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02 Sep 03:16

EL-P - For My Upstairs Neighbor


Mums the word.

2012 - Cancer For Cure
26 Aug 16:49

Success is Not Success

by Brad

Such an odd man. This actually isn't all that bad, it just needs editing.

BrianI’m on retreat right now and can’t post. Here’s a fragment of a self help book I started to write but never finished. I was getting sick of being poor and thought, “If Deepak Chopra can make a million from writing shitty, useless self help books, maybe I can make a quarter million writing a good, useful one.” Alas, in the end I couldn’t do it. Here’s a bit of what happened when I tried.

*   *   *

If you want to write a popular self help book you need to appear to be a successful person according to the lowest common denominator definition of what constitutes success. This is why they always look like such a bunch of dweebs, at least by my definition of what constitutes looking like a dweeb.

They’ve all got $400 haircuts that somehow manage to still look idiotic. They’ve got expensive suits. They’ve got trophy wives with flowing blonde hair by their sides. When they speak they’re surrounded by symbols of opulence. There’s always a lot of dark brown wood behind them, and a few ferns. They’re sitting on a plush red chair. There are some ferns nearby. The ceiling is high. The audience the camera pans across is well groomed and nicely attired. There’s a bit of echo on their deep an resonant voices.

The message is subliminal as well as overt. You too can be successful just like me.

But how have they achieved this success? By and large they have achieved their success by selling others the idea that they’re successful. And, in fact, they might not actually even be as successful as they look, at least not at the outset.

Hollywood uses this very same technique all the time. Years ago I worked for Tsuburaya Productions, a Japanese film and television production company. When I first joined the company we had a US-based licensing and distribution agency located in Los Angeles. This agency wasn’t really making a whole lot of money for the home office. In fact we were constantly sending them big checks to cover their expenses. Of course there’s nothing at all sinister about this. You often run a business at a loss in the hopes that eventually it will turn a profit.

But I clearly recall a moment that really shocked me at the time, although now it makes perfect sense. Our US-based agency was going to represent us at a television trade show in Cannes, France. When it came time to book their hotels the president of that company insisted that we book him into a high priced suite at one of the most expensive hotels in the city. At the time, this sounded outrageous to me. Why did he need to stay at a hotel like that? He could still do his job just as efficiently even if he stayed at the local YMCA. After all, he wasn’t doing business from his hotel room. He was doing it at the trade show.

But he was right and I was wrong. It matters a lot in the TV business to project the image of success. It was important that every aspect of the president of our US-based agency’s visit to Cannes, France should appear to be done from a standpoint of security and wealth. That way the people who he was trying to sell our shows to would imagine that they too could enrich themselves by buying our programs.

Hollywood is full of people driving cars they can’t afford, eating dinners they can’t afford, living in houses they can’t afford and so on and on just to create an impression. And this often works. When the rock band KISS first started the fact that they wore make-up on stage helped hide the fact that they were also their own roadies. The Who used to build giant dummy speaker cabinets just to make their stage set up look more impressive.

Spiritual development coaches do precisely the same thing when they try to sell you their various secrets for success. They play on their audience’s greed. Greed is a powerful motivator. And people will pay good money in the hopes of finding ways to turn their greed into riches. But it usually only turns the audience’s greed into riches for the performer.

But is the “success” they’re selling really success at all? This is the crucial question, as I see it. Does “success” as it is measured by the society at large really create deep and lasting happiness?

The ancient Buddhist sutras are very clear in their condemnation of greed. Christianity, too, is full of cautionary tales about the desire to acquire wealth and power. I think all the great religious traditions have an aspect of this in their teachings to one degree or another.

But why? Didn’t the Eighties teach us that greed is good? What’s wrong with wanting a big house and a nice car? What’s wrong with wanting the finer things life has to offer? Isn’t that what makes us happy? The commercials on TV certainly seem to tell us so. And you know you can’t say something on TV if it’s not true. Can you?

This aspect of Buddhism always baffled me when I first started practicing. I wondered if the Buddhist masters were teaching austerity for the sake of austerity. What was so great about poverty?

When I first started practicing Zen meditation I was a struggling punk rock musician. I knew what poverty was. It was getting paid $40 for a gig you drove six hours to play. And that meant $40 for the whole band, not $40 per member. Poverty meant not having health insurance and not being able to go to the doctor when you were sick. It meant eating Top Ramen instant noodles for dinner five nights a week because they sold for twenty-five cents a package. It meant living in a dump of a house where the gas and water were constantly being shut off because nobody could afford to pay the bills. Poverty sucked ass.

New MonkeesThere was a point in the mid-eighties where I was not only willing to sell out, I was desperate to do so. I heard they were having auditions for a TV show called The New Monkees (you’ll have to scroll way down on this link but it’s worth it). It was a shitty idea, typical Hollywood nonsense. There was no way in Hell a show like that was ever going to catch on and I knew it. But I also knew that it could be used as a springboard to getting me the hell out of Ohio and into contact with people who might help me make some kind of career for myself.

So I campaigned hard for a role. I sent the producers a letter each day extolling my merits to be in their show. I made each letter brief, to the point and as creative as possible. Some were postcards. Some contained little weird trinkets or videotapes of skits. Each one was a unique expression of what I thought I could bring to their project.

As a result of this campaign I was granted a very rare private audition with the producers. I didn’t have to stand in line with all the others at the big cattle call in Manhattan. Instead, I went to an office the day before that and was ushered into the presence of the very movers and shakers themselves.

Unfortunately I froze up at the audition. Oh I was bad! I was shy and nervous and I sang off key. Well, I always sang off key. I also had a totally sixties inspired haircut and outfit. When I saw the people the producers actually picked I realized that they wanted the most stereotypically Eighties looking guys possible. My god, you never saw such mullets in your life! Blech!

But one odd things I noticed was that one of the guys they chose was very nearly a dead ringer for me, only more conventionally handsome and with possibly the most embarrassing mullet in the history of embarrassing mullets (he’s on the far right in the photo). But he was blond like me, skinny like me and, like me, he even came from Akron, Ohio. I wonder what ever became of that guy.

I was terribly disappointed when I was not picked as a New Monkee. Although these days I feel like I really dodged the bullet on that one. Their music was some of the worst Eighties pop rock pap imaginable. I’d have hated playing that garbage. I’ve heard that the TV show had a couple funny moments, but I couldn’t get through the horrendous production values enough to catch any of them.

The point I’m trying to make here is that I’m no stranger to greed. I wasn’t then, and I’m not now. I wanted success. I wanted riches. I thought that would make me happy.

Now I realize how lucky I really was. I guess the four guys that got chosen for that show did OK in life. But if I’d gone that direction I would have missed out on things that ended up being so much better. I don’t think I’d ever have gone to Japan or done the deeper Zen training I did there. I’d never have worked for the coolest monster movie making company in the world. I probably wouldn’t be writing books now. And I love writing books more than just about anything else.

If I had been successful according to the definition I held back then I wouldn’t have been successful at all.

The reason the Buddhist sutras tell us to shun greed isn’t because the writers were poor people who wanted the rest of us to be just as miserable as them. Quite the contrary. Buddha himself started off life as a very wealthy and powerful individual. He gave up a life of creature comforts and cash to go on a spiritual journey because he knew for a concrete fact that money and power do not lead to happiness.

The problem with defining success and then making your efforts to achieve that thing you’ve defined is that you never really know if what you’ve defined as success really is success. To me the word success implies that life here and now is not good enough. Sometimes hear of people who define themselves as successful. But what that most often means is that they’ve finally stopped striving for something other than what they have right now.

More often than that, though, you hear of people who have achieved what most of us think of as the pinnacle of success, but who aren’t happy at all. Kurt Cobain committed suicide when he was one of the wealthiest and most beloved rock stars on the planet. Howard Hughes went insane in his mansion. Elvis, the King, died on his throne, his body full of drugs he took to try and deal with his success. Other successful people have crashed in far less spectacular ways, but have crashed nonetheless. It’s such a common story we’re rarely surprised when it happens.

The real fact is that real success is not measurable according to some kind of outside definition of wealth or fame or comfort. Real success is learning how to harmonize with the life you have right here and now.

This doesn’t mean being complacent or accepting a bad situation. Once you are in harmony with what actually is, you can see the most efficient way to improve your situation. You can begin to act in this concrete moment to make your life better right now.

I’ve got a new book coming out soon! Stay up to date on its release schedule, my live appearances and more by signing up for our mailing list on the contact page!


August 24-29, 2015 Felsentor, Switzerland 5-DAY RETREAT AT STIFTUNG FELSENTOR 

August 30-September 4, 2015 Holzkirchen, Germany 5-DAY RETREAT AT BENEDIKTUSHOF MONASTERY

September 4, 2015 Hamburg, Germany SCREENING OF HARDCORE ZEN MOVIE WITH TALK

September 6, 2015 Hamburg, Germany ZEN DAY

September 8t, 2015 Helsinki, Finland  LECTURE Mannerheimintie 5, 5th floor Mannerheim hall 5:30pm

September 9, 2015 Malmi, Finland

September 10-13, 2015 Finland 4-DAY RETREAT

September 16-19, 20015 Hebden Bridge, England 4-DAY RETREAT

September 20, 2015 London, England THE ART OF SITTING DOWN & SHUTTING UP (sold out, but there is a waiting list in case people cancel.)

September 21-25, 2015 Belfast, Northern Ireland SPECIFIC DATES TO BE DETERMINED

September 26-27, 2015 Glastonbury, England 2-DAY RETREAT

October 26-27 Cincinnati, Ohio Concert:Nova

November 6-8, 2015 Mt. Baldy, CA 3-DAY RETREAT

April 23, 2016 Long Island, New York Molloy College “Spring Awakening 2016”



All of these events will still happen each week while I’m away.

Every Monday at 8pm there’s zazen at Silverlake Yoga Studio 2 located at 2810 Glendale Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90039. Beginners only!

Every Saturday at 9:30 there’s zazen at the Veteran’s Memorial Complex located at 4117 Overland Blvd., Culver City, CA 90230. Beginners only!

Plenty more info is available on the Dogen Sangha Los Angeles website,

* * *

Help me not have to write self help books! Your donations are important. I appreciate your on-going support!

01 Sep 02:07

Or Unicycles, For That Matter


I find septum piercings absurdly attractive. I don't know why.

Ads by Project Wonderful! Your ad could be here, right now.

