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Archive for January, 2013

Poem: This Week’s Snow

This Week’s Snow

It buried all beneath a
blanket of little white lies,
each flake guilty of
momentarily erasing
all our broken truths – a
cracked road, a crumbled
wall, the spill of yesterday’s
life from an up-turned bin –
and in communion with
the great pretence of
all things clean and new.


And even as we danced like
mad and, with joy, like children,
made our own untruths – to
stay away and steal a day –
we knew our feet would scuff
and press and churn to ruin,
that brightest white would
turn to grey and, once more,
with sudden chill, we recalled
the lies we tell, how snow is
never liquid paper for the soul.

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There’s something amusingly patronising about the way this cat handles its owner, determined to make the point that it rather wishes to be left alone. You can just imagine what’s going through its mind. Jim Davis’s Garfield probably captures it…

images

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Poem: A Drunk Lover Of Words

The Drunk Lover Of Words

 

I should write, in this fug of

alcohol and dreams and snow,

with words like ripe cherries

waiting to be plucked and eaten,

sweet and sour and stony-hearted.

 

This should be my Ulysses, my Emma,

my Don Quixote, my Scoop, my

Lolita, my Lucky Jim, my Austerlitz,

my Clarissa, my Catch-22, my Nausea, my

Jane Eyre, my Heart of Darkness.

 

I should write, in this haze of

bravura and need and dust,

with words like rare jewels

yearning to be shaped and polished,

bright and hard and beautiful.

 

This should be my Entirely, my Howl,

my Dover Beach, my V, my

Still I Rise, my Life Is Fine, my Brown Penny,

my America, my Dream Deferred, my Romance, my

Always, my Deaths and Entrances.

 

I will write, in this riot

of caffeine and lust and night,

with words like cut arrows

aching to be nocked and loosed,

straight and true and hitting home.

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Street artists have a unique eye for taking things that most of us walk past, or regard as ugly or broken, and making them into something very different. Funny, surreal, thought-provoking and sometimes just beautiful, there is a tremendous variety of street art out there around the world.

It can provoke passionate discussion, with some dismissing it as merely an excuse for graffiti. Somehow, though, I think it is more than that, saying something about the urban areas in which we live, and giving value back to things that have lost their value and (sometimes purpose) through decay, damage and vandalism.

One of my favourites is OakoAk, described on his own website as a “French artist who likes to play with urban elements”. His work is simpler than some, often eschewing perspective illusions and instead going for the comic,  occasionally tugging a heart-string.

Here’s a selection of some of his most recent, courtesy of Bored Panda:

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“Electronic junk narrows our life space…”

Maxim Kamanin

Sometimes it feels like Hollywood is running to catch up with real life. And sometimes, real life seems even less believable than Hollywood’s penchant for technological exaggeration.

From the middle of nowhere comes an invention that might just revolutionise the way we interact with technology – in pretty much every way. Maxim Kamanin, a youngster from a remote village in southern Russia, is the inventor of a new form of display that may eliminate the need for computer screens entirely, freeing us up to work far more creatively with technology.

Displair literally puts digital images into the air, creating fully penetrable 3D images which can be viewed and manipulated. It is completely astonishing – like something out of Star Trek. It uses a cloud-inspired technology (and not cloud as it is usually thought of in computer tech terms) which somehow remains remarkably stable across varying temperatures. The Displair wiki entry goes into more detail.

From artists, architects and designers, to teachers, surgeons and inventors, the creative ways in which it could be used are immense.

The web-film site Focus Forward Films has a video of this astonishing invention in operation:

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A Commute Diverted

We shoved and shuffled

in this brighter morning,

blue skies and sun

belying warmth,

cloudy breath and

huddled shiver an

overture to our opera

of epithets and sighs:

a tragi-comic Tannhäuser,

on West Ham’s platform stage.

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Old Pictures Prompted By A Morning’s Frost

A sepia dawn reveals

a two-tone world,

surrendering colour to

frost’s brush,

reminding us of

long ago, of men in

hats with scythes

and Threshing Bees.


A cruel cold heralds

a quiet kill,

testifying intent with

frost’s knife,

reminding us of

long ago, of men in

helms with guns

and Yellow Legs.

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I stumbled across this video on the Internet. There’s something strangely hypnotic about the way these ants work – and bearing in mind their size it seems all quite incredible.

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It may sound like Day of the Triffids in reverse, but it might just be that mushrooms are about to save the planet.

Bloomberg Business Week reports on the work of Eben Bayer and Gavin McIntyre and the innovative work on plastic substitutes that they have been doing with mushroom fibres:

It starts with a mash of corn stalks and vegetable husks impregnated with mushroom spores. The fungus eats the plant nutrients, then grows a complex root network that fills the shapes of the molds. The final product is a foam that looks something like a big wafer of nougat candy. It is placed in an oven to stop the spores from growing and to give the material the proper texture, hardness, and elasticity.

“The products literally grow themselves. In the dark. With little to no human contact,” says McIntyre. Each mold can be treated to create a material with different qualities. Home insulation must be fire-retardant and energy efficient; cabinets have to be sturdy; a car dashboard or bumper has to be strong but with give.”

And to get rid of it?

Simply throw it on the compost heap and it is gone in weeks.

The reason this is so important?

Polystyrene.

Polystyrene is non-biodegradable and so takes hundreds of years to disappear. The blowing agents that are used to expand it can be highly flammable. Some versions of it are made with hydrofluorocarbons that are over a thousand times more potent in terms of global warming potential than carbon dioxide. It is also regularly excluded from recycling services as it is uneconomical to collect and compact (due to its lack of density versus the space it occupies).

The company behind the mushroom fibre revolution, Ecovative Design, has just signed a deal with the packaging behemoth Sealed Air, the company responsible for Bubble Wrap and Cryovac. Both Dell and Steelcase are already using the material for packaging and it promises a biodegradable revolution in how we ship stuff.

I wonder if this is something that the impressive Centre for Process Innovation should pick up here in the UK? They are the increasingly impressive outfit based in Redcar. In their own words:

“CPI helps companies to prove and scale up processes to manufacture new products and create more sustainable, efficient and economic industries of the future.”

There is some real talent out there in the British economy, particularly in the emerging green and high-tech industries. A UK angle on this would help boost manufacturing, jobs and the wider economy, whilst at the same time helping to tackle the huge waste problem there is with packaging.

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Spending day in and day out behind a desk in the centre of London, it is easy to forget what an extraordinary, strange and beautiful place the world is.

in 2000, miners in Mexico, two brothers, were excavating a new tunnel in Naica, Mexico when they stumbled across what is perhaps one of the most beautifully strange places on Earth – the Cave of the Crystals. At first glance, as this great piece on the website Earth says, it wouldn’t look out place on Superman’s Planet Krypton.

Built on an ancient fault line, the cave’s space had once been filled with water, rich in minerals, that had been heated by magma and that maintained a stable temperature for nearly half a million years, allowing gigantic crystals to form.

Since 2000, several other chambers have been found, filled with these crystals, and now accessible due to the mining company constantly keeping the water pumped out.

Looking at this, it makes me wonder what we might find in the earth beneath our feet.

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