Thursday, May 27, 2010

5/27 Moment of Zen: Southbound Pachyderm

Swim Trunks?

The story of Rajan just gets more remarkable the farther you follow it. Rajan, a 60 year old elephant who lives with his slightly younger mahout (elephant driver), Nasru, on Havelock Island, just off the coast of India. Rajan and Nasru have become fixtures along the Havelock's beaches, going for their daily swims.

Click the picture to see more pictures of Rajan and Nasru in the water and read more about their story. Both are remarkable, not just for Cesare Naldi's stunning, award-winning shots of them in and out of the water, but for how well they illustrate the intense bond that can be created between elephant and human.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

5/25 Moment of Zen: ICNF Bombing

More News You Didn't Hear

Two weeks ago, on May 11, a bomb went off in Florida in a crowded building. Even though no one was hurt, you would think this would be news, with our heightened anxiety about terrorist attacks - the bomb discovered in Times Square on May 1 didn't even have to go off to become major national news.

I guess no one's interested when the place being bombed is a mosque.

The bomb, which went off during evening prayers at the Islamic Center of Northeast Florida in Jacksonville, is being investigated as a "possible hate crime" and is thought to have been planted at least partially as a response to the appointment of Parvaz Ahmed, who attends services at the Center, to the Jacksonville Human Rights Commission. However, this is not the first time in recent history that prayer services in the same location have been interrupted. On April 4th, a white man walked in during services and started yelling, "Stop this blaspheming!" before being removed.

Monday, May 24, 2010

5/24 Moment of Zen: SeaDump 2010

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch

With pollution in the Atlantic getting so much press these days, let's not forget the havoc we wreak in farther distant seas as well. What amounts to one of the world's largest landfills lives afloat the Pacific Ocean about a 1000 miles offshore from anywhere. About 10 million mi² composed of trash from at least three continents, approximately 80% of which washes out from land, the Garbage Patch is formed by a pattern of converging ocean currents called the North Pacific Gyre.

The Garbage Patch, for all its concentration, presents a difficult cleanup. It does not cohere into an "island of trash" but instead floats lots of pieces of debris in close quarters, largely under the surface. Additionally, floating matter of this becomes an unhealthy habitat for a number of marine species, which further complicates cleanup.

Click the picture above to read more from the National Science Foundation about the Garbage patch, or click here to read what Mother Nature News has to say.

On a related note, here's an article from the UK's Guardian newspaper about efforts underway to have the term "ecocide"—referring to actions which lead to the large-scale destruction of an ecosystem—recognized and established as a crime (to be tried by the International Criminal Court in the Hague, Netherlands) on par with genocide. The Guardian also has a photojournal of its Top 10 ecocides.

Friday, May 21, 2010

5/21 Moment of Zen: Pac Man's Dirty 30

Happy Birthday, Pac Man!

Thirty years ago in Japan, Pac Man was born. At the time of its release, the maze-chase game was a novel idea. The most popular arcade games (the only way to play video games at the time) were simple space shooter games, notably Space Invaders. The equally iconic Ms. Pac-Man, just like yours truly, was released about a year later, sometime in 1981. The games have become some of the most recognizable iconography of the early 1980s and inspired all sorts of goofy things, including Urban Pacman, played with real people.

To commemmorate Pac-Man's 30th birthday, Google has made its first interactive doodle, a fully playable mini Pac-Man maze around the letters in the search engine's name. Insert Coin now at Google.*

*no coin actually required

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

5/19 Moment of Zen: The Hypothetical Library

The Hypothetical Library: Real Covers, Imaginary Books

Beyond the hexagonal chambers of Borges' total library (not to mention all of his references to books that don't exist), beyond the breeding books in the wilds of the library at Terry Pratchett's Unseen University, is the Hypothetical Library. This blog, run by advertising exectutive Charlie Orr, who also designs covers for extant books, solicits ideas and titles for nonexistant books from notable authors, and designs covers for them. Since starting things up in February of this year, Orr has put up a new cover for a hypothetical book about once a week.

This week's cover, for Neil Gaiman's If You Read This Book The World Will End, features a vintage lock to prevent you from reading the book and thus ending the world. Gaiman (author of Coraline, comic series The Sandman, and American Gods) said he had trouble with the idea of presenting an idea for a book he would never write, noting, "The trouble with imagining a book I would never write is that when I think of it, I think 'but I could WRITE that...'"

Click the picture above to read more about Gaiman's vision for his verboten, nonexistant book and to see other covers for books that could exist, but don't.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

5/18 Moment of Zen: Mission Segway

The New Mid-Life Crisis Mobile?

Unsure about your direction in life? Simply lose a bet? Why not follow the great tradition of trekking across the country? And while you're at it, add a modern twist: Do it on a Segway. Click the picture to follow to the blog of three guys segwaying across the US.
(h/t Olivia F.)

Monday, May 17, 2010

5/17 Moment of Zen: Gold to Go

Gold Vending Machines

No, it's not a brand name - this new vending machine prototype, called "Gold to Go" was installed last week in the Emirates Palace Hotel in Abu Dhabi, UAE, actually spits out gold. An earlier prototype is in place in the Frankfurt, Germany airport, which only vends 1g or 10g bars and updates its prices about once an hour. The new model in Abu Dhabi accepts cash and credit card and dispenses 24k gold in 1g, 5g and 10g bars in addition to collectible gold coins from Canada, Australia and South Africa. The gold prices are updated online every few minutes and the machine takes about a 30% markup.