Personal bias: I think everyone should get septum piercings

31 Aug 21:02

The Chains We Forge In Life: Part Two

by Christopher Wright
Little Dresden Freedom House, January 7, 1984

“First thing you have to understand: I'm not anyone's leader.”

Roland is lean almost to the point of emaciation. He has no body fat at all—just lean, pale skin and ropy, knotted muscles. He wears a dirty white tank top shirt, black jeans, and heavy work boots. His hair is cut short and dyed green. His face is angular with high, sharp cheekbones; blue eyes peer out from underneath thick dark eyebrows.

CB has seen him somewhere before. He can't place it.

“I'm serious,” Roland says. “I'm not a leader, I'm a guide. I figured out how to deal with myself a long time ago, and I managed to do it without killing anyone—which is incredibly lucky, considering what I can do. All I care about is getting you to the point where you can get a handle on what you do to the point where you don't hurt anyone, including yourself.”

“That's it?” CB doesn't bother to hide his skepticism.

“That, world peace, and the occasional cold beer,” Roland says. “Look, I won't pretend there isn't more to me than that. I have opinions and I share them. But you don't have to agree with them for me to help you. You could be a fucking Democrat or Republican for all I care, I'd still help you. That said, I have a little speech I give everyone before I start, and if you want my help you have to listen to it first.”

31 Aug 20:59

The Chains We Forge In Life: Part One

by Christopher Wright

Do not look inside the bag.


“I wear the chain I forged in life,” replied the Ghost. “I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded it on of my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it.” -Jacob Marley, A Christmas Carol

The Thorpe Industries supersonic cargo plane looks more like a space ship than an airplane. At least, it does to CB—it's an argument he'd briefly had with Robert, back in the old days, starting when he made the offhanded observation about a prototype design. Robert had taken it upon himself to disagree.

“It's all smooth and bubble-like,” CB says. “I've never seen an airplane look like that before. It's… spacey.”

Robert shakes his head. “It's aerodynamic, which would be completely irrelevant for a spaceship. Spaceships fly in space. They don't need to deal with the friction involved in tearing through a gas at 600 miles per hour.”

“Spaceship,” CB insists. Robert wisely lets the matter drop.

Now CB and his group are riding in the passenger cabin of the thing itself—the schematic he'd seen in Robert's lab—and he still thinks the same thing.

Spaceship. It even hovers.

Six men and two women sit around a table in the passenger cabin. One more man is laid out on a couch in the small recreational area at the far end of the cabin, unconscious, an IV sticking out of his arm. An eighth man—or what's left of him—has been stuffed in a black-and-yellow biohazard sack and is propped up against the cabin kitchenette. He's not dead, but his current state is non-conscious and, in a direct quote from his only conscious teammate, “visually disturbing.”

28 Aug 06:37

Run The Jewels Give Advice To Teenage Girls


I kind of love this.

Run the Jewels' Killer mike and El-P offer advice to teenage girls in a new video for Rookie Mag. Rookie Mag has an interesting series called "Ask A Grown Ma...
28 Aug 06:16

Killer Mike - Untitled (Official Music Video)

SUBSCRIBE to MORE Music Videos: Killer Mike and Scar star in a series of art historical tableaus. Dir...
27 Aug 21:53

UW Bothell associate profs, student find rare geometry pattern


More on that new pentagon tiling.

  • University of Washington Bothell campus associate professors of mathematics Jennifer McCloud-Mann and Casey Mann discovered a new geometrical pattern ...

    Genna Martin / The Herald

    University of Washington Bothell campus associate professors of mathematics Jennifer McCloud-Mann and Casey Mann discovered a new geometrical pattern of irregular pentagons that could have applications in crystallography, self-assembly machines ... or bathroom tiles.

  • Example of the pentagon tile pattern.

    Courtesy photo

    Example of the pentagon tile pattern.

  • Example of the pentagon tile pattern.

    Courtesy photo

    Example of the pentagon tile pattern.

  • Example of the pentagon tile pattern.

    Courtesy photo

    Example of the pentagon tile pattern.

SHARE: facebook Twitter icon Pinterest icon Linkedin icon Google+ icon Email icon |  PRINTER-FRIENDLY  |  COMMENTS


  • University of Washington Bothell campus associate professors of mathematics Jennifer McCloud-Mann and Casey Mann discovered a new geometrical pattern ...

    Genna Martin / The Herald

    University of Washington Bothell campus associate professors of mathematics Jennifer McCloud-Mann and Casey Mann discovered a new geometrical pattern of irregular pentagons that could have applications in crystallography, self-assembly machines ... or bathroom tiles.

  • Example of the pentagon tile pattern.

    Courtesy photo

    Example of the pentagon tile pattern.

  • Example of the pentagon tile pattern.

    Courtesy photo

    Example of the pentagon tile pattern.

  • Example of the pentagon tile pattern.

    Courtesy photo

    Example of the pentagon tile pattern.

BOTHELL — One person's idle doodling is another's mathematical breakthrough.Two mathematics professors and one of their former students at the University of Washington at Bothell have made a discovery in mathematics that could have applications in crystallography or self-assembling nanomachines.Or it could provide an interesting tiling project for the bathroom floor.Their discovery is in an esoteric branch of geometry called tessellation, or tiling of identical shapes that can cover a two-dimensional plane with no gaps and no overlaps, out to infinity.Casey Mann and Jennifer McCloud-Mann are both associate professors of mathematics at UW Bothell. They're also married to each other.The Manns and a former undergraduate student, David Von Derau, have discovered a pattern of tiling convex irregular pentagons.It's only the 15th tiling pattern for pentagons ever discovered, and they only did it with the help of a computer program that Von Derau wrote.Pentagons present a unique problem in geometry.Tiling can be easy to grasp at first, but it gets complicated quickly.There are only three regular polygons — shapes whose interior angles are the same and the sides are the same lengths — that tile in a plane: triangles, quadrangles and hexagons.They are convex shapes, meaning all the interior angles are less than 180 degrees.It's easy to tile triangles and quadrangles because we've all seen graph paper, or been stuck on a boring phone call with a pen and notepad handy.It's a little trickier to envision tiling with hexagons, but imagine a honeycomb, snowflakes or (if you're a certain nerdy sort of person) a battle map from a role-playing game.But that's it for the regular polygons. Now it gets complicated.Even with irregular shapes included, it can be mathematically proven, for example, that there are exactly three kinds of convex hexagons that can tile a plane, Casey Mann said. One is regular, two irregular, meaning their angles and sides are of different sizes.“It can also be proven that if you have seven sides or more you can't tile a plane with them. They can't fit around corners,” he said.It's possible to tile an irregular pentagon, however. It's just not easy to figure out the correct pattern.It also cannot be proven how many different tilings of pentagons exist, Mann said. There might be just 15. There might be an infinite number.“The truth is we just don't know. Pentagons really are the odd one,” he said.The first five pentagonal tilings were discovered in 1918 by a German mathematician, Karl Reinhardt. Then Richard Kershner, of Johns Hopkins University, published a paper in 1968 that identified three more and said that was all of them.After an article appeared in Scientific American magazine in 1975, several people took it as a challenge. One reader named Richard E. James III found a ninth pattern, and Marjorie Rice, an amateur with only a high school diploma, found four more a couple of years later.The 14th pattern was found in 1982 by Rolf Stein of the University of Dortmund, Germany, and that was it for the next 33 years.The latest discovery came about with advances in software modeling.The Manns proved a mathematical theorem that showed there were a finite number of symmetrical forms in a tiling pattern.That emphasis on symmetry was the key, Mann said. If a pattern composed of multiple irregular pentagons could be shown to be symmetrical, then it could tile the plane.“That told us we could write a computer program to search for them,” he said.Von Derau, who now works as a programmer and researcher for Viavi Solutions in Bothell, said he was finishing his degree in math and needed an elective credit.His choices were geometry or independent research supervised by Mann.“Because I didn't want to take geometry, I asked him if he had a research project he needed help with,” Von Derau said. “It's kind of ironic.”The program, running on a University of Washington computer cluster, found the tiling pattern in a few hours' time, Mann said. The symmetrical pattern is composed of 12 identical irregular pentagons.Finding more patterns — if they exist at all — will require searching for much more complex symmetries, and that's going to take much more computing power and time.“We're basically reducing the problem to the only way you're going to find a new one is if it's really exotic,” Mann said.“There might end up being an infinite number of types, there might be 22 types,” he said.The Manns soon hope to submit a paper on their discovery to ArXiv, an online scientific database.Chris Winters: 425-374-4165; Twitter: @Chris_At_Herald.

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25 Aug 18:18

unfortunately for your side, GRR Martin was caught handing out the real trophies to the people the SJWs unilaterally crowned winners after the ceremony where they gave out no award. Oops! your arrogance will always be your undoing


The puppies are indeed so fucking sad. via TPO

I tell you, it has been seriously amusing to watch the narrative take shape around this.

Background: George R. R. Martin has been attending WorldCon since 1971, I believe when he was up for a Campbell (new writer award). He did not win, but as no more than six people are considered finalists for this honor each year and each writer has at most two years of eligibility, he recognizes this as such a signal honor that he lists it on his website alongside his awards and other honors.

(Contrast this with Larry Correia, who seems to feel like his own Campbell nomination constituted a contract that was broken when he didn’t win it.)

A few years after that, Martin, being a frequent flyer on the Hugo ballot, instituted what he called the Losers’ Party, for all the nominees who don’t win. There are alcohol, and ribbons. It sounds like a lot of fun, and of course, it’s all in good spirit… it is an honor to be nominated, and the Losers’ Party just reinforces what rarefied air one breathes in making it to the ballot.

This year, Mr. Martin decided to hand out his own award, which he calls the Alfies, after Alfred Bester (the author, not the Babylon 5 character named after the author). 

He apparently made them out of hood ornaments, which award trophies are often mockingly compared to. That right there should tell you how serious this business was.

Now, Mr. Martin is not the president of science fiction and fantasy. He does not occupy a position of leadership or authority with WorldCon. He is not affiliated with the Hugos except insofar as they are occasionally affiliated with him. This party that he instituted is a Hugo tradition, but it’s not a Hugo institution. In short, the party is no more an official ceremony than a guy who looks like Drunk Scary Santa Claus is an official presenter, which he is no more than the hood ornaments he’s passing out are official trophies.

George R. R. Martin, in his private capacity as an individual human being, thought he would have some fun and recognize some individuals he thought could use some recognition/a laugh.

