I was in the throes of writing a paper on Sophocles' magnificent tragedy Ajax when I stumbled on this comment from one of my sources:

Menis, famous as the first word of the Iliad--indeed one can say it is the first word in European literature--generally implies sustained, enduring wrath with a desire for revenge.

This struck me powerfully. I'm not sure why entirely, but I think it has interesting implications for Man's motives in the larger sense. Anger is such an interesting and puzzling emotion; why spurs it and where does it lead? Aristotle was more sympathetic to overwhelming anger than to other, baser desires: in the Ethics he stated that those who are swept away by anger still somehow have control over their reason.

It also made me think about the glory of those opening lines of the Iliad! "Sing, goddess, the rage of Achilles! The baneful wrath that wrought much sorrow for the Achaeans..."

Of course it loses rather a lot in translation. The music of the Grecian phonetics is irreplaceable:

Μηνιν άείδε θεά Πηληίαδεω Άχιληος...

There is something in those opening lines which exudes the terrible wrath that accompanies terrible pride; the pride of a civilization that would go to war for a slight and take up arms for honor, not security. The men of the Iliad are larger than life, more full of personality and insanity and glory than any other characters from any other work in the Western Canon of Literature. Their names, first uttered thousands of years ago, still resound on college campuses across the world. And somehow those names still conjure up such concrete images: Achilles, fuming by the wine-dark sea; Diomedes, lord of the war cry, driving back the god Ares into the fray; Ajax, standing as the lone bulwark against the Trojan tide as he protected the ships; Odysseus, the wily one, planning the most famous strategic move in military history...


dead men tell no tales

THIS article caught my eye for a number of reasons. The Spanish Civil War, always fascinating and frustrating, defies historical accuracy as few other conflicts in Western society do. Passions still run high when discussing the war and its aftermath and the accusations predictably pile up quickly. Generalissimo Franco is sometimes (although not in this article) accused of killing 75,000 Spaniards, sometimes of slaughtering 150,000. The difference in quantity may not matter to an inflamed commentator, but then it might matter to the spare 75,000 who were or were not killed.
One particular claim in this article captures a striking difference in perspective on The Valley of the Fallen:

"But lacking enough bodies of his own supporters to fill it, his regime ordered that remains from the mass graves of Republican soldiers and sympathisers should be transferred there."

That's an interesting departure from the story I took from Warren Carroll's The Last Crusade, where Carroll reported that Franco had "allowed" the family members of fallen soldiers on both sides to bury their dead under the mountain. In such a scenario, Franco's decision has all the qualities of Christian mercy to the enemy and paternal concern for any slain Spaniard.
So which story is true?
Unfortunately, there is no Edvard Radzinsky of the Spanish world, there are no first hand accounts or letters available to the casual investigator. But the headline of the article is telling: "Spain to rebury Franco victims". Franco's victims, as though he personally executed them. Last I checked, casualties are a common side effect of wars, so I'm disinclined to attribute the deaths of these Republican soldiers to Franco's personal whimsy.
Here is another instance of varying interpretation:

"Some 15,000 prisoners from the losing left-wing Republican side in the war were made to work on the construction of the mausoleum, often under harsh and dangerous conditions."

Call me medieval, but I think constructing a church that will be staffed by monks and priests ceaselessly praying for the souls of the victims of a recently concluded bloody conflict is actually peculiarly appropriate for prisoners of war. True, modern standards of imprisonment would include internet access and a wide screen TV. However, I find church-building a more fitting occupation for a group of compulsive church-razers.
The truth about the Spanish Civil War may remain murky still, but it is not difficult to find the shade of bias coloring any given speculator. The fact is that I am a Catholic who believes in temporal punishment, prayers for the dead, and just war. Of course this affects my take on the situation. However, it might also make me a more qualified observer of Catholic Spain than the average secular journalist.


My Brightest Diamond

Thanks to Sophie for pointing this out.


Sports Type Redesign

This would make me watch sports more. As it is now, I often have a lot of trouble figuring out where the information I want is. The swooshing, whirling effects don't help any either. In fact, those really make it feel like they're trying to make things more exciting than they are. Too bad this proposal didn't get implemented. Not "dynamic" enough, I suppose.

