Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The Eye of the Beholder

Nina Simon at Museum 2.0 continues to serve up great insights about art, business, commerce, and marketing. This week, she asks: "What kinds of environments support focus, appreciation, and epiphany?"

Bravo without pity

Bravo finds TV fans where they already are by acquiring the venerable and ultra snarky blog site Television Without Pity.

(I'm a bit late in blogging this, but thought I'd share just the same. Bravo has been doing some really interesting things lately to make its on-line/on-air experiences as sticky as possible.)

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Digg's favorite HDR photographer

I met Trey Ratcliff at the Virtual Worlds 2007 conference in NYC last month, and have been drooling over his stunning photographs from around the world.

Also check out the interview on his site Stuck in Customs where he talks about his technique:

"HDR brings the phi ratio [the 'golden ratio'] to colors and luminosity rather than to geometry and angles. Humans use their neocortex to patch together a visual scene. People do not take a 'photograph' in their head and store it at a single shutter speed, aperture, etc. On the scene, the human eye is constantly darting around and the iris lets in more light in some areas and less light in others. This “patchwork quilt” is made up of very different light levels and colors. These most beautiful scenes have colors that lay on top of the geometric patterns that traipse up and down the spectrum in a phi pattern. I’m slowing evolving my HDR process to nail those phi patterns within color and luminosity to bring a visceral reaction of beauty from the viewer."

Monday, April 09, 2007

An etymology of company names

Check out Wired for the short version, Wikipedia for the long version.


Apple — For the favourite fruit of co-founder Steve Jobs and/or for the time he worked at an apple orchard, and to distance itself from the cold, unapproachable, complicated imagery created by other computer companies at the time — which had names such as IBM, DEC, Cincom and Tesseract

Wipro — from Western India Vegetable Products Limited. The company started as a modest Vanaspati and laundry soap producer and is now also an IT services giant.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

New feature

Some of you may have noticed that a few weeks ago I launched a new feature. In the right-hand margin, there is now a list of "Shared Articles" courtesy of Google Reader. This is basically a list of recent articles about which I have little to say, other than: these are neat, you should check them out.

The design is a little clunky for now, but I assume that Google will improve that over time.

Beauty and truth

I also just finished Style: The Basics of Clarity and Grace, a handy little manual from Joseph M. Williams.

Williams swiftly covers some useful strategies for cleaning up bad writing, then ends unexpectedly with a chapter on "The Ethics of Prose." The highlight of the chapter, and the book overall, is Williams' analysis of Lincoln's second inaugural address. The passage is too long to excerpt here, but like David Levitin taking on "Ode to Joy", Williams is expert in figuring out what makes things tick, and finding the hidden blueprints for beauty.

The science of a human obsession

I just finished reading Daniel Levitin's book This is Your Brain on Music, an exploration of the neuroscience of music-making and music-listening. The book is filled with interesting case studies, and compelling explanations of what makes certain musical experiences tickling, addictive, or irritating:

"Music theorists have identified a principle called gap fill; in a sequence of tones, if a melody makes a large leap, either up or down, the next note should change direction... In 'Somewhere Over the Rainbow,' the melody begins with one of the largest leaps we've ever experienced in a lifetime of music listening: an octave. This is a strong scehmatic violation, and so the composer rewards and soothes us by bringing the melody back toward home again, but not by too much—he does come down, but only by one scale degree—because he wants to continue to build tension..."

"[In Beethoven's Ninth Symphony ('Ode to Joy')], the main melodic theme is simply the notes of the scale... But Beethoven makes it interesting by violating our expectations. He starts on a strange note and ends on a strange note. He starts on the third degree of the scale (as he did on the 'Pathetique' Sonata), rather than the root, and then goes up in a stepwise fashion, then turns around and comes down again. When he gets to the root—the most stable tone—rather than staying there he comes up again, up to the note we started on, then back down so that we think and we expect he will hit the root again, but he doesn't; he stays right there on
re, the second scale degree. The piece needs to resolve to the root, but Beethoven keeps us hanging there, where we least expect to be. He then runs the entire motif again, and only on the second time through does he meet our expectations. But now, that expectation is more interesting because of the ambiguity: We wonder if, like Lucy waiting for Charlie Brown, he will pull the football of resolution away from us at the last minute."