And a few Puppies “caught him” doing it, and immediately started casting around for “evidence” and wringing their hands with glee over the thought that they’d found proof that the Hugo award ceremony was a scam, that the fix was in, that the real awards were being handed out by Drunk Scary Santa Claus to the people ordained by the hive mind…

It’s funny, but you know, this is the difference between the Sad Puppies and everybody else. 

All along, people have been telling the Sad Puppies that if they don’t like the tastes of the broader fandom that selects the Hugo Awards or they don’t like how the awards are administered, they’re welcome to go make and give out their own awards.

The Puppies, meanwhile, not only demand complete control over these awards right here, they’re outraged at the idea that someone they disagree with can just up and decide to give out an award they don’t have any influence over.

If you want proof positive that the Puppies won’t be happy until everything is under their control, if you want the ultimate refutation of their cherished PR myth that they are anti-authoritarian, look no further than this: the epic tantrum they threw over a private individual taking it upon himself to hand out trophies he made as he saw fit.

21 Aug 14:00

A (VERY close) detail from page 384 of Family Man, now...


Good page.

A (VERY close) detail from page 384 of Family Man, now online!

{high-resolution and notes on Patreon}

19 Aug 15:44

Do Chewing Sounds Make You Crazy?

by Megan Cartwright

I am definitely a misophoniac, and it has definitely caused me problems. Not super severe, but yeah. via A.Kachmar.

When I first read a description of misophonia, my reaction was: Other people have this?! This intense, angry reaction to everyday sounds like chewing, lip-smacking, sniffing, and pen-clicking—sounds that other people can ignore?

My second reaction was: Damn. I just diagnosed myself off the Internet.

And my third reaction was: Wait. I’m a science writer and a scientist. So I’ll do the (moderately) rational thing: corner some scientists who study misophonia and ask them some questions. Like, what do we know about misophonia? Can we treat it? And should we actually be calling it a disorder, on par with major depression and bipolar disorders?

I started at PubMed, the massive database of peer-reviewed scientific articles maintained by the National Library of Medicine. But compared to the hundred thousand hits I got for searching on major depression disorder, a search for misophonia pulled up only 26 articles. Most were published in the past few years.

One of the few labs that have published on the subject is run by author, TED talker, and neuroscientist Vilayanur Ramachandran. When people from an Internet support group for misophonia first contacted the lab, “we were kind of skeptical,” says doctoral student Miren Edelstein of the University of California, San Diego. “Nobody had heard of this disorder” back in 2011, and people often asked to have their unusual ailments studied by Ramachandran.

But when Edelstein and her colleagues interviewed 11 volunteers from the support group, they were struck by the common patterns. Each volunteer reacted intensely to what Edelstein describes as “chewing, mouthy sounds” made by adults. When she exposed people with and without misophonia to trigger sounds like loud chewing, sniffing, and lip-smacking (urgh), both sets of people reacted negatively. The people with misophonia just reacted more—indicating, perhaps, that misophonia might just be at the extreme end of a normal distribution. Perhaps the people with misophonia had unusually strong neural connections between sound-processing parts of their brains and their limbic systems, which help regulate emotion.

The volunteers knew their aggressive reactions were inappropriate and outsized. They told Edelstein how they’d developed coping mechanisms, such as leaving the room, avoiding certain situations, using headphones, and even mimicking their trigger sounds to mask the noise. Some of these coping mechanisms negatively affected their work and home lives.

The strong distaste for “chewing, mouthy sounds” and coping mechanisms sounded eerily familiar to me, although my coping strategies weren’t seriously affecting me. But this study only looked at 11 self-selected volunteers. What about misophonia among the rest of us?

One team has examined how common misophonia is in a general population. In 2014, clinical psychology doctoral student Monica Wu, psychologist Eric Storch, and their colleagues at the University of South Florida surveyed 483 undergraduate students about misophonia symptoms.* That’s not to say that these 483 students perfectly represented the world: Almost 60 percent were white, more than 80 percent were women, and 100 percent were participating in the study to get extra credit for their psych classes.

Wu and her colleagues found that a full 20 percent of the students reported what the researchers considered clinically significant misophonia symptoms. The Florida students with significant symptoms had “this extreme reaction to really selective sound stimuli,” says Wu—stimuli like the mouthy noises described in Edelstein’s study. They also used similar coping mechanisms. Sadly, half of those with clinical symptoms—about 10 percent of all the students—reported that they had significant trouble functioning at school and work. That high of a number surprised me at first, but then again, I can totally understand why people don’t talk about what feels like a crazy, aggressive overreaction to lip-smacking (urgh).

Intriguingly, Wu also found that misophonia symptoms tracked with symptoms of the psychiatric conditions anxiety, depression, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. I could understand people feeling anxious and depressed because of misophonia. But I was surprised by the connection to OCD, an anxiety disorder involving intrusive thoughts and the overwhelming need to soothe them with coping behaviors. However, Wu’s study wasn’t the first to suggest a connection between mental illness and misophonia.

In 2013, psychiatrist Arjan Schröder and his colleagues at the University of Amsterdam proposed that misophonia should be classified as a new psychiatric disorder. They suggested categorizing it on the spectrum with OCD. They had examined 42 patients who self-referred with misophonia, and found a consistent syndrome: Specific sounds triggered an aggressive response and socially isolating coping mechanisms. Schröder told me that almost half of these patients also met the criteria for obsessive-compulsive personality disorder.

So if misophonia is a psychiatric disorder, I wondered, could it be treated with medication or therapy?

Not necessarily. Wu has reservations about prescribing medication before we know more. But when it comes to therapy, she has some qualified hope. Her team reported successfully treating two young patients using cognitive behavioral therapy—a well-established form of psychotherapy that helps patients recognize distressing thoughts and develop healthier behaviors in response to those thoughts.

However, not all misophonia researchers agree that misophonia should be regarded as a psychiatric condition.

It’s an “extreme, inaccurate, and improper approach” to treat misophonia as a psychiatric disorder like OCD, says Emory University otolaryngology professor Pawel Jastreboff. He and his collaborator and spouse, Margaret Jastreboff, coined the term misophonia in 2001. They argue that misophonia is a form of decreased sound tolerance. He says they have seen hundreds of misophonia patients and that very, very few had any sort of psychiatric condition. Indeed, Jastreboff believes that the Dutch psychiatrists incorrectly linked misophonia to OCD because, he says, they were studying “psychiatric patients to start with, and some of them have misophonia.”

The Jastreboffs propose that misophonia is actually a learned response. They suggest that people with misophonia have learned to associate a negative reaction to something they originally considered just annoying—such as the culturally inappropriate sounds of bad table manners. Based on this idea, the Jastreboffs have been treating patients with a form of desensitization therapy. In this therapy, the person with misophonia is gradually retrained to associate positive experiences with formerly negative triggers—for example, by smelling and eating delicious cookies while in the presence of a noisy eater.

“Misophonia definitely can be treated successfully,” says Pawel Jastreboff, “but it is important to know how to do it.” In 2014, the Jastreboffs reported that 152 out of 184 misophonia patients—83 percent—had significant improvement after going through the desensitization therapy.

I still had reservations after I read their paper. Their study was observational, instead of the gold standard: the randomized control trial. All of the Jastreboffs’ patients were treated with the same therapy, so we can’t compare their improvement with what might happen naturally over time in untreated people or what would happen in people treated with other therapies. Plus, the study seemed ripe for a placebo effect because the scientists were asking people to self-report how they’re doing when they knew they’d just gone through months of desensitization therapy.

Not to say that Pawel Jastreboff is unaware of these limitations. “It would be a good idea” to evaluate therapies through controlled trials, he says, adding that “somebody hopefully will do that in the future.” For now, the Jastreboffs are both stymied by the “ten million dollars” he says it would take.

To be honest, this debate about the treatments and nature of misophonia didn’t surprise me. It’s a pretty new disorder, and not much research has been done on it. When there’s still so much uncertainty in the tiny community of misophonia researchers, is it actually helpful to refer to misophonia as its own separate disorder?

The scientists studying misophonia believe so, because of the terrible effects they see in their patients. The University of Amsterdam’s Schröder says that his patients “experience severe symptoms and frequently cannot function anymore.” They can’t eat dinner with their families, work effectively in big offices, or live happily with their spouses. Wu also sees significant impairment among kids with misophonia. In a previous case she worked on, the young patient couldn’t go to school and couldn’t even talk with the child’s mother, who made trigger sounds. And Edelstein reported that at least one of the 11 volunteers she interviewed had contemplated suicide.

In his 2013 study, Schröder and his colleagues wrote that they were proposing diagnostic criteria and psychiatric classification to “improve recognition by health carers and encourage scientific research” into misophonia. Getting misophonia recognized in the next edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, as some researchers are advocating, would certainly help in other ways, including the practical. “It helps with insurance,” says Wu. Furthermore, naming and identifying a disabling behavior as misophonia, she says, “does help in terms of giving it a face” and legitimacy to skeptical family and friends.

So what’s an Internet-self-diagnosed misophonic with a healthy dose of skepticism supposed to do?

Personally, as someone who doesn’t have much impairment beyond the occasional spike of extreme irritation, I plan to wait out the years of scientific discussion and debate. But after hearing about patients who are isolated, depressed, and even contemplating suicide, I definitely want to say this: There is help out there for people who are suffering and need someone to talk with.

And I hope that knowing about misophonia helps others who didn’t know there are other people who really can’t stand chewing, sniffing, and lip-smacking (urgh). 

*Correction, Aug. 19, 2015: This article originally misidentified Eric Storch as a pediatrician. He is a psychologist who works in a pediatrics department.

16 Aug 21:44

Sunn O))) Monoliths and Opinions: Part XVI - Live Archives

by (Craig Hayes)

This is a little over wordy, but still.

Written by Craig Hayes.

Sunn O))) @ Lx Factory, Lisbon, Portugal 2010 by Pedro Roque.

I’ve made it my mission in life to write about all of Sunn O)))'s releases that are available on Bandcamp with this Monoliths and Opinions series. Obviously, documenting the band's exploits in such a way suggests that I am a big fan of Sunn O))). Or that I am a very lonely masochist, with far too much time on my hands. Either way, I should point out that writing this series isn’t a back-breaking task that’s been imposed upon me.