Interview here
More examples here


Albert Khan

Beautiful. A collection of some of the first color photographs ever taken, from as early as 1909, by a man named Albert Khan, who set out to create "a photographic inventory of human life on Earth." It appears the world was not black and white before 1930.


Lego Robot Solves Rubix Cube!



Men Without War Cries

Having recently finished a very dry and technical linguistic paper on the noun-epithets of one of Homer's most gloriously awesome characters--Diomedes--I feel called to wax rather more poetical about him than the boundaries of my research paper allowed. This is also influenced by our reading of C. S. Lewis' The Abolition of Man in Philosophy last week. But more on that later. As anyone who has gotten through the Iliad is well aware, Diomedes is generally known to the enraptured audience as "Diomedes, Lord of the War Cry" (which is more literally, but in a less cool fashion, translated as "good at the war cry"). Presumably this means he scared the living daylights out of his victims by screaming like a banshee before dispatching them. Besides apparently terrifying the Trojans more successfully than Achilles (see the prayer of the Trojan women to Athena in Book 6. It's actually hilarious) he also did something Achilles never dared to do: attacked not one, not two, but three gods in the course of a single book. As I look up from Homer's epic poetry and cast my gaze across campus, I realize that it's not exactly fair to begin comparing the average male college student with Diomedes, Son of Tydeus, Lord of the War Cry, Shepherd of His People, Horse Tamer, Spear-famed, the Staunch in Battle, best by far of the Achaeans. But I'm going to do it anyway. The first deity Diomedes confronts is Aphrodite. The goddess of love doesn't fair too well at his hands (she irritated him by removing his opponent from view) and retreats in panic after he gouges her arm with his spear. Would that we lived in a culture that made it easier for today's young men to deal thus with the lies that are so widely promulgated about the status of chastity. I have noticed that for whatever reason, it can be tentatively accepted that a girl might want to remain a virgin until marriage. Strange, but acceptable. But for men, to remain a virgin is somehow a sign of incompetence and weakness, a stigma to be mocked and a condition to escape at the earliest possible convenience. Tragically, for the herd of jocks (and their number is legion) that swaggers across today's college campuses, the realization that chastity requires far more strength and manhood than succumbing to animal instincts does not compute. This might have to do with the cranial capacity of guys who spend more time in the gym than in intelligible (not even asking for intelligent here) conversation. But I suspect it has more to do with popular culture, the sickening music and vile television shows that are given as entertainment and taken as gospel truth. After Aphrodite flees the scene, Diomedes turns his attention to Apollo (who caught the guy that Diomedes was originally trying to kill after Aphrodite dropped him...the situation gets a little out of hand). And here we have a situation I think I can relate more to my experience at this particular school than the problem with Aphrodite. I choose (for reasons having to with his job as Sun god) to associate him with badly formed philosophical minds. I am no philosopher; but my moral imagination is solid enough at this point to detect really bad taste. So when an ill-advised young man fishes a copy of Hegel out of his backpack and proceeds to expound upon the wonders to be found therein; or if another individual calmly tells me that he has found a fallacy in Thomas Aquinas' argument for Natural Law that dismantles the whole thing, I generally turn away and marvel in silence at the peculiar predilection in young men to philosophical posturing. This kind of posturing causes the young men I'm thinking of to defend everything from James Joyce to Rothko to Fight Club, not because they have any rational basis on which to ground these opinions, but because they want to seem on top of things. On the topic of literature, art, or film, the examples above will elicit an immediate reaction: the head tilts back, the eyes narrow, the back straightens, the hands come together, and in an unintentionally dramatic tone of voice, the young man will say something to the effect of "Ah, yes. Genius." I don't hear much else anymore; usually my head is buried in my arms at that point. The third god Diomedes meets and then causes to flee in terror is one which I hope in particular to best in battle, although its flight is no more likely than that of profligate jocks or pretentious sophists. Ares, although once the god of war, resembles to me nothing so much as the kind of politically minded students who are intent on crafting their GPA's and extracurricular activities for purposes of resume building rather than education. I have met young men who use the rhetoric of the Western Tradition without the slightest conception of the thought or real ideals behind it. Young men who understand America and their very lives as economic functions, and who hope to plunge into the Beltway directly after college with a shiny GPA and experience as president of the College Republicans as their ticket to fame and glory. This is the kind of young man who will read Plato's Republic because it is "the done thing" and is only another brick in his path to conservative power. This kind of person reads Plato without understanding that the worthiest to lead do not wish to lead, so that if ever he has the misfortune to be placed in a position of power, he will have absolutely nothing to offer her. He will have instructed rather than educated himself; and because he has a resume instead of an intellect, he will remain a politician and never amount to a statesman. There are those who have fought these evils, to be sure. But to be Lord of the War Cry you must be good at it. In a world of livejournals, blogs, online forums, and publications innumerable, your War Cry must stand out, preferably in such a way as to drive your enemies to "thoughts of terror". My hope is that as I progress through college, graduate school, and my doctorate, I will be able to hone my writing and rhetoric so that one day I will give the kind of War Cry that will inspire and animate the apathetic and silence Aphrodite, Apollo, and Ares.


