning of July 15, artist Azuma Makoto meticulously prepared a lush floral display that would soon hurtle to pieces from around 90,000 feet above earth with Baumgartner-esque aplomb. The huge unnamed bouquet and "Shiki 1," a gnarled White Pine bonsai, departed earth from Black Rock Desert—of Burning Man fame—outside of Gerlach, NV. Much like that other Black Rock spectacle of poetic excess, these plants were part of a creative urge to push the bounds of living systems into an inhospitable zone. This is the EXOBIOTANICA project, the Red Bull-esque dream of Makoto, a Japanese artist who specializes in floral installations and reasonably spooky interpretations of bonsai traditional floral arrangement.


Aided by JP Aerospace, a volunteer-run organization that builds and shoots things into orbit, and Makoto's 10-person team, Exobiotanica succeeded in lifting these delicate plants into the stratosphere. They used massive helium balloons and high-tech styrofoam-and-metal-frame carriers, with plastic parachutes that deployed once the balloons lost pressure and fell to a thicker atmosphere. The contraptions, named Away 100 and Away 101, were recorded from the ground and accompanied by "six Go Pro video cameras tied in a ball." Which was probably a little more involved than it sounds.


18 Jul 18:58

Curvy: July 19, 2014


Ah, romance. NSFW.