I want to make that clear because there are people out there who would view this Monoliths and Opinions project as some kind of cruel and unusual punishment. They’re the kind of people who think that Sunn O)))'s music is torturous and tedious. Some of those people like to complain very loudly about that online as well. And, not so long ago, I watched a few of those folks launch into some stinging criticism of Sunn O)))'s set at this year's Temples Festival in the UK.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

I think that Sunn O))) confounded and crossed the line for some at the Temples Festival is a wonderful indictment of the band’s continued importance. I see Sunn O))) continuing to ruffle feathers in this day and age as a hugely positive sign. Lord knows we need more music that challenges us, tests our temperaments, and isn’t baited with blatant commercial hooks.

Still, it's also important to note that a defence of Sunn O)))'s music isn't necessarily needed or even wanted by the band's critics. We all have bands we simply love to hate no matter what anyone else thinks. We all piss and moan about those bands. And no amount of explaining or clarifying the appeal of those bands is going to convince us to change our opinion one iota.

Really, in the case of providing any explanation for a series like this Monoliths and Opinions project, all I can say is that I'm not indulging in any duplicitous or disingenuous antics here. I'm not trying to sell Sunn O))) to you. Nor is any neurotic or unhealthy fixation keeping me preoccupied with Sunn O)))'s oeuvre. I've simply been fascinated by the unconventionality of Sunn O)))'s music since I first heard the band 15 years ago.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

I discovered Sunn O))) via the band's ØØ Void album, which was released in 2000. ØØ Void resonated with me because it spoke directly to that part of me that had been utterly entranced by Earth's Earth 2: Special Low Frequency Version album way back in 1993. Of course, Sunn O))) have mentioned the debt they owe to Dylan Carlson's famed band many times over the years. And it wouldn't be an exaggeration to say that Earth invented the entire drone or ambient metal genre.

At the heart of it, ØØ Void appealed to me because it was very different to anything being released at the time. (Both in metal and experimental music circles.) It felt like a fresh challenge. One where Sunn O))) stripped their music back to the purest and rawest essence of the riff. That was bold, bruising, and inherently idiosyncratic and defiant. Sunn O))) dared you to make it through ØØ Void. I loved that about Sunn O))). Still do. And I imagine that's the same reason that many of the band’s fans continue to tune in.

That said, I completely understand why some people remain utterly perplexed by Sunn O)))'s appeal. Fact is, Sunn O)))'s music is not easy on the ear or accessible. Sunn O))) deal in drone, and drone is an acquired taste and niche musical medium at the best of times. Drone is something you feel (or not) at an instinctual level. And if you happen to feel that drone is monotonous, featureless and dull, then you'll clearly be left wondering how anyone could enjoy any of Sunn O)))'s protracted tracks.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

There are no halfway measures with Sunn O))). It's all in or nothing at all. And Sunn O))) unquestionably use provocative musical techniques that could easily lead to a hostile response. We all know how irritating it is to encounter music that immediately rubs us the wrong way. And the soundscapes that Sunn O))) explore are formidable.

Sunn O))) frequently ignore musical mainstays like rhythm or melody. They deal in teeth-rattling distortion, feedback, and subterranean vibrations and reverberations. The band's songs are performed at an incredibly slow pace. And there is absolutely nothing about Sunn O))) that is going to appeal to fans of turbo-speed rock 'n' roll.

Hell, there’s not even an easy entry point into the band's catalogue. Sunn O)))’s most popular album, 2009’s Monoliths & Dimensions (the album's title summing up the band's aesthetic perfectly) did find favour with a wider audience on release. But, even then, Monoliths & Dimensions was still an imposing album with made zero compromises made for the listeners comfort therein.

Sunn O))) @ Lx Factory, Lisbon, Portugal 2010 by Pedro Roque.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Still, no matter the critical adoration or their expanding fanbase, Sunn O)))’s music remains easy to mock or dismiss because that's the way many eccentric forms of artistic expression are routinely treated. A lot of challenging art (and music) is immediately scoffed at. And that frequently reveals more about the underlying values of the scoffer than it does the essence of the art.

Often, gripes arise to mask confusion about the meaning behind avant-garde works of art. None of us like to feel that we're missing the point and, sometimes, it's simply that misunderstandings occur because we're not aware of the particular lineage or history behind off-kilter works of art or music.

Weird music is tough to unpack. To conceptualise. And to appreciate.

However, alternatively, having an aversion to Sunn O))) might not be the result of any of the above issues. Some folks just hate the band because they find them mind-numbingly boring. And there’s nothing complicated about that at all.

I get that too. It's that age-old aversion to music you just find fucking tiresome. And that's exactly how I feel about deathcore. Or screamo. Or goregrind. Or pirate metal. Or most symphonic or folk metal. Or [insert some truly awful band like Dream Theater or Soulfly right here].

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

For me, the allure of Sunn O)))’s music is that it sounds and feels like a form of orchestrated chaos kicking down those famed doors of perception. The band's sub-harmonic and frequently nerve-tweaking pursuits offer a very powerful experience if you're willing to give yourself over to the band’s music. Immerse yourself in Sunn O)))’s universe and the band’s sojourns become transcendent journeys. There's a jaunt beyond the stars here. A trip to higher plane or another dimension there. Or just a steep dive into the very darkest pits of Hades.

It's really no different to getting lost in or swept away by any other musical form that affects you deeply. Albeit, with Sunn O)))'s mode of transportation being of the more leaden-footed and monolithic variety. Of course, making an effort to understand why fans enjoy Sunn O)))'s music is not on the radar for many of the folks who like to complain about the band. They're often just really pissed because Sunn O))) represents an arm of experimental metal that’s skirted close to wider acceptance.

Certainly, although Sunn O))) are never going to a hugely popular band in commercial terms, many of the group's fans do reside outside of metal's borders. We all know that some folks feel very aggrieved when an outré metal band gets paid any attention by the mainstream media. And we’ve all seen groups like Deafheaven or Liturgy get vilified in quarters of the metal media for turning up on pages of the mainstream press.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

The point to keep in mind is that Sunn O)))'s founders, Stephen O'Malley and Greg Anderson, are not casual metal tourists or newcomers to making in-your-face music. See Khanate, Burning Witch and Goatsnake for proof of that. Nor have O'Malley and Anderson committed some crime against the underground by finding themselves under the spotlight. If anything, O'Malley and Anderson are forging ahead with a distinctly underground attitude by continuing to make challenging music. That’s a laudable feat, I would have thought. Even if you didn't happen to like the noise being made.

Sunn O))) does speak a very unorthodox musical language. Stretching riffs out to infinity while destroying many routine musical motifs sees the physicality of sound often used as a key instrumental component. As a result, a pressure-wave is frequently at the forefront of the band’s sound. Yet, O'Malley and Anderson have always been open to explaining exactly what is it they're doing and, more importantly, why they're doing it without any pretentiousness. In fact, some of O'Malley and Anderson's interviews have been incredibly open and frank and they've subsequently made for truly fascinating insights into the world of explorative music.

Of course, in the end, there’s just no pleasing some folks. Discussions of why and how Sunn O))) make all that noise are of little value to someone who's not going to read them anyway. Obviously, not everyone appreciates everything. And we wouldn't want a world overflowing with sycophants anyway. Some people just instinctively hate the fact that Sunn O))) is deemed interesting or worthy of coverage. And I imagine a negative reaction pleases O'Malley and Anderson just as much as a positive one.

Sunn O))) @ Lx Factory, Lisbon, Portugal 2010 by Pedro Roque.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Ultimately, to my eyes and ears, the whole point of Sunn O)))'s music is to provoke a visceral reaction. And Sunn O)))’s latest Bandcamp venture, a live archive page filled with dozens of concert recordings, is guaranteed to do that.

In fact, for people who find Sunn O))) perplexing, boring or downright annoying, the 77 shows available on the band's live archive page are sure to be a horror show beyond measure. I've been a fan of Sunn O))) forever. And I’m certain I want the band's The Iron Soul Of Nothing collaboration with Nurse With Wound to soundtrack my funeral. But, even then, fandom assured, Sunn O)))’s live archive page still fills me with dread.

It would be a huge challenge to try and pick apart every individual recording on Sunn O)))'s live archive page. So I won’t be reviewing them one by one here. Honestly, writing about the particulars of each one of those live recordings is too much for this old man. But I will say this: The shows on Sunn O)))'s live archive page date back to 2002. They are unmixed and unmastered––i.e presented in their rawest state. And if you're a fan or critic of the band, you'll know exactly what to expect.

There's hooded figures shrouded in fog wielding huge riffs and making a gloriously ear-splitting racket on every one of those live recordings. There are plenty of guests and collaborators adding their own thunderous elements too. And you could certainly look at the sum total of those live recordings as a rather awe-inspiring riposte to Sunn O)))’s critics.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Every one of those live recordings features all the fundamental Sunn O))) elements that folks gripe about writ large and goddamn loud. Which, I have to admit, I kind of love about the band. I love that Sunn O))) have never made any excuses for cutting their own weird and cacophonous path into the hinterlands of experimental music. Pick up any of the recordings linked in this essay, or any other from the band's live archives page and you'll certainly be greeted by different points of exploration. However, what you are facing, in overwhelming abundance on that live archive page, is exactly the same vast wall-of-noise that provokes such intense reactions every single time Sunn O))) takes the stage.

For me, that means Sunn O)))'s live archives page contains untold manna from the Gods of sonic subversiveness. For others, that page might well be Hell on earth. Both are entirely understandable reactions. And both are reactions that I think O’Malley and Anderson would wholeheartedly approve of.

The Sunn O))) Monoliths and Opinions series.

14 Aug 14:00

Detail from page 383 of Family Man, now online!{high resolution...


For everyone.

17 Aug 11:19

Is Zen Enough?

by Brad

One of Brad's better posts, I think.

The interesting thing here points to why I have a tough time with sitting meditation as opposed to other things like taiji (and why meditation can often make things much worse before they get better) is that it can produce a sort of close, unmediated contact with your own mental garbage that can be incredibly overwhelming. In the long run it can help you find the processes producing that garbage, and help you get rid of it, and them... but you can also sometimes just get buried in a mountain of your own crap.

6_8_supermanI just finished my first European gig of 2015, a three-day non-residential zazen retreat in Munich. The question that kept coming up in different forms during the Q&A sessions and dokusans (private meetings) was “Is Zen enough?”

At first the question confused me. Enough for what?

It seems that a lot of people expect some kind of transformation to occur as a result of whatever sort of self-improvement thing they’re involved in. If you’re neurotic, you go to an analyst, pay him money and expect some kind of cure or at least some advice and help dealing with your neurosis. If you feel like you’ve sinned, you go to a priest and he says some magic words to convince God to forgive you and you’re absolved.

But Zen practice doesn’t offer anything like that. Even so, people tend to expect something like that to happen. They’re disappointed when it doesn’t.

There are studies that claim meditation is no better at fixing your problems than ordinary relaxation or drugs. Those studies are looking at the wrong things.

I’ve participated in some of these studies myself. What they’ve done is hooked up a bunch of wires and blood pressure cuffs and things to me or put me in an MRI machine and said, “All right. Now meditate!”

I suppose they expect some kind of supernatural effect to happen. Like my blood pressure will suddenly drop or my brainwaves will move into the alpha zone or whatever. When that doesn’t happen, or when it happens but it’s only as much of a change as someone else gets when they take anti-depressants or a nap, they conclude that meditation has the same effect as those things.

But that isn’t how meditation works. Not the way I do it, at least.

In Zen meditation, we sit down and be with ourselves. We make no attempt to change anything. We just try to sit very still and very quietly with whatever is there. We’re not even trying to observe it. We’re just trying to remain with it.

When you do that, your blood pressure doesn’t necessarily drop and your brainwaves don’t necessarily switch to a different state. But you may become aware that your blood pressure is too high – probably not directly, but you’ll feel something is off. Or you notice that your mental state is uncomfortably overactive. Seeing how that feels over and over again as you continue working with the practice, you’ll gradually start to notice how you are behaving in ways that make those things happen. You’ll start to see how to stop doing that stuff.

Or maybe people who ask if Zen is enough think that Zen practice is too self-centered. You sit there meditating and maybe you feel better, but what does that do for the world? It’s still a big mess. Shouldn’t we go out there and do something about it?

But if you’re like me, unless you’re on a retreat or something, you only spend an hour or less a day doing zazen. That leaves you eight hours to sleep and fifteen hours each day to do whatever you want to solve the world’s ills. No problem so far.

As for saving the planet and all that, though, I get it. It doesn’t seem like you’re doing much to prevent global warming or nuclear proliferation by sitting and staring at a blank wall. But maybe you are.

My friend Rob Robbins was troubled by the First Bodhisattva Vow, which says, “I vow to save all beings.” It sounds impossible. And it is. If by “saving all beings” you’re imagining you have to be Superman and rescue everybody from whatever trouble they’re in.

Rob found a brilliant way to rephrase that vow. He said, “I vow to save all beings… from myself.”

We can’t do all that much as individuals to solve everything that’s wrong with the world. But we can learn not to add to those problems unnecessarily. We do that by sitting with ourselves and seeing how we personally contribute to the very problems we hope to solve. I don’t mean that we get a magic download during our big transcendent moments about which kinds of plastic are recyclable and which are not. We learn how, moment-by-moment in each of our interactions we very often create problems that don’t really need to be there.

We see it because we sit with ourselves watching it happen in real time.

To me, the question of whether Zen is enough has never seemed problematic. I can do all the things anyone else does to save the world or improve myself psychologically. Nobody has ever suggested I shouldn’t do that kind of stuff. In fact, my daily zazen practice has brought me more in tune with the sorts of things I can do when I’m not on my cushion to help with those matters.

Often it’s not what I expected.

For example, before I moved to Japan I had a very altruistic save-the-world type job. I worked for an organization dedicated to helping mentally handicapped adults function outside of institutions. It was the kind of job anyone who wanted to do good in the world could feel proud of. But I hated it.

Fast forward a few years and I’m living in Japan working for people who make cheezy monster movies. I loved that job. But I felt terribly guilty about it. I’d gone from saving the planet to making trashy movies.

But Nishijima Roshi, my Zen teacher, set me straight. He showed me how to do the job I was doing with the attitude of doing service for the world. It’s like the scene at the end of Woody Allen’s movie Stardust Memories. Woody plays a comedian and filmmaker who feels guilty because he’s not doing something important. He’s just making funny movies. He meets some aliens who tell him, “If you want to do a real service for mankind, tell funnier jokes.”

Nishijima Roshi told me to continue working for Tsuburaya Productions and to do the small things I was able to make the programs we made more helpful. “Just do a little,” he said.

I think a little is often enough.


August 19, 2015 Munich, Germany LECTURE

August 24-29, 2015 Felsentor, Switzerland 5-DAY RETREAT AT STIFTUNG FELSENTOR 

August 30-September 4, 2015 Holzkirchen, Germany 5-DAY RETREAT AT BENEDIKTUSHOF MONASTERY

September 4, 2015 Hamburg, Germany SCREENING OF HARDCORE ZEN MOVIE WITH TALK

September 6, 2015 Hamburg, Germany ZEN DAY

September 8t, 2015 Helsinki, Finland  LECTURE Mannerheimintie 5, 5th floor Mannerheim hall 5:30pm

September 9, 2015 Malmi, Finland

September 10-13, 2015 Finland 4-DAY RETREAT

September 16-19, 20015 Hebden Bridge, England 4-DAY RETREAT

September 20, 2015 London, England THE ART OF SITTING DOWN & SHUTTING UP (sold out, but there is a waiting list in case people cancel.)

September 21-25, 2015 Belfast, Northern Ireland SPECIFIC DATES TO BE DETERMINED

September 26-27, 2015 Glastonbury, England 2-DAY RETREAT

October 26-27 Cincinnati, Ohio Concert:Nova

November 6-8, 2015 Mt. Baldy, CA 3-DAY RETREAT

April 23, 2016 Long Island, New York Molloy College “Spring Awakening 2016”



All of these events will still happen each week while I’m away.

Every Monday at 8pm there’s zazen at Silverlake Yoga Studio 2 located at 2810 Glendale Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90039. Beginners only!

Every Saturday at 9:30 there’s zazen at the Veteran’s Memorial Complex located at 4117 Overland Blvd., Culver City, CA 90230. Beginners only!

Plenty more info is available on the Dogen Sangha Los Angeles website,

* * *

Zen is often not enough to cover my rent and on-going expenses. Your donations are still important. I appreciate your on-going support!


10 Aug 16:11

The Closest Thing We Had to an Industrial Design–based Comic Strip


This is so great. Stuff like this is why I follow Core77.

The longest-running single-artist comic strip in the world was not "Peanuts." It was "Wordless Workshop," a DIY strip begun in 1954 by comics artist Roy Doty. It's the closest thing there's ever been to an ID-based comic strip, in that each installment shows a problem, and how one physically solves it using design.

Published in Popular Science beginning in 1954, the strip started out as a product of its times, with clearly defined gender roles that seem quaint today; the strips typically depicted the housewife experiencing a domestic problem or minor accident, and the handy-with-a-saw husband solving it in his toolshed. (As the times changed, problems evolved from unreturned glass soda bottles to iPad stands, and the female protagonist contributed more evenly.)

As per the title there were no words or text, with each idea being presented only in illustrations. The viewer was still expected to do the math, and it was assumed that every family had saws, hammers and a drill press in the garage. Perhaps most brilliantly, the solutions were all crowdsourced; this allowed readers around the country, folks who might be clever builders but couldn't necessarily draw, to send in descriptions of their problems/solutions for Doty to illustrate. This ensured no shortage of ideas and led to roughly six decades' worth of installments.

"Wordless Workshop" ran from '54 to 1990 in Popular Science, and was then picked up by the Home & Garden Group's Family Handyman magazine without missing a month. The last installment I saw was several issues ago, then they abruptly ended; sadly Doty, a Columbus College of Art & Design graduate who worked into his 90s, passed away earlier this year.

Unfortunately, Doty's website disappeared into the ether after his passing, and the "Wordless Workshop" series will not be handed over to another artist. Amazon, however, has a couple of WW collections in book form, here and here.

14 Aug 07:00

Family Man Page 383

by Dylan

I really love this page.

Family Man Page 383

13 Aug 09:20

We must sell products to survive and grow

by Bob Crowley

I'm impressed the massive coating failure didn't sink them. Considering picking up some of the R3 for doing paper negs.

As most of you know, the sale of just a few New55 PNs does help the project and is consistent with the kickstarter goal to create an ongoing enterprise that would sustain 4x5 instant photography. The whole idea of New55's kickstarter is to get a sustainable thing going, not just a one-time project. How do we better communicate this ongoing goal again to those who are just becoming aware of the project? Maybe the larger question is about how well we understand the economics of small-scale products and how they might survive in the midst of a mass market culture that knows little about where the products come from?

Recently, a few supporters and onlookers have talked online about the project and asked why, for instance, their reward hasn't shipped yet when others have and some sales have been made. Like building a house, the roof can't go on first, there has to be a foundation and walls to support it. The analogy is clear when you look at how things are made. It is the capacity of manufacture, the know-how, and the money flow that make any sustainable business, project or crowd-funded effort move forward. A one-time project, like a book for instance, is written, goes to press, ships, and then is done.

Film, especially instant film, is just not like that. It would be a waste to apply the effort to assemble a finite number of units and then not be able to continue. One of the most explicit goals of the project (seen on this blog since 2010) is to find where the economic center - if there is one - can balance a sales price with a real world cost to manufacture.

Ladies and gentlemen, that time has come. New55 FILM is officially, though not yet robustly, commercialized. A substantial goal of the kickstarter effort has been met. No icing on the cake though, at least not yet. We produced well for two weeks before the shocking news of the coating failure stopped everything, and now we are at a crawl. But there are other things happening, too.

We are seeing the first reactions to the initial high prices as expected. We are seeing some impatience, as expected. We experienced more than the expected share of problems, but these have become interesting in themselves, and though daunting and still extremely risky, that is not something new either. Many people have found our several disasters to be instructive and even entertaining. They are, and we've all learned much.

New55 is at a very critical stage of commercial infancy and could be discontinued if the motives and money cannot continue to be aligned. That requires continued product sales and the support of the community, which I personally thank the many for. I would not have gone into this if that was not the case, and as many of you know, kickstarter only supports about half of the cost to get going. The other half comes from substantial six figure cash amounts, huge chunks of unpaid volunteer time, and sales of stuff.

