Sunday, March 31, 2013

Happy Easter!

Happy Easter and happy spring renewal to all! Easter developed from the Old English word Ēastre or Ēostre, derived from the Anglo-Saxon Pagan month of Eostur-monath (which roughly corresponds to our month of April). This month was named after the goddess Ēostre or Ostara who symbolized the dawn, spring, renewal, and rebirth of the earth after the long winter.

Now we celebrate by decorating eggs, a symbol of birth and fertility and new growth, and with chocolate rabbits, also a symbol of spring.

When I was little, I always loved Easter time because my grandmother would have vases of daffodils and lilies around the house. And my aunt hollowed out eggs, cut a window in the side of the shell, and painstakingly assembled pastoral scenes inside using miniature trees and flowers, and tiny ceramic rabbits. But the best part was the Easter Bunny who came to deliver beautifully dyed and decorated eggs in a basket full of chocolate and treats (like the kind pictured below in the vintage ad for Brach's candy...I just love Easter kitsch)--my mom and dad would guide me through the house to where the Easter Bunny hid my basket!

I hope the Easter Bunny brought you some treats to celebrate the rebirth of the world!

Easter Crime

"Which one stole your corn feed? Take your time. Be sure."

Friday, March 29, 2013

"So Good To Me" by Chris Malinchak

Come on, now how cute is this...?

Record of the Day says that "So Good To Me" (featuring a sample from "If This World Were Mine" by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell) by 26-year-old New York deep house producer Chris Malinchak is fast shaping up to be the soundtrack of the summer. What a warm, joyful tune for warm, joyful days.

BEAUTY: Ceramics--Dirk Staschke

The food-centric work of ceramicist Dirk Staschke is multi-layered: beautiful but full of meaning.

On his website, Staschke says:
"In the studio I arrange shape and form, creating opportunities for light and shadow (and perhaps wealth). These arrangements are informed by the mundane ritual of eating that is long celebrated in ceramics. Unlike the potter whose empty dishes present an opportunity, my settings come prearranged as opulent, inedible meals that are simultaneously beautiful and disgusting. In this process, sustenance becomes merely a concept forever locked in its sculptural form and eating becomes a metaphor for excessive material consumption.

Like an extravagant meal, the arrangements we make to further our desires can come with painful unintended consequences. My recent body of work explores notions of gluttony and cultural excess."

Top to bottom: Bounty; Swan Song; Consuming Allegory; Propagation; Confectional Facade; Wishing Well, Knowing Otherwise; Cataclysm

BEAUTY: Photography--Molly Strohl

Photographer Molly Strohl may be only 19 years old, but she exhibits a talent beyond her years. Her marvelous sense of narrative creates some compelling situations for her unwitting subjects.

BEAUTY: Photography--Julien Mauve

Parisian photographer Julien Mauve's series "After Lights Out" imagines an eerie world of perpetual darkness. I have often had the daydream of "what if we lived on a planet that was always night, what would that look like?" but the answer I am sure would be that we would have adapted to the dark and would not need light at all. Mauve's dark world sees a lone light source as a beacon of comfort and hope...something longed for but elusive. The images are haunting... especially the one with a light burning inside a crypt (sixth image down).


This reminds me of the David Cronenberg film "eXistenZ"...

This incredible piece of scientific news yesterday comes from Stanford School of Medicine. The possibilities are mind-boggling.

Biological transistor enables computing within living cells, study says

When Charles Babbage prototyped the first computing machine in the 19th century, he imagined using mechanical gears and latches to control information. ENIAC, the first modern computer developed in the 1940s, used vacuum tubes and electricity. Today, computers use transistors made from highly engineered semiconducting materials to carry out their logical operations.

And now a team of Stanford University bioengineers has taken computing beyond mechanics and electronics into the living realm of biology. In a paper published March 28 in Science, the team details a biological transistor made from genetic material — DNA and RNA — in place of gears or electrons. The team calls its biological transistor the “transcriptor."

“Transcriptors are the key component behind amplifying genetic logic — akin to the transistor and electronics,” said Jerome Bonnet, PhD, a postdoctoral scholar in bioengineering and the paper’s lead author.

