Protective Coloration

Like a zebra or tiger, this garbage can’s “disruptive coloration” stripes allow it to blend in with its environment . . . at least during the time of day that afternoon sun pours into the Grohmann Museum via its four-story atrium, casting shadows like long fingers stretching into the galleries.

I had to look up “protective coloration” to make sure it was the correct term, and it was, although “disruptive” is more accurate. Both are forms of camouflage, which itself is a word with an interesting etymology.

And here’s an interesting related/unrelated tidbit: as I was doing a quick run through Google to find the right term, I came across a book called African Game Trails: An Account of the African Wanderings of an American Hunter-Naturalist.

Did you catch the author’s name? Theodore Roosevelt? In March 1909, shortly after leaving the Presidency, Roosevelt made an extended visit to Africa to “collect specimens” (I’m not sure what kind, although as you can see from the book’s cover, he also shot at least one elephant) for the Smithsonian.

Very interesting! I’m putting this book on my “to read” list.

(I wonder what the world would have to say if a modern-day former President were to put out a book with a similar cover? 🙂 )

Posted in architecture, Books and reading, Milwaukee, Photography | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

“Notorious” Associations

The old Duran Duran song “Notorious” was playing at the Red Arrow Starbucks (and outside at the ice rink, as well) when I made a coffee run earlier this afternoon.

You know how music—like smells—can instantly transport you to another place or time? Do you ever also have movie associations with a song?

(Aside: Last week I posted some Quincy Jones music videos, and the last one in the post, “Soul Bossa Nova,” was one my younger daughter identified immediately as “perfect for a Quentin Tarrantino movie,” although I don’t think it ever has been used in one. Speaking of Quentin Tarrantino’s stamp on music, if you’ve seen Reservoir Dogs, can you ever again hear “Stuck in the Middle with You” without chills running up your spine?)

There are a couple of songs that I can never hear again without thinking of Donnie Darko, a really weird 2001 movie with an incredibly talented (and famous) cast. One is “Mad World,” and the other is “Notorious.” I can’t say a whole lot more about that last song’s appearance in the film that you can’t divine yourself by watching the video below. So inappropriate, and so strange to see how proud the parents are of their daughters’ performances. Not surprisingly this is a dance routine destined for “Star Search,”  that downmarket 1980s version of “American Idol” hosted by Ed McMahon.

One more thing to add as long as we’re talking about Donnie Darko: I think this was Patrick Swayze’s finest performance ever. In my opinion, he deserved an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor—or at the very least a nomination—for his portrayal of creepy motivational speaker Jim Cunningham. Just sayin’ 🙂

Posted in Movies and film, Music, Popular culture | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Unleashing the potential of VR (virtual reality)

Virtual reality (VR) is going to shape itself into an art form that is quite different from contemporary cinema. We can’t really predict yet how things will turn out, although my bet is that movies as we know them are here to stay. It would be very difficult with VR to replicate the kind of storytelling experience made possible with editing and sound design and musical scoring. Whereas VR follows a viewer’s conscious choices, cinema allows that viewer instead to sit back and be enveloped in a story with layers of meaning created via the synergistic artistic choices of the filmmaking team.

I just read an article in Co.Design this week, though, that hints at VR’s truly awesome potential for a non-entertainment future. The article summarizes the technology’s use in a Nazi war-crimes trial recently, in which the VR team constructed a virtual reality model of Auschwitz, using original blueprints and photographs, because so much of the camp, including the crematoria, had been destroyed. Think of what a video game looks like; that’s basically what jurors and forensic experts were able to navigate in order to experience what a Nazi guard would have seen and felt during World War II. When one former guard was put on trial in Germany recently and tried to claim lack of knowledge about what was happening in the concentration camp, jurors got to see for themselves (virtually) the same things he saw. And what they saw was enough to convince them he was guilty.

The article also contains a 17-minute embedded video demonstrating contemporary use of VR for forensic analysis and crime-scene reconstruction. For example, you could create a 3-D picture of bullet trajectories, or you could walk through the crime scene and look closely for clues that might have been missed initially.

German authorities plan to use the VR model of Auschwitz to try around 30 additional suspected war criminals. After all the trials are finished—and this is the part of the article that most interested me—the VR model will be donated to museums and schools.

If virtual reality can preserve the history of this place in a way that brings it so frighteningly to life, maybe humanity stands a chance of avoiding a repeat performance.

(See “How VR Is Helping Convict Nazis in Court,” by Jesus Diaz, published in Co.Design January 10, 2018.)

Posted in History, Learning, Life, Movies and film, News, Popular culture, Teaching, Technology | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Feel It Still” — Looking back from Portugal. The Man to Quincy Jones

Love, love, love this fabulous song, “Feel It Still,” by Portugal. The Man.

Especially the brass! It reminds me of the even more fabulous Quincy Jones jazz sound of the 1960s. Which inspires me to post a few of my faves here, because why not? 🙂

 

Posted in Music | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Lines Through Blinds

Or should that be “Blinds Through Lines”? Back to work at Milwaukee School of Engineering after a two-week break. I realized this morning that I take a lot of pictures from this window. It’s right next to the printer/copier in our department’s main office, so I tend to stand there looking outside while my copies run or I’m waiting for my printout.

Today I was watching some construction workers (not pictured) doing some kind of work right at the edge of an open/missing window of an office being remodeled. As I watched, all of a sudden it struck me how cool all the lines were: from the horizontal blinds on my office’s window to all the lines of that office building, including the reflected lines of yet another building.

So that’s today’s post, just a low-resolution close-up taken by my iPhone 5c, not even the 5s, which had a better camera but which I never in a million thought I’d ever need or care about. This morning one of my colleagues showed me some photos she took of her dog with her new iPhone X. Wow! Really beautiful. Now I’ve decided it’s time for an upgrade, even though I don’t really need a new phone and have no better reason than getting my hands on that camera😄

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More interesting stuff about pigeons and people

After my post on dovecotes ran a few days ago, my friend, colleague, and fellow blogger Sally Cissna published a really fascinating blog post about the relationship between humans and pigeons a century ago. Her post contains several old newspaper articles about how to raise pigeons for food and as a commercial “product,” how pigeons were used by fishermen in New England, how pigeons were used by the military, especially in late-1800s Germany, and how they were used almost as a form of texting back in the day. Read on for some really intriguing insights, especially if you’re a history buff.

via Pigeons and People 1880-1910

Posted in Food, History, Popular culture, Technology | Tagged , , , , , | 7 Comments

Cool Google Docs “Insert Symbol” Feature

I was just working on something in Google Docs and needed to insert a letter “a” with a circumflex. I clicked on “insert symbol” and searched for “a,” but none of the options were what I needed. Then I noticed that there was a box where you could use your finger to draw the symbol you needed. (I’m working on a tablet; wouldn’t work with an older computer.)

Well, worth a try, I thought.

Definitely worth a try! Look what I got when I drew a picture of what I was looking for. Thanks, Google!

Posted in Creativity, Grammar, punctuation, usage, mechanics, Learning, Technology, Writing, blogging | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments