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Monday, September 28, 2009


  sunset sky from West Oakland by A.E. Graves, September 2009This is an image on my iPhone photo blog from my BART ride home this evening... (The reflections of the interior of the train overlay the clouds.) It conveys my mood, in its own way.


posted by Arlene (Beth)11:38 PM

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Fresh turmeric root

  I love living in San Francisco. I love it, I love it, I love it.

Also amusing: watching the stock guy in the grocery store staring at me in disbelief as I delicately put rolls of bean curd sheet into a bag with tongs. I've never struck awe into anyone by buying a soybean product before. Who knew that my nostalgia for my freshman year best friends' grandparents' soup would inspire me to buy a product that would so surprise a stranger.

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posted by Arlene (Beth)9:08 PM

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

I [heart] the Warning Label Generator

  godzilla warning labelThe Warning Label Generator at is my favorite thing on the web right now. Probably because I am a silly person. But the labels are EXCELLENT.

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posted by Arlene (Beth)9:30 PM

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Parody news source over the pond

  The Daily Mash ('It's News To Us') ( is one of the UK's answers to the Onion ( So, if you've been hoping for an Onion that makes fun of the royal family, or has articles with titles like "ONLY WAY TO SAVE BLACKPOOL TOURISM IS TO DESTROY REST OF UK, SAY EXPERTS," you should click on the link above.

My favorite item there recently: The Daily Mash - MICROSOFT OFFERS STUDENTS CUT-PRICE INFURIATING CRAP:
The company said the operating system will be ready to download from 22 October and after clicking through all the user agreements and restarting your system 85 times it should be ready to install unsuccessfully by Christmas.
Since I haven't linked to the Onion for at least a paragraph, let me also note the excellence of the following: Melting Ice Caps Expose Hundreds Of Secret Arctic Lairs (, 9/18/2009) and this awesome cover of the Onion Weekender (, 9/20/2009).

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posted by Arlene (Beth)10:00 PM

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Novel uses for butter in suicide prevention

  China 'covers suicide bridge in butter' (, found at The headline is an accurate summary: the bridge requires some climbing to jump off, and by making the bridge slippery, climbing - and everything that comes after - is prevented.

My favorite part of one quote:
...we put up special fences and notices asking people not to commit suicide here.
Note to officials: that only works for unusually law-abiding suicidal citizens.

I have to admit: I suspect Crisco, which is much more difficult to wash off dishes than butter, would have done a better job. But this may be part of my pro-vegan bias.


posted by Arlene (Beth)10:07 PM

Monday, September 14, 2009

New film from Joerg Steineck

  Filmmaker Joerg Steineck has a new film out! It's a documentary about a Swedish rock band. See the rockin' preview here: Truckfighters (


Watching this preview and hearing the band speak make me think about creative mental disorientation that can occur when you try to operate in the ordinary, working world. Massive Attack, who have a new album coming out after nearly a decade, remarked on this recently in Massive Attack: 'Phantom funk? Who said that?' | Music | The Guardian (, 9/10/09). After explaining that MA has NOT been procrastinating, but have recorded more than three albums' worth of material that they have rejected, the article continues:
After touring an album, you have this strange void that follows it, where you feel slightly displaced, like you've just finished with the circus and you've got to find a new job.
I can't easily imagine transitioning from the circus to an office job, but that's the point: it's not a natural transition.

In Truckfighters, there is a similar sentiment expressed by the band: they emerge from immersing themselves in music, and find that everyone else is living in a different mental world, a Matrix-like coma of ordinariness.

I'm sure this has happened to you in other contexts. You've returned from vacation, and have trouble accepting your daily working life. You return from the wilderness, and can't comprehend how you live in such a noisy, crowded city. You finish a good book, and you feel changed, but everything else was frozen in time while you were reading, and failed to change with you. Creativity can be as immersive as a vacation or a great book, and it can be hard to transition back. It's fun to read about that happening to others.

Watch the trailer!

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posted by Arlene (Beth)10:00 PM

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Birdie bandwidth

  You know you are spoiled. Every time you complain about how a movie isn't playing properly on your phone, you know it. Here is a reminder of what the high tech life is like in the rest of the world: BBC NEWS | Africa | SA pigeon 'faster than broadband' (, 9/10/09):
A Durban IT company pitted an 11-month-old bird armed with a 4GB memory stick against the ADSL service from the country's biggest web firm, Telkom.