The creation of the transcriptor allows engineers to compute inside living cells to record, for instance, when cells have been exposed to certain external stimuli or environmental factors, or even to turn on and off cell reproduction as needed.

“Biological computers can be used to study and reprogram living systems, monitor environments and improve cellular therapeutics,” said Drew Endy, PhD, assistant professor of bioengineering and the paper’s senior author.

In electronics, a transistor controls the flow of electrons along a circuit. Similarly, in biologics, a transcriptor controls the flow of a specific protein, RNA polymerase, as it travels along a strand of DNA.

“We have repurposed a group of natural proteins, called integrases, to realize digital control over the flow of RNA polymerase along DNA, which in turn allowed us to engineer amplifying genetic logic,” said Endy.

Using transcriptors, the team has created what are known in electrical engineering as logic gates that can derive true-false answers to virtually any biochemical question that might be posed within a cell.

They refer to their transcriptor-based logic gates as “Boolean Integrase Logic,” or “BIL gates” for short.

Transcriptor-based gates alone do not constitute a computer, but they are the third and final component of a biological computer that could operate within individual living cells.

Despite their outward differences, all modern computers, from ENIAC to Apple, share three basic functions: storing, transmitting and performing logical operations on information.

Last year, Endy and his team made news in delivering the other two core components of a fully functional genetic computer. The first was a type of rewritable digital data storage within DNA. They also developed a mechanism for transmitting genetic information from cell to cell, a sort of biological Internet.

It all adds up to creating a computer inside a living cell.

Digital logic is often referred to as “Boolean logic,” after George Boole, the mathematician who proposed the system in 1854. Today, Boolean logic typically takes the form of 1s and 0s within a computer. Answer true, gate open; answer false, gate closed. Open. Closed. On. Off. 1. 0. It’s that basic. But it turns out that with just these simple tools and ways of thinking you can accomplish quite a lot.

“AND” and “OR” are just two of the most basic Boolean logic gates. An “AND” gate, for instance, is “true” when both of its inputs are true — when “a” and “b” are true. An “OR” gate, on the other hand, is true when either or both of its inputs are true.

In a biological setting, the possibilities for logic are as limitless as in electronics, Bonnet explained. “You could test whether a given cell had been exposed to any number of external stimuli — the presence of glucose and caffeine, for instance. BIL gates would allow you to make that determination and to store that information so you could easily identify those which had been exposed and which had not,” he said.

By the same token, you could tell the cell to start or stop reproducing if certain factors were present. And, by coupling BIL gates with the team’s biological Internet, it is possible to communicate genetic information from cell to cell to orchestrate the behavior of a group of cells.

“The potential applications are limited only by the imagination of the researcher,” said co-author Monica Ortiz, a PhD candidate in bioengineering who demonstrated autonomous cell-to-cell communication of DNA encoding various BIL gates.

To create transcriptors and logic gates, the team used carefully calibrated combinations of enzymes — the integrases mentioned earlier — that control the flow of RNA polymerase along strands of DNA. If this were electronics, DNA is the wire and RNA polymerase is the electron.

“The choice of enzymes is important,” Bonnet said. “We have been careful to select enzymes that function in bacteria, fungi, plants and animals, so that bio-computers can be engineered within a variety of organisms.”

On the technical side, the transcriptor achieves a key similarity between the biological transistor and its semiconducting cousin: signal amplification.

With transcriptors, a very small change in the expression of an integrase can create a very large change in the expression of any two other genes.

To understand the importance of amplification, consider that the transistor was first conceived as a way to replace expensive, inefficient and unreliable vacuum tubes in the amplification of telephone signals for transcontinental phone calls. Electrical signals traveling along wires get weaker the farther they travel, but if you put an amplifier every so often along the way, you can relay the signal across a great distance. The same would hold in biological systems as signals get transmitted among a group of cells.

“It is a concept similar to transistor radios,” said Pakpoom Subsoontorn, a PhD candidate in bioengineering and co-author of the study who developed theoretical models to predict the behavior of BIL gates. “Relatively weak radio waves traveling through the air can get amplified into sound.”

To bring the age of the biological computer to a much speedier reality, Endy and his team have contributed all of BIL gates to the public domain so that others can immediately harness and improve upon the tools.

