Things 72: Art

Flaubert: “Art is born of restraint and dies of freedom”

Dorothy Gambrell (Cat and Girl): “Great stuff is usually made within very set boundaries […] the importance of a medium lies in its limitations.” (link)

Antony Gormley: “A lot of public art is gunge, an excuse which says, ‘we’re terribly sorry to have built this senseless glass and steel tower but here is this 20-foot bronze cat'”

Kanji that transform into the animal they represent. A brilliant example of art within tight boundaries.

See the rest of the series here (although beware potentially NSFW imagery at the bottom of the page, after the polls, depending on what they have posted recently).

Here’s a really amazing example of art vs limitations: using only the ramblings of a reluctant drunk man for the audio, make a video about the story of a historical figure. Somehow, moderately famous actors are involved in the project. The result is fascinating (although does contain moments of the more unpleasant consequences of drunkenness):
Drunk History – Nicola Tesla

Putting captions on pictures of cats is an emerging art form I have been monitoring for some time. I previously put together my top 10 cats from 2007 and 2008; here, belatedly, are my top 10 cat images spotted in the first half of 2009.

Roger Ebert asserts that “Video games can never be art” Why is he wrong?
(See these posts on Penny Arcade for context and their own responses).

Last week’s Puzzle
Last week I asked what would be the best thing I could buy that would maximise hours saved per pound spent. This produced a wide range of responses, largely depending on which assumptions people chose to question.

  • Yasmin suggests Red Bull (and similar) to save time by needing less sleep.
  • Alam suggests a clone of myself
  • Xuan suggests slaves and a washing machine.
  • Angela suggests two books that could improve one’s efficiency and so save time – The Miracle of Mindfulness and Making Time. (Funnily enough I already own the latter… but I haven’t found time to read it yet).
  • John suggests grated cheese.
  • Phil points out anything free that saves any time would maximise the metric, such as DropBox. This technically lies outside the “buy” requirement. He also suggests a combi-microwave and a smartphone, and then finally a device to prevent time-wasting by cutting off internet access between certain hours.
  • Simon specifically attempted to address the “I” part of the question by recommending an iPad as being a particularly good purchase for me, by switching to digital goods (music, movies, comics, books); “Imagine all that time not wasted, going to shops, ordering physical products online and searching for things you can’t find.” I don’t exactly agree, but that’s a huge discussion for another time.

Finally, Laurence suggests a Time Machine, and insightfully adds:

The inevitable complexity of all the proposed solutions reminds me of
the following quote:

“If you want to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first create
the universe.”
– Carl Sagan

I had planned to make simple estimates for the “hours saved per pound spent” for each answer and declare a winner, but due to the range and complexity of answers this now falls out of the remit of Things and will instead be posted over on my analytical blog, Tower of the Octopus (which now has its own domain) once I find time to make such estimates.


Things 71: Stadium Destruction, Book Length, Time for Money

I first posted one of Immersive Media look-around-as-you-play-it videos in Things 62 (not yet on the blog). I like this one even more, because it achieves something artistically that a static video can’t.

I’m interested in the way form influences content. As part of a longer series explaining what actually goes on between someone writing a book and someone else buying it, Charlie Stross explains why books are the length they are.

You can’t buy time (and I note that the world would actually be pretty scary if you could), but you can spend money on things that save you time. In terms of maximising hours saved per pound spent, what would be the best thing I could buy?

Monsters are distilled fears. New fears demand new monsters. So here’s some Google Monsters, courtesy of Super Punch:


Things 5: Maze, Look Around You, Cats

(Originally sent December 2007)

Special Christmas bumper edition! Kind of.

Next week’s film:
I’m going to see I Am Legend some time after Christmas. Mainly because I have a strange obsession with films about being the last man on earth. I think it might be a metaphorical way to deal with one’s own mortality.
Imdb rating:   7.7/10
Rotten Tomatoes rating: 62%


Prognosis:  It’s a big-budget last-man-on-earth film! And he has a dog! I don’t see how this can go wrong.

A Puzzle:
The image below is an incredibly elegant non-abelian maze. It should be pretty self-explanatory. (Click to view printable size).

Answer to last week’s puzzle:
Half way.

A Quote:
My favourite quote of this year is one I overheard on IRC:
[13:22] <ChocoJon> just being nice
[13:22] <ChocoJon> is there something wrong with that?
[13:22] <Norgg> Yes.
[13:22] <Norgg> Nice people killed my parents.

A Link:
I was trying to work out what would be the ultimate link for the Christmas bumper version of this thing, and then I realised it was probably my own meta-site, from where you can find all things that are cool according to me – comics art and videos I’ve made, photobucket with every image I’ve ever needed to share with someone on a forum, and my geocities site with everything I thought that the net needed to know in 1999.

A video:
Look Around You, episode 1: Maths. Episodes of this series are only about 9 minutes long. The first two at least are well worth seeing.

A picture:
For a Christmas bonanza of image fun, I’ve put together my 10 favourite cat-caption pictures from 2007, starting with the cat that inspired the most popular blog on wordpress, I Can Has Cheezburger. You can see them here.