Ironing Techniques

Strangely beautiful and mesmerizing. Watching professional craftsmen do their job is something I rarely pass up. The sound is what really makes it.


Lego - The Force Unleashed

Smoothest, best-animated Lego short I've seen yet.

Analog and Digital Magnification

Look at the difference in data density between a CD and a record. A CD is a series of on/off directives, while a record has a directly analogous wave form carved into matter. See more at synthgear.


Clips from The Illusionist


Hot Pockets!

via GetJustin


Necktie Mathematics

About a week ago, I realized that I didn't know how to tie a tie. I mean, I did something to the tie when I put it on, but I'm not sure what. It ended up looking alright though. Anyhow, I decided enough was enough, so I went online to learn for myself the full range of tie knots, expecting maybe three or four. I soon discovered that two physicists, Yong Mao and Thomas Fink, had set out in 2001 to unravel a mathematical model for understanding tie knots. Based on the supposition that there are three different moves one can make with a tie (cross to the left, right or go down through the top) and the two possible directions a tie can face, they figured out that there are exactly 85 different ways to tie a tie, about a dozen of which are really aesthetically pleasing.

I take a weird delight in seeing an element of fashion reduced down to mathematical principles to be dissected. By denoting each move by a pair of letters (Li, for instance, means go to the Left, facing In) Mao and Fink are able to set out the instructions for a tie knot simply and concisely. For instance, the Windsor knot is Li Co Ri Lo Ci Ro Li Co T, which translates to:

For a full explanation, plus how to tie all 85 knots, go to Fink's homepage, or buy his book The 85 Ways to Tie a Tie (not cheap; I recommend looking for it used). If you are further intrigued, read his summary Designing Tie Knots by Random Walks, or the full paper that inspired the book, Tie Knots, Random Walks, and Topology.

(I do not endorse the ad at top in any way, other than that I think it's funny.)


Hell of Sand

A strangely addicting sandbox-type game. Play around with it to get the idea. To start out with, try making a line of "Spout" all along the top, and then a line of "Plant" all along the bottom. Wait and see what happens.

Thanks to Kate for the tip.


Visual Poetics

Some beautiful examples of typographic expression from the late 1800s and early 1900s can be found in the essay Typographic Innovation in Visual Poetry and Advertising by Vicki Litvinov. Just seeing the tricks typographer and advertisers came up with back in the days of text-only printing is stunning and inspiring.


Magazine Titles

People still say that print magazines will be dead within a decade. These people are wrong. Print magazines will be around probably forever, for the same reason that books will be. People like carefully-made, individual instances of things, even things that could be abstracted to their forms. What this will mean, of course, is that any magazine people were buying just for its content will be moved online. This has been happening for a while. On the other hand, the magazines (and books) that survive will do so with an increased attention to design and tactile beauty.

A few of the magazines that especially intrigue me are the culture magazine The Believer, the literary magazine McSweeney's Quarterly Concern, and the just-founded culinary journal Fire and Knives. This last has an amazing name, by the way. Superbly concrete and expressive. Instead of calling it Food or Kitchen, or some such, it simply names two of the most ancient and essential implements for making food. From reading the title, you know that it must concern food, but the way that it moves around the subject hints that it will be about more than just recipes. And it is. Plus, it's fun and dangerous to say. Try it. Fire and Knives. Awesome.