Friday, May 14, 2010

5/14 Moment of Zen: Disaster Tourism

Disaster Tourism in China

This is slightly old news, but after the May 12, 2008 earthquake that shook the Chinese province of Sichuan, the Chinese government decided to turn the now-dilapidated region into a government-sponsored tourist attraction. Click the picture to read more.

No news on a possible tourist spin to the current oil well leak in the Gulf of Mexico, of which relief workers have been unable to stem the flow, and which scientists now suggest, could gush for years." Click the quote to read more about current efforts to stop or slow the 5,000 barrel per day flow and possible long term environmental implications of such a spill.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

5/12 Moment of Zen: The Flowered Nest of the Loner Bee

The Flowered Nest of the Loner Bee

Bees are commonly though of as the epitome of social animals—our idea of the "hive mind," indicating individuals working as separate bodies following a shared consciousness, borrows from bee terminology. Social hive bees account for the larger population of bees in the world and in popular understanding. But did you know that 75% of the over 20,000 identified bee species are solitary? This means that individual female bees build and provision nests for their eggs and larvae on their own, with no intervention from a collective hive.

Seen above are a few of the nests of one of these species, Osmia avosetta, found in the Middle East. This species' nests, described in a recently released article, are largely constructed underground, of colorful flower petals and a thin mortar of mud. Each of the delicately constructed chambers seen above is built to house and feed a single bee larva.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

5/11 Moment of Zen: The Greek Protest Dog

The Greek Protest Dog

Greece has had its share of political unrest in the last few years, including the recent protests around "austerity measures" passed by the Greek parliament in response to the country's debt. Both police and news photographers began to notice a surprising trend in their protest shots here and over the last few yers: a tawny-colored dog, turning up over and over.The dog has been photographed regularly at protests over the last several years - lying down in front of of protest lines, at the sides of protestors being tear-gassed, facing off in front of flaming scenery.

There is some debate as to whether the protest dog pictured is one dog or several - some say that the original protest dog died in 2008 and is buried at an Athens university. Some identify him as Kanellos ("cinnamon"), others as Louk, short for Loukanikos, a kind of Greek sausage. Regardless, the riot dog(s) of Athens have been adopted as a much loved symbol of solidarity by Greek protestors.

Monday, May 10, 2010

5/10 Moment of Zen: Sushi Trucks

Back Up The Sushi Truck

"Fundamental to our artwork is the incorporation of toys we used to play with, and the picturesque sceneries we imagined in childhood. We enjoy combining scraps such as broken pieces of wood or screws left in factories with daily necessities or the toys that we played with as kids. In combining these two different types of materials and building art objects from them, we noticed a huge imaginary leap. Some of the objects lost their original scale and began to look like huge objects; others showed funny discrepancies in the juxtapositions of heterogeneous objects. These combinations became models which we simply want to see in real scale. For this particular series of artwork, "tommy sushi / tommy ca", we cannot forget our excitement when the plastic food model fit perfectly onto the toy truck's loading platform."

-Japanese art duo Paramodel, describing their toy-sushi on a truck sculptures.
Click the picture to see more in this series.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

5/5 Moment of Zen: Inane Legalities #527: Sr. Vera's Claim to the Moon

Inane Legalities #527: Sr. Vera's Claim to the Moon

In 1954, Jenaro Gajardo Vera, a Chilean lawyer, filed a claim of ownership over the moon. Surprised critics found they didn't have legal grounds to dispute Vera's claim. It wasn't until 13 years later, in 1967, that the Outer Space Treaty specifically prohibited ownership of non-artificial celestial bodies. However, this specifically covers government ownership. The 1979 Moon Treaty specifically prohibits private ownership, but this document has only been ratified by a spare few countries (Chile is on that list but, interestingly, the US isn't).

All sorts of tales have circulated about different fallout from Vera's claim, but it's difficult to tell to what degree they are based in fact, if at all, and how far removed from their kernel of truth they've come. Click the picture above to read more about these stories.

However, what is possibly the most amusing punchline to Vera's claim is his reason for doing it: He was applying for membership to a club, but had been rejected because he didn't own property. This was his solution.

(picture from 1902 French sci-fi "action" movie, Voyage dans la lune)

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

5/4 Moment of Zen: Undersea or Outer Space?

Tiny Census

Sometimes it's hard to tell the difference between an astronomical event happening on a huge scale from a tiny creature in the deep sea. The above picture is one of those cases (it's actually an amoeba). Click the picture above or below to follow to National Geographic's recent gallery of microscopic undersea life, featuring some spectacular, if a bit surreal specimens.

Monday, May 3, 2010

5/3 Moment of Zen: Gene Pool

A New Take on Looking Trashy

Some people define their many roles by talking about the many hats they wear. New York artist Gene Pool has suits instead of hats - and he's being literal. Pool's best known works have been those he's worn himself, a series of suits made of things you find on the ground and leave lying there from grass (the "Living Grass Suit" - made out of over 20 pounds of live sod) to small change ("The $uit", above, which weighs about 52 lbs).

Pool says that the purpose behind his many suits is half awareness about things people throw on the street and half wanting to shake people—gently—out of their day to day mindset. Even in New York, someone walking down the street covered head to toe in cans is a bit of a spectacle still.