Winston the pigeon took two hours to carry the data 60 miles - in the same time the ADSL had sent 4% of the data.
Pigeons shouldn't carry DVDs to you, so don't get any funny ideas.


posted by Arlene (Beth)10:00 PM

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

23,000 labor hours, 4 cranes, and a lot of fire

  cloudy day photo of metal sculpture from Crude Awakening, West OaklandOne of the fun features of my bike ride through West Oakland is a pair of two massive, metal sculptures that were once shown at Burning Man (, the spectacular desert festival held annually in Nevada. (See cloudy day phone photo at left.) These sorts of giant sculptures, plus intricate temples and all manner of other fabulous, gorgeous, interesting installations that appear around the Bay Area during the summer months, represent the large-scale creativity that had made Burning Man conceptually amazing to me.

I can be impressed by really big art, and I'm not afraid to admit it.

I love the temples built by David Best (especially The Temple of Honor and the Temple of Joy (see also this Temple of Joy interior view) all at, The Waffle (seen here as a gigapan panorama at, the Man (of course), and Black Rock City itself.

Yes, Black Rock City. The logistics of setting up the 7th or 10th largest city in Nevada, a city of 50,000 or so people on a temporary basis, are quite stunning. And to do so in a way that looks this cool in a satellite image is a major feat. Here, I'm adding a link to a NASA satellite image of Black Rock City which links to a larger version at Wikipedia. NASA image of Black Rock City from Wikipedia Commons (I [heart] Wikipedia.)

Strangely, my fascination with these large projects may be the reason I have NOT been to Burning Man. It seems like the most fun way to participate would be to work on a BIG project that is already planned out, and I don't have friends who work on this sort of thing (or, if they do, they've been keeping their work secret). I've received lots of abstract encouragement to attend, but no invitations to wild sketching & stitching sessions to build massive, self-supporting tensile structures to shelter a camp of crazed, costumed, tensile structure designers and vegan chefs who dance non-stop to downtempo electronica and provide first aid and vegan cookies to random passersby (<-- my fantasy first BM experience). This {excuse} has allowed me to avoid the near-impossible struggle to actually get a week off before Labor Day to participate, though the struggle would be worth it.

Speaking of projects completely beyond my abilities, I want to share a link to Headless Point: Crude Awakening 2007 (, the massive project that the West Oakland metal men belong to. 180 people invested 23,000 labor hours to make this project go. 5,000 pounds of explosives, 400 gallons of jet fuel, 300 gallons of gasoline, 1600 gallons of propane, and 64 tons of steel (61 of that salvaged) were used in this project and its flaming finale. WATCH THE VIDEO. Yes, it took four cranes to raise the model oil derrick. Yes, I got a bad case of crane envy just watching.

This page provides interesting environmental comparisons about the impact of the fuel and materials they used against what you consume in your daily life. (When was the last time you thought about how much fuel the plane used to carry you to your vacation destination? Or the amount of fuel used to ship the items in your house from where they were made to the store where you got them? There are questions people will ask about art that they will never ask about the things they choose to do every day.)

It's satisfying to see the story behind these sculptures, and to know where they were made (in another building I bike past), and how they were hauled out to the desert, lifted into place with cranes operated by professional operators, rigged with explosives by pyrotechnicians, and viewed by thousands of people.

Collaboration produces some incredible results!

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posted by Arlene (Beth)8:55 PM

Monday, September 07, 2009

Economics with a side of fries

  You know how I am about food, so it's no surprise that I like analogies about food. In How Did Economists Get It So Wrong? by Paul Krugman (, there is a great parable that uses an analogy about ketchup. Admittedly, ketchup isn't central to the point of the example, but I like it anyway.
Finance economists rarely asked the seemingly obvious (though not easily answered) question of whether asset prices made sense given real-world fundamentals like earnings. Instead, they asked only whether asset prices made sense given other asset prices. Larry Summers, now the top economic adviser in the Obama administration, once mocked finance professors with a parable about “ketchup economists” who “have shown that two-quart bottles of ketchup invariably sell for exactly twice as much as one-quart bottles of ketchup,” and conclude from this that the ketchup market is perfectly efficient.
The article is good overall beyond the reference to tomato sauces: it's a discussion of two major rival economic theories, one of which insists that the market always balances itself out (which, under current circumstances, involves some wild rationalizations for our current lousy situation), and another that says that the market sometimes needs help.