The Believer and McSweeney's, of course, boast catchy and memorably names as well, and are distinguished by excellent, highly varied writing and gorgeous, ever shifting covers. The Believer's cover art is done by illustrator and graphic novelist Charles Burns, and McSweeney's changes entirely with each publication. They're all certainly worth a look. I especially love that the page for ordering the first issue of Fire and Knives informs its audience that the magazine is set in Perpetua and Gill Sans. Who does that? A magazine that knows its audience.

Via Magculture

Old Spice Manmercial

Genius. Sheer sidesplitting genius. Don't smell like sunsets and baby powder. Smell like jet fighters and punching. Ad by Portland agency Weiden and Kennedy.


Most people have noticed by now that the FedEx logo has a negative space arrow tucked between the E and X. This is a neat touch, and one that would seem unique to the Roman alphabet. I was amused to notice, however, that the Arabic version of the logo also had the same symbol, going from right to left of course. I don't enough about the Arabic alphabet to know if they had to mangle the letters to get it in there, but it looks as if they did, which is too bad. It ought to be natural or not used at all. Now let's see them do it in Japanese kanji!

T-Shirt War



Out of a Forest

A magical stop-motion short by Tobias Gundorff Boesen. Music by The National - "Slow Show."


Sylvain Chomet - La Vieille Dame Et Les Pigeons

Sylvain Chomet's trademark blend of humor, absurdity, and the grotesque is in full swing in this 1998 short. The attention to detail in environment and character approaches Miyazaki.

The Mysterious Explorations of Jasper Morello

Adventure, skyships, evil scientists, Lovecraftian monsters...what more could you ask for?


Winter Solstice, Camelot Station

Here is a poem by SF master John M. Ford. It won the World Fantasy Award for short fiction in 1989. The image of Arthur in the age of rail is burned in my mind now, and the sounds of strange engines pulling into the station at Camelot amid the snow, on the longest night of the year...

Popcorn Clouds

It's hard to believe these photos aren't paintings. I only wish there were more of them, and at a higher resolution, so I could use them as my desktop background. See the photostream here.


A slick, stylish, and surreal film from the Netherlands.

Paul Dempsey - Bats

Great song, beautiful images.


Analog Music

There's something magical about vinyl records. I've begun, for the first time, to listen to classical recordings in our music room on a record player instead of CD player. I love the experience of it, the physicality of the interaction between needle and wax, the very idea of analog recording. Digital recording feels false, somehow. To take one form, (the unique vibrations in the air that make up a piece) and then to scramble it into an artificial language that needs to be reinterpreted again to be played...I feel like something is lost in between.

To be sure, playing a vinyl is not the same as listening to music live. But the process is far more unified. Every indentation on the record has a direct correspondence to a particular sound. You can see the music there, etched into the surface. It keeps the music as it should be, a physical thing, as opposed to an ethereal digital code, teeming and multiplying on the internet.

With the demise of the CD, vinyl records are making a major resurgence. Consider: people can now essentially get any piece of music they desire for free, and yet they pay good money for a record. This, I think, is to be expected. I believe that it is only when the form of a thing becomes liberated that people begin to realize that it was exactly the limitedness, the scarcity of the thing in its embodied state that gave it is value. Matter imposes restrictions on how art can be experienced, and in the long run, we prefer it that way, because the restrictions of matter are fundamental to the human experience of life.

Having music and movies in digital form on my computer makes it tempting to skip through it, listen to a snippet here, a scene there. This sort of interaction is extremely destructive to the artistic experience. It encourages, as so much technology does, an ever increasing level of ADD in daily life. Facebook is bad enough, and things like Twitter make me sick. The notion that one day you will need nothing but your computer for entertainment, and that it will simply transform itself into what ever you wish as you need it strikes me as something horrible and very non-human. One of the reasons that philosophers and the Church have fought so hard to defend the right to private property is that they realize that the appropriation of the physical world to oneself is a very natural and human action. Our clothes, our land, our houses are an extension of ourselves, and I believe that when we begin to transform our possessions into immaterial shapes, we do injury to our own nature.