So buy the stuff, Use it. Show us what it can do. It has warts and the recent failure of the coatings (which cost over $100,000) really threatened to end the project. Yet, as of today, we coated again, by hand. We made some full boxes. We made new pods, we did a lot of things, just a lot more slowly. And speaking of things to buy, the unexpected success of the Monobath Developer phenomenon has shown a lot of people how big the demand is for easy black and white processing. Something quick and easy that takes the same amount of time as instant PN is appealing. We've been experimenting in the background and have an even better formula that might reduce some of the shortcomings and make it even easier to use.

Rewards, when available, are shipped in the order of the pledge.  There may be a few minor exceptions based on logistics and timing of available materials, and of course a supporter poll went out and some people elected to have their rewards changed, which may accelerate the shipment of some. If you haven't responded to that poll, and have a moment, it would be helpful if you would. But you don't have to - it's optional and was put up in response to supporter suggestions, and sent out to all kickstarter supporters. We get a lot of good suggestions and the poll was one.

About 11% of all film rewards have shipped, and the non film containing rewards will have shipped fairly soon. That is real progress.  In the meantime we are going to try - within constraints of very limited available cash - continue to do what we said we would do - establish the means to produce instant 4x5 film into the future.

13 Aug 02:42

A Labyrinth of Labias (or The Man Who Boned The World)


I'm pretty sure someone must have thrown this orgy.

sleep is dumb

And starring David Bowie as Mister Spock

13 Aug 07:03

(via Impact - YouTube) Saw these guys last night, and they were...

(via Impact - YouTube)

Saw these guys last night, and they were solid. Played super hard and went for it. American black metal has given birth to bands doing a lot of interesting things, I reckon. 
This is a pretty damn good record. It’s simultaneous heavy, dirty, and rough with something verging on a black metal sort of style of production, but it’s still pretty in the right places, and verges on poppy at moments. Overall it’s kind of sort of about space exploration, and possible futures for humanity, most of which are appropriately grim. This particular song appears to be about the Challenger mission, (altered) depictions of which make up the entirety of the album art. This track features some of my favorite lyrics on the record.



09 Aug 14:49

What’s going on, Scotland?

by PZ Myers

So stupid. via A.Kachmar


Scotland is going to formally ban the cultivation of genetically modified crops. Apparently, this was an easy step for them to take, because it’s the scientists who are explaining that this is a foolish move, and everyone knows you can just ignore the scientists.

I also think it’s a matter of fearing the unknown. Scotland doesn’t have any GM crops! It’s easy to ban what you already don’t have, and when activists have successfully nailed the phrase “genetically modified” with the stigma of being sciencey and wicked. It’s absurd.

If you’re going to ban everything that has been genetically modified, the Scots are going to have to go back to harvesting wild grains and hunting wild animals — every single commercial crop plant has been extensively modified by human intervention, to the point that they’re often completely unrecognizable in comparison to the ancestral stock. What they’re really complaining about is that modern genetically modified plants are more precisely engineered than the old scattershot style of random genetic modification.

12 Aug 05:16

i love you bird

Today on Married To The Sea: i love you bird

The Worst Things For Sale is Drew's blog. It updates every day. Subscribe to the Worst Things For Sale RSS!
31 Jul 16:57

D2D Interview: Sam Neill

by David Driscoll

As far back as I can remember, I've loved watching scary movies. I was the kid at the video store who wandered into the horror section and obsessed over the covers of the VHS tapes, while his parents sat patiently waiting in the Disney section, hoping for a more appropriate selection. You might say that, in addition to the consumption of wine and spirits, the ingestion of cinematic terror and gore makes up what's left of my free time. That's why, when our New Zealand wine buyer Ryan Woodhouse told me that we might getting a tiny allocation of Sam Neill's pinot noir, I did a double-take. "You mean the actor Sam Neill?" I asked, my eyes ablaze in response. This was a dream come true. While most people know Sam from his world-famous appearances in Jurassic Park and The Piano, horror-fanatics like myself relish his roles in genre classics like The Omen: Final Conflict, In the Mouth of Madness, and Event Horizon. I must have watched In the Mouth of Madness, an eerie John Carpenter classic from the mid-90s that ran completely under the radar, at least fifty times during high school. "You're telling me Sam Neill makes pinot noir?" I asked Ryan in shock.

"Not just pinot noir; really good pinot noir," he answered.

Ryan reached under his desk and grabbed me a sample of the Two Paddocks pinot noir and poured me a glass. Apparently Sam and his local importer had just dropped by the store to taste the staff on the wines while I was away, and Ryan had saved a bit of the bottle for future tasting. It turns out that when Sam returned home to New Zealand to live in Central Otago, he had brought the Burgundy bug back with him. Living in London for many years, drinking the fine wines of the Cote d'Or had taken its toll on the actor, and he wound up moving right smack in the middle of the most distinctive pinot noir soil in the Southern Hemisphere. In 1993, he planted a few acres of vines nearby and founded Two Paddocks Winery, hoping to create a few hundred cases of delicious red wine for his own consumption. Over twenty years later, he's parcelling out small allocations of his coveted cuvee to fine wine retailers like K&L all over the world.

"So you're telling me that I could talk to Sam Neill about Burgundy and horror movies?" I asked Ryan with a huge smile.

"I think he'd be game," he replied with a grin.

In this edition of Drinking to Drink, we talk about the powerful effects of great Burgundy on the human psyche, being recognized as the antichrist by horror buffs, and how John Carpenter never eats anything but breakfast food from the diner. Previous editions of the D2D series can be found by clicking here, or by visiting the archive in the right hand margin of this page.

David: Have you always been into wine, or was this an interest that took hold later in life?

Sam: My family actually had a wine and spirits business for 150 years, so my roots are in alcohol. When I grew up there was always wine on the table at dinner. As far as my interest in good wine, that probably didn’t start until I was around thirty. Before that it was just plain alcohol, I think (laughs). Pretty much any alcohol would do. I think it coincided with me becoming more successful in my career as an actor, which meant I had a little more money in my pocket and I could afford to drink things that were less damaging, and more rewarding.

David: I didn’t realize you came from a family booze business. What did your parents do exactly?

Sam: Neill and Company imported wines and spirits from overseas to New Zealand; primarily from France and from Scotland. It was primarily whisky, brandy, and table wine. They were also general merchants, but their principle business was wine and spirits. They had very good connections in Bordeaux, and they had very a good-selling whisky. But people in those days weren’t particularly interested in wine in New Zealand, so it was pretty unusual to see a bottle of wine on the table. 

David: But that was normal for you.

Sam: It was normal in our house, yes. 

David: Did you reject that growing up, or did you embrace it? Did you see enjoying alcohol as something your parents did that you wanted to get away from possibly, or were you learning about it from a young age?

Sam: By the time I left home—which was as soon as I possibly could because I wanted to be independent—I was impoverished. At that point, I drank whatever I could afford mostly.

David: How old were you when you left?

Sam: I was about nine or ten. I went to boarding school, and then the university. The last time I really lived at home I was quite young, so when I started drinking I was at school, I’m ashamed to say (laughs). But I’ve never been a heavy drinker. I’ve never been in danger of being an alcoholic, I don’t think. 

David: Where were you in your acting career when you started taking more of an appreciation in wine?

Sam: It was probably about the time I got to London. I did the third of The Omen films and I was beginning to earn some decent money. James Mason, who was a great friend and a mentor to me and who loved good food and wine, took me to some excellent restaurants where I ate like I had never eaten before; and drank wines that I had never ever imagined. One of those dinners was extremely memorable because we had Burgundy, and I had never heard of it. I didn’t know what it was, but it was one of those light bulb moments, you know? I was on the road to Damascus. 

David: I’ve been there. What was the wine, do you remember? Do you remember what stood out for you?

Sam: I wouldn’t have been able to articulate it at the time, but I had never drank anything like it. I wanted to understand it and to know more about it. I’d like to think it was a Gevrey-Chambertin, but I couldn’t swear to it. It had all these things that I had never tasted in life before. It had integration, depth, complexity, and a long finish—all things that I take as required these days! But I had never experienced them before that.

David: And what happened from there? You started looking for more wines like that?

Sam aboard the spaceship Event Horizon

Sam: Then I found myself living in London and there was a great wine shop down the road where they knew I was interested in Burgundy, so they would recommend things each time I came in. I started to learn my way around the region. I wasn’t on to it right away, however, I was sort of confused by the Côte d’Or. I thought it might be a place where you’d put your Bordeaux on a beach. It sounded like somewhere a lot sunnier than Burgundy. So it took me a while, and I still have quite a lot to learn about Burgundy, to be honest.

David: I think we all do. How did it work out for you, living in London, while working in the American film industry? Did that make it more difficult?

Sam: My career became more Euro-centric rather than American-centric, I guess. I think looking back the majority of my career has been either in Europe or Australia. I might have done more work in the states if I had been based out of Los Angeles, but I ended up in London and enjoyed myself; met a girl, all that usual stuff (laughs).

David: That’s great you were able to do it that way. I often wish I could live in London and still keep my job at K&L. That would be my dream! Maybe that’s why as an actor you have one of the most interesting and eclectic careers. You’ve been in huge blockbusters like Jurassic Park—which is now big again—and you’ve also made quite a career in horror. You’re in two of my all-time favorite horror movies: In the Mouth of Madness and Event Horizon. At the time, for me, those were movies I watched on repeat, over and over. In fact, the original name of my band in high school was “Sutter Cane” after Jürgen Prochnow’s character in that film. I was obsessed with John Carpenter back then. What was it like working with him, by the way?

Sam: I like John a lot. I actually did another film with him as well: Memoirs of an Invisible Man. We got on very well. There’s something about people who make horror films and films that are rather violent: they’re always the mildest, kindest, quietest people you could meet. John’s a bit like that. He’s the last person you would expect to be the horror master.

David: Did you ever get to have a drink with him?

Sam: I honestly can’t remember John drinking at all. He only eats breakfast; that’s all he eats. He will not go to fancy restaurants; he hates them. He just likes diner food, basically. He likes bacon, eggs, and muffins—that kind of stuff. That’s all he eats. He doesn’t have any interest in good food (laughs). 

David: Would you say that most actors like to drink though?

Sam: Pretty much most people I’ve worked with are interested in both food and wine. One thing we can say fairly about actors is that—as a generalization—they’re really good company, they’re usually very funny people, and they like to go out and have a good time. In both things that I do—acting and making wine—the most important thing is the people you’re with. The people who are involved with you in the same crazy project. Wine has certainly been like that for me. All these things like terroir, root stock, climate, and viticulture—all these things are important—but the most important component to the making of wine is the people. The most important component of a film or television project is the people. In both, I think I’m very lucky to have found myself with some of the best people you can imagine.

David: You’ve been involved with Two Paddocks—your wine project—since 1993. This is around Jurassic Park time. How did you get involved with growing pinot noir in Central Otago? What was the motivation?

Sam: As I was saying earlier, I had become more interested in pinot noir, and then I found that it could be grown successfully in Central Otago, which is where I live. It seemed too crazy of a coincidence that not only was it possible to live in the best place in the world, but also to produce the best wine in the world there. It seemed like a no-brainer. I had a little spare cash in my back pocket and I started with only a few humble acres in a very unlikely spot. Four years later we had our first vintage—in 1997—and we realized that this unlikely spot was the sweet spot. I thought this is probably enough, I’ll just leave it at that. I think we were producing in those days something like 600 cases a year, and that seemed to be plenty; more than I could drink. 

David: Were you selling it outside of New Zealand, or was this a local thing with friends and family?

Sam: We got up to about 800 cases before we started going strong. After that it was like I had been bitten by a big bug. In 1998, having seen those results, I found another sweet spot at the other end of the region, and I thought, “I want to double production,” so I planted another five acres. Now it’s four vineyards, so what started as a very tiny project has become a little less tiny. We’re always going to be very limited in our production, and we allocate our wine very sparingly. I think we’re probably up to about 8,000 cases a year, and—of that—there’s probably only 1500 that are from our premium wines. Those are the ones we direct towards you guys—towards K&L. 

Sam being restrained from the mouth of madness.

David: Other than the fact that it’s your project, what’s your favorite part about your wine? What’s most enthralling?

Sam: I don’t pretend to be in any way some kind of an expert. I know a lot more than I used to—when we started I knew nothing at all about winemaking. But my principle directive to the people who work with me is: I’m interested in restraint. I’m not at all interested in big, loud-mouthed, new world styles. While we don’t suppress that exuberance in the fruit, we do use restraint in the vineyard, as well as in the winery. What’s been very pleasing to me is that we produce what I think is subtle, profound, and beautiful wine, and it’s nice when other people agree with me on that (laughs). That gives me great pleasure.

David: It’s clear from talking to you, and having tasted the wines, that you have a real passion for wine and for wines of real delicacy and nuance—like Burgundian wines, for example. Do you find that being a celebrity ever hinders that message? Like wine retailers don’t take the project as seriously because you’re a famous actor?

Sam: I think that’s always going to happen, so that’s the first elephant I shoot when I walk into the room. It’s also easily done because—first of all—I’ve never really been a celebrity. You don’t see me in magazines, my life is private, my family lives an obscure and private life, and I think it’s evident to people in the wine world that I’m not just putting my name on a label. This is something that I’ve been committed to for twenty-three years; that I started from scratch. I’m still the lieutenant at the head of my own little army. 

David: Right, you were involved with Two Paddocks before people even knew wine was being made in New Zealand, let alone world-class wine. I think with the work that Ryan (Woodhouse) is doing, and the work that growers like yourself are doing, to bring these wines to a new audience, for the first time ever you’re seeing Burgundy drinkers crossover and accept what’s going on down there. I know that’s been the case for me—personally speaking. And it’s a clear answer: it’s because it tastes better. As a wine geek you know these heralded vineyard names—Richebourg, Echezeaux, Chassagne-Montrachet—that have so much romanticism to them. But when I do side-by-side tastings these days and I evaluate purely on flavor, I’m finding that some of the best pinot noirs in our store are coming from New Zealand. Not just good wines, but some of the best wines in the world.

Sam: And put the price-points up against each other. It’s interesting how that works out (laughs).

David: Right! The prices are almost too good to be believed sometimes. It’s almost difficult to explain to customers because they think you’re under-selling them; like the wines can’t be world-class if they only cost $20 or $30. But we convert them eventually. All they need to do is try a bottle.

Sam: Well, we appreciate the missionary work. 

David: It’s hard fought! (laughs)

Sam: You’re bringing light to somewhere where there was only darkness before.

David: Speaking of darkness, does everyone who meets you have to make an Omen reference, or a joke about you being the antichrist?

Sam: No, this is probably the first one I’ve had in about three months.

David: (laughs) That’s still pretty recent! It’s funny because you’re in all kinds of other great movies that are not scary and that are serious and well-acted films—like The Piano or The Hunt for Red October—all these critically-acclaimed movies where your acting is on full display.

The Two Paddocks estate in Central Otago

Sam: I’m in a show on Netflix right now called Peaky Blinders, have you seen that?

David: I just started yesterday! With Cillian Murphy. Although I only got about fifteen minutes in before I had to turn it off and run a quick errand. 

Sam: I’m pretty scary in that.

David: I haven’t made it to you yet. I just saw him trot into town on the horse, and then my phone rang.

Sam: Persist for another couple of minutes and then I turn up. I think you’ll be very afraid. 

David: I’m still afraid of Event Horizon! My wife can’t even look at that film anymore because it had such an impact on us. I was high school when that came out and I’ll always remember the scene when they get the black hole footage to work and you see what happened on board this ship as they went through the porthole. We all screamed and closed our eyes. Your horror roles were so impressionable for me in my youth. It’s been really cool to be able to talk with you about two of my biggest interests.

Sam: It’s been a long time since I’ve seen those movies, but I think you’ll definitely enjoy Peaky Blinders. It’s a very cool show.

David: Who’s someone you would want to have a drink with if you could choose anyone—living or deceased?

Sam: I think Robert Mitchum was the coolest man who was ever in the movies. I’d like to have met him.

David: How appropriate as he was also in two very scary films: Cape Fear and Night of the Hunter.  Which one do you think he was scarier in?

Sam: I liked him in everything that he did. There was something about him that was just beyond cool. I would have liked to have looked at that cool up close and seen what it was.​


If you are indeed interested in obtaining some of Sam's incredible Two Paddocks wines, we have a very limited supply available on special order below. Less than 50 cases of each wine came into the United States this year, so we're talking extremely limited:

2013 Two Paddocks "The First Paddock" Pinot Noir Central Otago $74.99 - Winemaker's Notes: Sourced from the first twenty-five rows of Clone 5, which was planted in Gibbston at The First Paddock vineyard in 1993. Hand harvested and sorted then a 50% whole bunch indigenous ferment in a dedicated First Paddock French oak cuve. Matured in 30% new French oak with the balance in older wood for an extended 14 months of barrel maturation. Bramble, underbrush, black fruit and spicy aromatics, followed by a mineral infused palate. Ethereal in nature with great mid palate density and drive.

2012 Two Paddocks Estate Pinot Noir Central Otago $49.99 - Two Paddocks flagship Pinot Noir - an estate grown, barrel selection from the three small Neill family vineyards in Central Otago. These vineyards are high-density planted in a range of clonal material and intensively "man-handled" with most vineyard practices carried out by hand. In 2012, this wine was 100% Alexandra fruit from the Redbank and Alex Paddocks sites. Again, each block and clone was picked and fermented separately, with the final blending taking place prior to bottling. Redcurrant, spice and wild black exotic fruit aromatics followed by a strongly driven wine showing great texture and elegance."

2014 Two Paddocks Estate Riesling Central Otago $34.99 - Winemaker's Notes: Two Paddocks Riesling is an estate grown single block selection made from fruit grown at Two Paddocks’ Redbank Vineyard situated in Earnscleugh, Central Otago. As in the vineyard, this wine was handcrafted using traditional methods and bottled early to ensure all the integrity and vitality of the wine was preserved. The soils in this block are well draining schist loam and the vines tend to thrive. Additionally the typically extreme diurnal temperatures experienced in Alexandra (Earnscleugh) between day and night are responsible for both metabolising acidity and retaining an intense flavour profile - all this really means is that we feel a drier wine style is both possible and appropriate. This wine displays pink grapefruit, freshly squeezed limes and spicy loquat aromatics.  There is a taut mineral tension feel on the palate, elegant textural weight and very long persistence.

To learn more about Two Paddocks Winery click here.

-David Driscoll 

22 Jul 17:02

Cut Spike 3.0

by David Driscoll

This is also very tempting.

Batch three is here. Outside of Nebraska, you'll only find it at K&L.

My notes: When I first tasted the Cut Spike whiskey, I thought it was simply the best American single malt out there; a true revelation for the domestic category. However, as I'm now tasting the newest batch from the Nebraskan producer, I'm realizing that the whiskey is starting to morph into something very particular and unique to the brand. That classic creaminess is still very pervasive, but for the second time in a row there's a pronounced note of pine that soon mutates into ginger and Asian spices before quickly turning back into rich vanilla and oak on the finish; smoothly seeping its way into my taste buds as that last little sip goes down. What we're starting to witness here is the development of a house style--a flavor that defines this distillery. It's very exciting, and it's becoming infectious.

Kyle’s notes: With this being only their third release, the anticipation of what is in the bottle was very high: a chance to try and flesh out exactly what is the house style that the good distillers at Cut Spike bring to the table. This bottling does a great job of solidifying them in my mind as one of the highest quality single malt producers in the States. This whisky is incredibly vibrant and fresh without tasting young or harsh. The nose is lifted with bright notes of candied ginger and Douglas fir, a sense of promised vanilla sweetness wafts in at the end. In the mouth there is sweetness, orange marmalade, a hint of clove for spice, and then the same vanilla cream from last batch that really adds roundness to the palate.

David OG just got his bottle today, so he’ll chime in later. You’re going to want one, so you might as well just get it out of the way now.

Cut Spike Nebraska Single Malt Whisky $59.99 - At first we couldn't believe our mouths. We knew that Cut Spike single malt had just taken Double Gold honors at the 2014 San Francisco Spirits competition (the highest possible honor), so obviously other people thought it was good, too. But after tasting so many mediocre American attempts at single malt whisky, we had become accustomed to the idea that the Scottish style of distillation would never be recreated here at home. There would be spin-offs, and experimental grasps at greatness, but that supple, malty profile would simply be something we needed to import from abroad. Then the folks at Cut Spike sent us a sample of their two year old Nebraskan single malt whisky made from 100% malted barley on a pot still crafted in Rothes, Scotland. Fermented at the brewery next door to Cut Spike in La Vista, the malt was matured for two years in new American oak with varying levels of char. The result is an incredible hybrid: soft, barley and vanilla-laden whisky that tastes somewhat like your standard Scottish single malt, but has its own unique character simultaneously. It's the kind of whisky that you taste once and enjoy, but then the next day suddenly crave intensely. It impresses you instantly, yet doesn't really reveal its full character until weeks later. The new oak blurs seamlessly into the malty mouthfeel, adding a richness on the finish normally not tasted in standard Scottish selections. Cut Spike is a major accomplishment for American distillation, pure and simple.

-David Driscoll

10 Aug 02:11

(via Mastodon - Asleep In The Deep [Official Music Video] -...


Also, the second time through, this reminded me that Elric used to wake me up if I was having a nightmare.

(via Mastodon - Asleep In The Deep [Official Music Video] - YouTube)

You never know what your beloved fur buddy might be getting up to when you’re not looking.

10 Aug 03:43

A One-Man Argument


I do like the aeropress, but it uses a lot of coffee.

sleep is dumb

This is pretty much my experience with Aeropress.

31 Jul 16:17

Once Again a Combination of Design, Fine Woodworking and Roleplaying Games Leads to Tremendous Success


Interesting object.

Adults who play role playing games have money, and are willing to spend it on good design. That was the conclusion I came to after seeing Geek Chic's beautiful gaming tables, which carry five-figure price tags and year-long waiting lists. And something I found outstanding about their approach was beyond their design work (which I also liked, by the way); it was that they really paid attention to the customer experience, carefully designing not just the furniture, but the process of how the end user orders one of their products and essentially has their hands held through much of the waiting process during fabrication.

Now another company producing wood products for gamers, this one called Wyrmwood, has again combined good design with clever business sense. First off let's look at their product, which sounds simple, but does something surprising:

I'm not showing you that video to pump up their crowdfunding campaign; it's already over, and they netted $246,719 over a tiny $10,000 goal. No, I'm showing it to you to as an illustration of how designing something relatively simple, but clever, and targeted at a highly specific audience can lead to great success.

If it's not obvious from the video, the guys and gals at Wyrmwood had already designed, and were already selling, their successful dice tower system. What's notable here is that they dreamt of offering it in a much wider variety of wood species—I'm talking 70 and including exotics—that they could not possibly afford to pre-buy the lumber for.

So they turned to Kickstarter to get precise information. By learning exactly how many people wanted exactly how many units in exactly what species of wood, they could order only what they needed. Wyrmwood designer and co-founder Edward Maranville explained their approach to Polygon:

Our Kickstarter is a bit unorthodox, in that the main reason we're running it is to expand our variety of options, not the product itself. While we'd love to offer that kind of variety all the time, we just can't do it from a logistical perspective — we don't have the space for all the lumber, or the inventory.

Keep in mind we offer different sizes and surface options, so if we stocked our 15 product variations in 70 different woods ... it quickly gets very out of hand. But, in the context of a Kickstarter, we can get all the pledges, order exactly what we need and make them in a series of large runs we can manage.

The really clever bit they've pulled off is the part that's easy for Kickstarter novices to overlook: Accurately managing customer expectations. Because Wyrmwood was already tooled up, was already experienced with production times for the existing product and employs enough experienced woodworkers to know that Bubinga and Wenge are a lot trickier to work with than Pine and Walnut, they were able to create a precise system of timelines.

We took our time with the development of the Dice Tower System, refining the production process and figuring out what it takes to make them and how many we can make over a given period. We've set limits on our reward tiers based on this, and so we're staggering out the delivery estimates in batches. The first tier was for 100 backers who would get early delivery a month away. The next is 3 months, the next 5, and we'll simply add on new delivery windows as these fill to ensure we can always deliver on time, as promised.

In other words, these guys didn't...roll the dice with their delivery times. [Cue rim shot.]

05 Aug 14:13

Iwachu Skillets: Effortless Japanese Cast Iron


Okay, this is hot.

Cast iron is a known Good. Its even cooking surface, versatility and durability have made cast-iron pans into vital kitchen staples all around the world for hundreds of years. To usefully update such an old technology usually comes down to the details, and Iwachu skillets are a prime example. 

Nambu tekki (or nanbu tekki, depending on which part of the Internet you ask) is a traditional form of ironware, made in Morioka, Japan, for over 400 years. It is still used in simple, high-heat kitchen tools like kettles, griddles and bakeware. This type of ironware is made in a proprietary process resulting in a higher quality material, thinner wall thickness and a satisfying, slightly pebbled non-stick surface. That means you get a lighter weight cast-iron pan without sacrificing even heat or durability. Past their use of this credentialed construction, the key design feature in Iwachu skillets is subtle: their gentle sloping sides and unusually long cut-out handle dramatically improve ergonomics. 

Though they're called "omelette" pans, the graceful shallow shape is good for all kinds of sautes, sauces and bakes. That longer, subtly-curved handle allows better grip, cools faster than traditional handles, and is well angled for fancy wrist-flipping. Pre-seasoned and now available in two sizes, over at Hand-Eye Supply

07 Aug 12:09

Space Colony Form Factors, Part 1: Bernal Spheres


The art in this series is pretty neat, but the writing is fucking awful.

As fears of overpopulation took hold in the 1970s, NASA began giving serious thought to building space colonies. In the years since, they managed to solve Earth's population problem by sending everyone to live in my neighborhood in Manhattan so that my landlord can keep raising my goddamn rent. But before finding that solution, there were a variety of space colony design renderings produced.

The first question they faced: What should a space colony be shaped like, what should the overall form factor be? I'm not talking about a colony built into the side of an asteroid or on the moon, because we already know the answer to that: You just build a city and put a big glass dome over it, duh. Bor-ing.

The Windex bill would be astronomical

No, I'm talking about an unattached colony that can, like, drift around and stuff. So the first problem to solve for is gravity. Because if space colonists were just floating around all the time, the reduced wear and tear on our footwear would make sneaker companies go bankrupt, and we'd need to have some kind of economy up there.

So to create gravity, a design called the Bernal Sphere was proposed. This was actually an older idea, first conceived of in 1929 by scientist John Bernal. You may recognize Bernal's name as he is not only still alive, but recently gained additional fame for portraying crowd-favorite Shane on "The Walking Dead."

The gigantic Bernal Sphere—designs ranged from two miles to 10 miles in diameter—was meant to be hollow and filled with air, along with 30,000 people that presumably didn't have outstanding debts on Earth. The sphere would be attached at its two "poles" to massive motors that would rotate the thing like a rotisserie.

This would generate gravity-simulating centrifugal force along the internal "equator" of the sphere, along which people could build houses, have picnics and wear out Nikes.

On either side of that equatorial zone would be huge windows, and mirrors positioned outside of the sphere would direct sunlight in through them. In the photo below we're looking into one bank of windows, through which you can see the ring of the opposite bank.

The polar areas of the sphere would presumably be uninhabitable, as you'd get really dizzy there. In the renderings we can see that the polar area is covered in forest, but we could also probably use that area to like, dump old air conditioners and stuff.

So why a sphere, with all that wasted space? The shape was proposed as being optimal for containing pressurized air, which seems like kind of a silly trade-off; can't we just make it whatever shape we want and, like, buy better O-rings somewhere?

Others agreed with me, maybe not about the O-rings, but that the shape was decidedly not optimal. Next we'll look at some better solutions.

Click here for part 2

07 Aug 14:29

Space Colony Form Factors, Part 3: The Stanford Torus and Beyond


No mention of Ringworld in this? Shameful.

So far we've seen two space colony form factors that arose from a 1975 NASA-backed study. The Bernal Sphere was round, the O'Neill Cylinders cylindrical. This third concept, proposed as part of the same study, is a sort of combination of the two that takes the cylinder and bends it into a circle.

Known as a Stanford Torus, it's named after the university where the study took place. The torus shape—I'm guessing "torus" is either Greek or Latin for donut or bagel—provides its gravity by rotating around its hub, and at a suggested 1.8 kilometers (1.1 miles) in diameter could theoretically support some 10,000 people inside. Sunlight would be bounced from mirrors in the hub into the living space, providing the effect of "overhead" sunlight.

I find the visual effect of being within a large torus more interesting than that of the Bernal Sphere or O'Neill Cylinders; it kind of looks like you're in a valley that slopes up and out-of-view on either side. An additional benefit versus the O'Neill Cylinders is that with the latter, there is a feeling of finite space; jogging along it, you would eventually reach the end and have to turn around. The torus on the other hand provides infinite scroll, which would make chase scenes more entertaining.

Here's a fly-through of what a Stanford Torus might look like:

Design god Syd Mead famously produced renderings of a Stanford Torus in his concept work for the space habitat in the 2013 sci-fi film "Elysium."

However, space geeks are quick to point out that that's not technically a Stanford Torus, because as depicted in the movie, the habitat features no "roof;" the inside of the torus is absent and open-air, allowing ships to fly in and out of it.

That would make it what's known as a Bishop's Ring:

A Bishop's Ring is essentially a gi-normous Stanford Torus, with the theory being that if it were made from carbon nanotubes rather than steel, a much larger structure could be built: Some 2,000 kilometers (1,242 miles, roughly the driving distance from New York City to Miami) in diameter and 500 kilometers (310 miles) wide, providing a livable surface area roughly the size of India. Towering sidewalls stretching 200 kilometers (120 miles) in height would actually obviate the need for a "roof" and the design could be left open-air; science eggheads say the gravity generated would be enough to hold the atmosphere in place, and the open-air design would allow TIE Fighters and such to fly in and out.

Sci-fi author Iain M. Banks has taken the concept of the Bishop's Ring and run with it. In his Culture series of novels, Banks envisions something called Orbitals: huge Bishop's Rings that stretch to 3,000,000 kilometers (1.9 million miles) in diameter, up to 6,000 kilometers (3,728 miles) wide, containing landmasses the size of proper continents.

In Banks' fictional world, these Orbitals are tilted towards a nearby star, and thus their rotation not only provides gravity, but a proper day/night cycle. The theoretical surface area would be up to 120 times more than what we've got on Earth.

While nothing like an Orbital will ever be constructed in our lifetime, Banks' fictional creations did inspire a real-life object that many of you may own: A little video game called Halo. That game and its sequels have netted $3.4 billion in sales since 2001. It's strange to think that a sci-fi author's imagination unwittingly helped propel the Xbox console to success.

06 Aug 19:31

An Unsatisfying Explanation

by Christopher Wright