“Most of biotechnology has not yet been imagined, let alone made true. By freely sharing important basic tools everyone can work better together,” Bonnet said.

The research was funded by the National Science Foundation and the Townshend Lamarre Foundation.

Information about Stanford’s Department of Bioengineering, which also supported the work, is available at The department is jointly operated by the School of Engineering and the School of Medicine.

Original story at Stanford Medicine website:

Thursday, March 28, 2013

How To Feel Better...

Woodkid: WOW!

French video director-turned recording artist Woodkid (Yoann Lemoine) makes robust, powerful music. These two debut videos, "Iron" and "Run Boy Run," directed by him are simply thrilling! The second one picks up where the first one leaves off...

Sunday, March 24, 2013

BEAUTY: Interior--Kelly Wearstler

Once again, interior designer Kelly Wearstler shows her talent and genius, this time in a spacious Bel Air home. Present are some of her signature pieces designed by her, as well as her passion for unique lighting, and vintage pieces spanning the Art Deco 20s to the abstract 60s. She is heavily featuring brass, which is making a very strong comeback in interior design, as well as her love for pietra dura or inlaid marble, and strong geometrics like stripes and pyramid shapes. I really like the Jean de Merry chandelier over the Pedro Friedeburg table in the entryway, and the gold and brass kitchen, but I especially love the very long sconces in the living room which were salvaged from a Roman cinema. Click on each one of these images and drink in her heady creativity.

Photos via Architectural Digest

Saturday, March 23, 2013

"The Maybe" by Tilda Swinton at MoMA

The Gothamist reports:

As if starring in David Bowie music videos wasn't already the coolest, Tilda Swinton has currently taken up residency sleeping at MoMA. It's part of an unannounced, surprise performance piece called "The Maybe" that will be taking place on random days all year. A MoMA source told us, "Museum staff doesn't know she's coming until the day of, but she's here today. She'll be there the whole day. All that's in the box is cushions and a water jug."

"Tilda Swinton will be doing unannounced, random performance art pieces sleeping in a glass box in the museum," the source added. "Today [March 23, 2013] is the first performance. Each performance lasts the whole day the museum is open." Swinton and her box are located near the ticket collectors today, but the box may be in different locations at other performances.

"The Maybe" was first performed in London in 1995 at the Serpentine Gallery; Swinton conceived the performance piece, and asked artist Cornelia Parker to collaborate on the installation. Swinton later re-performed the piece in the Museo Barracco in Rome. Here's what the museum has to say about the piece: "An integral part of The Maybe's incarnation at MoMA in 2013 is that there is no published schedule for its appearance, no artist's statement released, no museum statement beyond this brief context, no public profile or image issued. Those who find it chance upon it for themselves, live and in real—shared—time: now we see it, now we don't."

via The Gotahmist

Friday, March 22, 2013

BEAUTY: Sculpture--Aron Demetz

Italian artist Aron Demetz has always worked with the human figure. His classical yet somehow minimal people have been rendered in bronze, in wood covered with pine resin, and now, in his latest series, distressed wood. But the distressing occurs only in certain areas, wearing away the torso, or back, or face of a figure. The results are compellingly tactile as well as disturbing, appearing as if a fungus is taking over a body. The shredded, organic grain of the wood is brought out but we are not used to seeing a person torn open, suggesting fragility and the layers of psychological states we all have under our "surface."

I was originally going to post only these photos of his distressed wood figures but after I went to Demetz' website, I became enamored of an installation he did several months ago (September 2012) as part of the 13th International Architecture Exhibition of the Venice Biennale. Called "La credenza della memoria" or "the belief of memory," this fascinating installation was in the famed Caffe Florian, off the San Marco Piazza in Venice. Demetz built a replica of their original Chinese Room from 1858, and carbonized the entire space with a blow torch. Installed over the real Chinese Room, the blackened space references the meditation process, whereby an individual, in order to find one's own spirit, starts in chaos or darkness but moves toward light. The fire burns and purifies, and from this primordial place comes light and color. I love his addition of new-growth blossoms coming out of the charred ceiling and walls.

It all reminds me of Maarten Baas' "Where There's Smoke" chair which receives the same charring technique but then receives a tough, heavy layer of acrylic, sealing in the damage. Marvelous!