There is an analogy of sorts between this and other destructive trends in our century, such as contraception. The need for convenience and immediacy above all else blinds us to the fact that inconvenience and the limited nature of our lives, both in space and time, are what give rise to our richest experiences. Try to grow a plant in a space station and it will be a monster; grow it under the constraints of gravity and it takes on form, and resonates with purpose. Or look at the way we play games; the games in which one has the fewest kinds of moves, such as Go, provide the deepest and most rewarding experience.

This is one reason why I am so in favor of liberating music, books, and such on the internet. Reason and experience have both shown that doing so will only increase the exposure and appreciation for live concerts, physical records, and the beauty of the written and printed word. In the end, however much our Platonic urge flees from the physical, our material nature takes hold.

Note: Do you want a vinyl record player/recorder that's as beautiful as it is gloriously low-tech? Look no further.


and now for something completely different

Given Ben's positively ferocious amount of recent activity, I feel as though I'm coming out of cybernetic hibernation! I am about to make a comeback; which means this blog will once again be split between fascinating offerings from the internet and long winded complaints about the various things in life that irk me. With any luck, my interruptions will not be completely irritating.

Issue of today is my run in with an articulate and polite person possessed of the most shocking opinions I've encountered in real life.

Opinion #1: Alexander VI was preferable to John Paul II in terms of damage done to the Church during stay in papal office.

It's even more ridiculous seeing it written out than hearing it in person, but this person was quite adamant...and quite sane. His argument, as far as I could tell, was that the damage done by John Paul II was of a less obvious nature than that exacted by Alexander VI. Apparently John Paul is responsible for ecumenism of an unconscionable degree (the Day of Prayer in Assisi incident), scandal (kissing the Koran), and yet more scandal (topless women at Mass in certain African countries).
Considering these two pontiffs together, it seems strange to me to disregard the fact that one gave only evidence of a debauched and deranged spirit, while the other gave every proof of holiness and divine favor. From his miraculous escape from assassination to his moving forgiveness of the man who tried to kill him, he constantly provided an example of virtue and blessedness that amazed and inspired the world.
Nor can we ever forget the tremendous role he played in toppling Communism, that most heinous of the 20th century's crimes. If that were the only contribution he gave to history, it would be enough to merit encomiums and monuments for decades to come.
Yet his most profound gift was the gift he gave of himself to Catholics around the world. He preached Christ's message in unceasing eloquence to all the nations of this world, and traveled to nearly every continent to spread the Gospel in a manner reminiscent of the original Apostles. He reached over the heads of bureaucratic bishops to reach his flock and touched the hearts of all to whom he spoke.
Administration may not have been his strength; in fact, I doubt there are many who would make that claim. He allowed other men to make appointments, send invitations, and make arrangements, which may explain the presence of Animists at the Day of Prayer. His focus was not on the liturgy, which partially explains the widespread downward trend in liturgical excellence during his pontificate.
But as little as I care for practices such as the Sign of Peace during the Mass, John Paul gave me a reason to reconsider my position on that. During his requiem Mass the world saw the Ayatollah of Iran turn round and clasp the hand of the Prime Minister of Israel. In that moment, the departed pontiff seemed powerfully present.

I do not feel that I can make a judgment concerning the kissing of the Koran. Somehow, a college student taking it upon himself to criticize a man of that stature does not sway me much. I cannot say it was the best idea, but I have never heard the Pope's reasons for taking that action.

As for topless ladies at Mass, I find that argument entirely irrelevant. Catholic missionaries never demanded European standards of modesty from the native cultures they evangelized. That's one of the reasons they were so markedly more effective than Protestant missionaries. In quite a few African cultures, that woman's attire would have been considered completely modest and appropriate. Of course, if it had happened in America, that would be a reason for outrage. But it didn't, and it should not be a cause of undue choler.