It's amusing to read about economists who think that unemployment is 100% voluntary, and was even during the Great Depression, until you realize that some people listen to their advice.

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posted by Arlene (Beth)10:00 PM

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Watch the Bay Bridge Labor Day weekend construction through web stills

  Of course there is a webcam on the Bay Bridge at Treasure Island ( Yes, someone should really wipe the exhaust soot off of it.

Yes, it is wild to see the bridge with only construction vehicles on it.

I was a little stunned when a local paper reminded me this morning that the bridge hasn't been closed this long since the Loma Prieta earthquake 20 years ago. (TWENTY YEARS AGO!?!?!?! [scream])


posted by Arlene (Beth)9:36 AM

Friday, September 04, 2009

The most adorable sleeping squid you have ever seen

  Look at this. Look at it! Awwww!!! Do squids dream of swimming sheep? on Flickr - Photo Sharing!

Possibly even cuter: the sketches she (Justina Kochansky) submitted to the Black Pebble Arts Foundation with her grant application to create and install this work at Balsa Man ( (scroll down near the bottom of the page).

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posted by Arlene (Beth)10:15 PM

Labor Day Weekend: BART all night

  Not that I don't already spend too much time on BART, but if YOUR weekend adventures keep you out later than Cinderella during the Bay Bridge closure, do not fret: BART - BART runs all night during the Labor Day weekend Bay Bridge closure:
BART runs all night during the Labor Day weekend Bay Bridge closure
Trains run overnight every hour to 14 stations September 4th - September 7th.
Not that cars-turned-into-pumpkins are ever a bad thing, but those won't be celebrated properly until October.


posted by Arlene (Beth)8:57 PM

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Moby has a blog

  You likely know this. I get notifications of various sorts from him in Facebook - where in London he is DJing, where in New York he will drop by, all very glam stuff - but hadn't looked at the blog directly for a while.

His blog is fun, and reflects his ongoing concerns about the health of the planet. Of course! Here is an excerpt: just arrived in sweden. |
it's a concert to draw attention to and benefit the european union's climate change initiative. which i'm happy to talk about as long as no one minds me mentioning that 24% of climate change is the result of animal production (according to a united nations report a few years ago).

i asked al gore about why he didn't mention this in an 'inconvenient truth' (as animal production is responsible for more greenhouse gases than every car, bus, truck, bus, plane, boat on the planet COMBINED). he answered honestly, basically saying that getting people to drive a hybrid car isn't that difficult. getting people to give up animal products is almost impossible.
Right now you are likely thinking one of two things: either, 'golly, moby is not a fan of capitalization' or 'this really complicates my justifications for more of my heavily polluting lifestyle choices.' In both cases, you are correct!

In ten minutes, only one of these topics will be on your mind. Yes, you'll be ranting to someone about crimes against capitalization.

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posted by Arlene (Beth)10:00 PM

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Technology advice from journalists, hand puppets, or both

  Compare and contrast: A Review of Apple’s Snow Leopard by Walter Mossberg at (


A review of Snow Leopard by puppet Walt Mossberg, 'the only technology journalist in the world' (shut up) (

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posted by Arlene (Beth)10:00 PM

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Art versus Authority

  I had thought my note about comment about a playwright being on a wartime death list was a quirky one-off, but the topic about artists threatening authority, foreign or domestic, just came up again. SFMOMA | OPEN SPACE - Blog Archive - A Dangerous Spectre Lurks Amongst Us: Paul Clipson presents Subversive Documentaries discusses dangerously political films:
Buñuel brings the full corrosive force of his Surrealist vision into documentary terrain, subtly lampooning the conventions of a genre then only in its nascency. Financed by anarchists, this work’s potential contribution to Spain’s on-going turmoil was recognized, and was very much not appreciated. Banned for two years by the Republican government, it earned Buñuel a warrant by the right-wing Nationalists (fortunately never served) for him to be immediately escorted to Generalissimo Franco were he to be captured.
Again, this is vaguely flattering to film. And yes, contrary to what you think anarchists are or were, they can get together to finance an art film. They should probably do that more often! Maybe you'd know they aren't actually all Caucasian suburban boys in black jeans. (Though I suspect the idea that you believe that is what anarchists are amuses them.)

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posted by Arlene (Beth)10:00 PM

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