Yearly Archives: 2009

The Splinter

NC State industrial design grad student, Joe Harmon is building a car by hand. Not just any car. A sports car that can reach 240 MPH. Not just any 700 HP, 240 MPH sports car. A 700 HP, 240 MPH sports car made almost entirely of wood. The body? Wood. The dash? Wood. The seats? Well, they’re wicker. The wheels? Oh, they’re wood too. The suspension? Yes, it’s wood too.

Because he wants strength, but also a reduced weight (wood has a higher strength-to-weight ratio than steel or aluminum), he is creating the body out of custom made plywood that consists of layers of eighth inch wide cherry veneer strips that are then weaved together, and glued on top of a weaved birch veneer, a core of balsa wood, and then another woven layer of birch. The panels are then vacuumed formed into shape, using the same technique that’s used for carbon-fiber composites. All told, about 30 species of wood are used to make up the car.

According to the last update, which was about a year ago, the outer shell was complete, but the internal components such as the V8 Cadillac Northstar engine and six speed Corvette transmission were yet to be installed. However, the car has drawn industrial sponsors like Delta/Porter-Cable, and has been making the rounds at different car shows.

Thanks Dad!

Amen Brother

If you’re like me, you probably never heard of the “Amen Break,” but you have heard it. It’s inescapable, as this documentary points out. While the origins and the spread of the “Amen Break” is interesting, what really sets this apart, is the turn it takes around the 13 minute mark. The narrator, Nate Harrison, examines the legal situation surrounding the “Amen Break,” since it has become quite a lucrative six seconds of audio.

The other thing struck me about this video was the simple visual of the turning record. Watching it evokes thoughts of The Replacements’ “Bastards of Young” video.

Obey Levi’s

Perhaps Maynard James Keenan would have would take issue with me, but if there was any doubt that Shepard Fairey has sold out, Levi’s hired Fairey to develop a clothing line, complete with a paste up at Times Square, should remove all doubt. The art? Obey Giant in the shape of a jeans pocket, and previously work (“Stay Up Girl” 2004 (Plate 196 in “Supply and Demand”, “Obey Factory” 2000 (Plate 201 ibid), and two others) defaced with Levi’s Giant and Levi’s new slogan, “Go Forth.”

Granted the guy has to pay the bills, and he’s done commercial work before, but there seems like a line is crossed when you’re repurposing your own work for a marketing campaign, especially when your art is has a very strong anti-conformity, anti-establisment, anti-commerical bent to it. Then to top it off, you write:

One of my main concepts with the [“This is Your God” show in 2003 at the Six Space Gallery in Los Angeles] (and the campaign as a whole) was that obedience is the most valuable currency. People rarely consider how much power they sacrifice by blindly following a self-serving corporation’s marketing agenda, and how their spending habits reflect the direction i which they choose to transfer power.

At least the irony of the situation isn’t lost on one of us.

Synthetic Plants

I’ve been thinking more about solar plants recently. I like how these projects combine both form and function. I’ve been thinking about what I’d like in one of these, and how one would be made. First, the power being collected by the solar cells needs to go somewhere. It could just feed back into the device, which is exactly what happens with plants, but part of me likes the idea of having the sculpture(?) have a practical use as well. If I want practicality, then USB ports for charging an iPod or a phone that I don’t have would be nice. At least one port, but four would be more than plenty. I’m leaning towards the solar cells charging some li-ion or nicad battery coupled with something like a Minty Boost.

The second feature I’ve been hammering the previous electronic plants I’ve looked at is the movement, specifically heliotropism (i.e. sun tracking). It’s an interesting feature, and it would increase the power to the photovoltaics. I don’t like the idea of the hearing servos move, so that means nitinol wires, which also have the quality of more closely resembling natural motion by simply expanding and contracting. The next question then becomes, what form would the motion would take?

If rigid photovoltaics are used, then panel could be mounted to a universal joint with the two outside corners independently controlled by nitinol. The other idea is to use flexible photovoltaics and hopefully no hinges and joints.

Another interesting idea is to think about deployable structures, which would seem to imply the use of flexible photovoltaics. It’s not exactly the heliotropism I was thinking of, but it would be cool if the “leaves” opened up in the day, tracked the light, and then closed at night.

Doing all of this nitinol might be kind of difficult. Heating nitinol causes it to contract in the 3 – 5 % range, doesn’t seem like much. This also means that for a deployable structure, it needs to collapse when the wires are extended,

Will I actually build this? Probably not, but it is something I’ve been thinking about. Perhaps it would give me an excuse to visit Noisebridge.

Living Light

Taking a commission from Seoul’s City Gallery Project, The Living created Living Light, a vaguely forest-like structure that features a map of Seoul across the canopy. Each of the 27 panels in the canopy represents a particular neighborhood in the city. At night, each panel is illuminated based on air quality data as measured by various sensors throughout the city. Every 15 minutes, the panels turn on in the order of best quality to the worst.

The Great Jonny Quest Documentary

One of my favorite animated series of all time is the original 1960’s Jonny Quest. Not the bullshit 80’s “New Adventures.” Not the overly PC 90’s “Real Adventures.” It’s good ol’ guys-with-guns, jet packs, and a body count 60’s version, or nothing. Today we’d call it atompunk, but I prefer the Venture Brother‘s term “super science”. What really sets the original show apart from anything at the time, or since, is Doug Wildey‘s artwork. Wildey was a comic book artist, and transferred that stylized realistic style to the screen, where it worked fabulously.

Classic Quest fan, Chris Webber, found a posted a documentary about the origins and production of the 60’s show. I haven’t finished watching it, but from I’ve seen it’s a great piece of animation scholarship.

The film is available on YouTube in 20+ parts (first of which is after the jump), as a download from as 108(!) RapidShare downloads from Chris Webber’s site,
and as an excruciatingly slow torrent. (Guess which one I recommend?)

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Football Hero

Make highlights Phil Clandillon and Steve Milbourne of Sony Music UK, latest project Football Hero. (Behind the scenes video after the jump.) Football Hero is a a copy of the open source clone of Guitar Hero, Frets on Fire, and series of pressure sensors. Soccer players kick balls against the sensors in time with the music.

Yeah, it’s a viral video to promote Kasabian’s new single, but this is pretty cool.

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Number Stations

Besides jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge, one of my other unquenchable fascinations is number stations. Why? They’re terribly creepy. Then you learn they’re for honest to god spies.

If you’re not familiar with number stations, they’re shortwave radio stations that regularly broadcast literally cryptic sequences of numbers or letters. Triangulation indicates that some of these stations are typically located on air force bases and other military installations around the world. The number sequences are believed to be one-time-pad messages sending instructions to clandestine agents somewhere in the world. By using shortwave, not only can you broadcast halfway around the world, but building a receiver in-situ is very easy.

When I listen to recordings of these stations, with all the pops, whistles, distortions, and the mechanized voice repeating cryptic sequences I get unsettled. I don’t know why. It’s just bizarre.