There is a consistent group of Catholics who find John Paul problematic; they tend to fall in the SSPX camp or be of that ilk. And to them I say this: You may feel confident that you have the authority to defy the Vicar of Christ, but let's take a little trip down memory lane. Remember Savanarola? Dominican Friar unpopular with complacent Christians because of his hellfire and brimstone attitude toward vice? He's a little like Lefebvre, in his "against the world" attitude. But when he was reprimanded by his Pope, he did what Lefebvre found so impossible. He bowed his head and submitted. He stopped preaching (I'm from the crowd that fully believes he only recommenced preaching because he thought the Pope had lifted the ban) and obeyed that profligate Pope, Alexander VI. Obedience can be a bitter thing, but it's what gave Christ "the name above every other name." We would do well to continue to imitate the only begotten Son of God.

Don't you think?


Bon Iver - The Wolves


The Morae River was my first introduction to the concept of artificial ecosystems, but now I keep finding more and more about it. Apparently the internet is swimming with sites dedicated to things like alternate evolution, extrapolations of dinosaur development had they not gone extinct, and just full fledged alien worlds. Of course, a great deal of these are terribly illustrated, which, it seems to me, takes the whole fun out of it. There are a couple of bright spots though. The biggest is Snaiad, an alien world with a far greater catalog of fauna than the Morae River, with stunning and often disturbing illustrations, and a laboriously worked out anatomy. More so than the Morae River, it attempts to give a consistent and rational explanation for how unique evolutionary forces guided the creatures to where they are.

Other interesting works include After Man: A Zoology of the Future, and Expedition, which features the artwork of Wayne Barlowe. Of course, Avatar also features an extensive and detailed collection of original fauna, which you can watch on the big screen.

Best Animated Short: Oscar Nominees

The fifth nominee is called Logorama, but it was a bit too R rated to post. Clever idea though.


Dear Mr. Watterson

It's been fifteen years since Calvin and Hobbes ended. Since then, there have been other decent comic strips in newspapers: Mutts, Get Fuzzy, Pearls Before Swine, but none have come close to touching the pinnacle of cartooning excellence that Calvin and Hobbes represented. That's right, Calvin and Hobbes was the best thing that has ever been printed on a comics page. It's better than Windsor McCay's Little Nemo in Slumberland, better than Walt Kelly's Pogo, and better that Georg Heriman's Krazy Kat. Bill Waterson, C&H's author, has remained reclusive, and has several times published papers or given talks on why he ended the strip after only ten years, and why he prefers to remain out of the public eye. Recently, however, he gave a short interview to the Cleavland Plain Dealer, which you can read here.

Also, watch the trailer above for the documentary Dear Mr. Watterson, a project in production on the creation and cultural impact of the work.

A great compilation of Watterson's writings can be found here, including his thoughts on Little Nemo, a review of Berke Breathed, and his now famous manifesto The Cheapening of Comics, where he tears into the current syndicate system, and presents his thesis that currently, cartooning is regressing into a more and more inane and primitive form. What Watterson could not have predicted, of course, was webcomics, which give their creators total control over their creations and unlimited space to do it in. Still, webcomics have a ways to go before they start producing really memorable work. At the moment, really exceptional series are few and far between, such as Buttercup Festival, Copper, and Rad Sechrist's Beneath the Leaves and Wooden Rivers.

The Nietzsche Family Circus

The great epochs of our life come when 
we gain the courage to rechristen our 
evil as what is best in us.

Every time you refresh it, it gives you a new random pairing of a Family Circus image and a Nietzsche quote. It's about time someone found a use for that cartoon. Try it here.



An unusual and cleverly made French animated short, made using both CG and 2D animation. Shortlisted for an Academy Award a few year ago.



For less than a thousand dollars, you can now buy a 3D printer. That's about 124,000 dollars less than they used to cost. Makerbot started putting its DIY printers up for sale last year, and have gotten so many orders that they can no longer keep up with production. So they hired out a bunch of the Makerbots they'd already sold, and had them make more Makerbots. Creepy, and awesome. They send you the kit, you put it together, feed it some plastic, load a 3D file, and the machine will make it while you watch. The makerbot phenomenon has spawned a site, Thingiverse, dedicated to open source 3D files, and a large community who are only beginning to unravel what having a machine like this will mean for the future of manufacturing. Want a new toy for your kids? Print it. Need a new lathe for your workshop? Print it. Want a sculpture of Walt Disney's head for your living room? Print it.

Cory Doctorow is, of course, all over this, and put out a new book last year titled Makers, that takes as its very premise a near future where devices like this are omnipresent. As with all Doctorow books, you can buy it on Amazon, or download the ebook for free from the link above.

Read more on this and the DIY revolution at Wired Magazine.

The Road: A Comedic Translation, and Confessions of a Book Pirate

For anyone who has read Comac McCarthy's The Road, this is a must. Thank goodness for The Millions. Great literary websites like this are nigh extinct now.

Another great article is this one, an interview with an anonymous internet book pirate. I won't get too into it now, as my anti-intellectual-property rant is currently being saved for my senior thesis, but the interview strikes many of the most important points in the issue: people who pirate the most are usually the people most in love with the medium, these people are also willing to pay for nice physical copies of the same works, these sorts people contribute more to the exposure and hence, the sales, of a work than almost any other factor, and in cases where authors and publishing companies have put their works up for free downloading, such as Cory Doctorow and the Baen Free Library, they have actually experienced increases in revenue.


Garance Doré

Wouldn't you know it? The Sartorialist has a French girlfriend, Garance Doré, who is also a fashion photographer and illustrator. Her blog, with much wonderful photography and drawings, is being translated into English here. Worth a look.


Chomet, Tati, and The Illusionist

Sylvain Chomet is the creator and director of Les Triplettes de Belleville, quite possibly the greatest western animated work of the last few decades. His next film, The Illusionist, is slated to be released this February. That is reason for excitement enough. However, the script was written by Jacques Tati, the director and star of the Hulot films, Les Vacances de M. Hulot, Mon Uncle, Playtime, and Trafic. The story takes place in Scotland, and follows an old-school stage entertainer, frustrated by how the rise of modern culture has turned the youth to rock and roll.

A plot like this is pure Tati, and Chomet is the perfect director; both Tati's and Chomet's films have a deep love for the beauty of the cinematic environment, are nearly wordless, and rely on visual gags and quiet, ironic humor for support. Since Tati stared in his own live-action films, it appears the the Illusionist will in fact be an animated version of Tati himself. I cannot express how excited I am about this.


The Invasion of America

Some scans from Time magazine in 1942, mapping out possible routes Germany might take to conquer the U.S. Although logistically ridiculous given the actual situation, the maps have all the great design and typographical sensibilities of the era, along with its wonderfully blunt attitude. What's the first thing the Nazi war machine does upon setting foot on American soil? Reunify with its fifth column legions, naturally. Good times.

The Ptak Science Book website has a host of wonderful snippets from other old books as well, including this book of advice for girls on how to snare a man, and one on date technique so as to "attach him as a permanent decoration."

Unhappy Hipsters

The octopus was full of judgment.

A short collection of clever photos, taken from modern home magazines, and juxtaposed with melancholy, Goreyesque captions. Very funny, mostly because they are so appropriate. Hipsters are a sad lot.

Unhappy Hipsters



A new short from the French animation school Gobelins L'Ecole de L'Image, which has invariably produced amazing shorts over the years. I love the Escheresque cityscape.

Two New Videos

Perfect comic timing, great story. We need more animators like this guy.

In the vein of abstract visualizations of music, this one's another keeper. Music is "Warren" by The Flashbulb.

Thanks to Tommy Welsh for the tip.


Madame Tutli-Putli

A very dark, very creepy shop motion short, by Chris Lavis and Maciek Szczerbowski, gorgeously shot and composed, filled with characters with astoundingly expressive eyes. The sense of weight and movement is superb.

The Vanishing Point

A beautiful piece of abstract video art by Takuya Hosogane. Meticulous and entrancing. The song is “LePetitPrince” by cubesato.

via ISO50



The International Society of Professional Wedding Photographers has the results of their latest photography competition up. Some truly beautiful images here. It's a revelation to some people that wedding photography can be much more than formal poses and heavily staged shots.

ISPWP Fall 2009 Competition


Hey Oscar Wilde...

A huge collection of illustrative interpretations of literary characters and authors have been showing up for years on the awesomely-named blog Hey Oscar Wilde! It's Clobberin' Time!!! Some of my favorite illustrators, such as Jeff Smith and Scott Campbell, are featured, as well as my favorite writers, such as everyone's favorite Russian novelist, Dostoevsky.



Jason Brubaker, an illustrator at Dreamworks, has been showing off his art and graphic novel skills at his blog recently. It includes tips on creating a graphic novel of one's own, and a page-by-page release of his current project, reMIND. Unlike most webcomic artists, this guy can draw, and the story, which features lighthouse operator Sonja and her cat Victuals, is shaping up to be an intriguing read. I especially like the environments. They feel like a place somewhere between a Myst age and the planet Hillys from Beyond Good and Evil.


This Is Where We Live

I'm liking this trend of paper animation...

The Morae River

The Morae River is an invented ecological system devised by Brynn Metheney. Beautifully illustrated, with even the flora and fauna's scientific classifications worked out, this is one of the best examples of non-narrative world building I've seen. Metheney can count on me to buy her book when it comes out.

Metheney's sketchblog

Wes Anderson's Acceptance Speech

Fantastic Mr. Fox? Great movie. Wes Anderson's acceptance speech? Just as awesome.


Fleet Foxes

What a life I lead when the sun breaks free
As a giant torn from the clouds
What a life indeed when that ancient seed
Is a berry watered and plowed

Christopher Alexander

Christopher Alexander is someone I discovered this fall, and whose books I cannot stop reading. The one I've read the most of, "A Pattern Language," is remarkable, revolutionary and entirely beautiful. It deals with, as most of Alexander's books do, the forming of living human environments, from the regional level, to the city, neighborhood, building, house, and room levels. It forced me to rethink how buildings ought to be made, and expressed in clear, methodical language why it is that certain houses and urban environments feel so "right," human, or whole.

His philosophy is deeply refreshing in its careful and disciplined insistence that the flourishing of human life and community ought to be at the very heart of architecture and urban planning. This might seem like a truism, but it is very much contested among modern architects and planners, as can easily be seen from modern architecture. In fact, I was startled at how closely related the ideals set out in A Pattern Language corresponded to the distributive ideal in Catholic circles. Government at a local level, an emphasis on small communities with strong cultures, the necessity of the integration of all ages of life together, the preservation of sacred places, the notion that families ought to grow food and not become alienated from their's all there, not as a utopian dream, but an ideal that can be gradually worked towards. The book is a wonder; almost every chapter (there are some 250 of them) makes one exclaim "Yes! Exactly!" as well as providing insights I'd never heard of.

Perhaps the best way to get a handle on Alexander is to read this debate between himself and Peter Eisenman, a modernist-deconstrictivist, who openly admits that Alexander's theory of architecture infuriates him. Keep in mind, that for the most part it is people like Eisenman who are in charge of providing the theory that underlies most "relevant" architecture done in the western world today.

Alexander: I don't fully follow what you're saying. It never occurred to me that someone could so explicitly reject the core experience of something like Chartres [Cathedral]. It's very interesting to have this conversation. If this weren't a public situation, I'd be tempted to get into this on a psychiatric level. I'm actually quite serious about this. What I'm saying is that I understand how one could be very panicked by these kinds of feelings. Actually, it's been my impression that a large part of the history of modern architecture has been a kind of panicked withdrawal from these kinds of feelings, which have governed the formation of buildings over the last 2000 years or so.

Why that panicked withdrawal occurred, I'm still trying to find out. It's not clear to me. But I've never heard somebody say, until a few moments ago, someone say explicitly: "Yes, I find that stuff freaky. I don't like to deal with feelings. I like to deal with ideas." Then, of course, what follows is very clear. You would like the Palladio building; you would not be particularly happy with Chartres, and so forth. And Mies ... 

Eisenman: The panicked withdrawal of the alienated self was dealt with in Modernism -- which was concerned with the alienation of the self from the collective.

Eisenman repeats several times that architecture's purpose is to express the state of modern man: his alienation, fragmentation, etc. He finds it inappropriate to make architecture that serves man's basic nature, needs, and feelings, because, I suppose, that's just not where the world spirit is right now. It's like listening to Lucifer calmly describing the building code in Hell.

Read samples from Alexander's books below