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August 22, 2006

Big Science comes to Dairy Queen

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Look at the beautiful

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graphics above and below.

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What do you see?

Could be from the Scientific American.

But they're not.

I was as gobsmacked as you might be when, exploring the nature and makeup of Dairy Queen's Mocha MooLatte for my post of August 8 on my favorite commercials, I bumped into this page.

It contains everything you might ever want or need to know about Dairy Queen's Frozen Hot Chocolate.

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Sweet.

August 22, 2006 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

World's Skinniest Wallet

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It's called "The Big Skinny."

That makes sense.

Above, two wallets each containing the same number of cards and bills.

Guess which one is "The Big Skinny?"

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Wow — you're really smart.

I can't believe you waste your time here at this bozo site.

Mysteries never cease.

But I digress.

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From the website:

    The Skinniest, Sleekest, Strongest, Sexiest Wallet in the World

    • "Made from the advanced microfiber material that Prada made famous"

    • Multiple extra-wide pockets allow filling without overfilling

    • Clear window pocket for fast thumb access to picture ID

    • Designed to hold 20 credit cards plus cash

    • Measures 1/8" thin x 4.25"L x 3.1" W

    • Sophisticated design

    • Easier on your back

....................

In (from the top down) Tuxedo Black, Navy Blue or Desert Khaki.

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Skinny price, too: $19.95.

[via Stewart K from Hawaii — "Aloha" back at ya, bro!]

August 22, 2006 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Comedy College: 'I got an hourglass figure, but it's later than you think' — Minnie Pearl

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Above, the joke that adorns the Comedy College website.

I laughed, but I don't understand why it's funny.

'Course, that's not unusual here.

But I digress.

This is the internet home of all manner of funny things.

"It's about the comedy. It's about the unedited presentation of complete works: full episodes of old radio shows, entire live stage performances, and uninterrupted improvisational sketches and scripted routines."

That ought to keep you amused for a while.

August 22, 2006 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Cool Design in the Back-to-School Space

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From Mead, the school-supply company, come these very stylish notebooks.

The pinky one ($5) is from their Earth 2 Jane line and features a transforming binder that, with its handles deployed, becomes a funky purse.

The other's got big fat elastic straps to put stuff under.

It's called the Lax and costs $2-$4, depending on size.

Both are said to be available at Rite-Aid stores everywhere, according to Holly E. Thomas and Michelle Thomas's "Sunday Shopper" feature in the August 20 Washington Post.

The crack research team couldn't find an online trace of either one, which is why I'm sending you out on a rare foray into the real world.

Sorry about that.

August 22, 2006 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

flickr tribute

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Yesterday I received a mysterious email directing me to a page on flickr.

I went there and espied what you see above, created by one Typoid Mary.

It's clearly a nod at my post of August 4 about the leaning spokesman of Progressive — aka Kenny Mayne of ESPN (thanks to Josh for the ID) — and his listing carriage (below).

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I wonder how many other similar things exist in cyberspace, the virtual equivalent of dark matter and energy, quietly waiting for their moment to emerge from their cocoons as beautiful buttterflies.

August 22, 2006 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Lemon and Lime Savers

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From the website:

    Lemon and Lime Savers

    Airtight Keeper is Sized Just Right to Preserve Juicy Flavor!

    Slice a wedge or two for iced tea drinks and summer refreshers without wasting the rest.

    Plastic 4" tall storage container identifies zesty contents in the fridge!

....................

I am reminded of a catchy jingle from back in the day in L.A., to wit:

    You won't get a lemon
    From Toyota of Orange

$3.99 apiece or get the pair for $6.99, right here (lemon and/or lime not included).

August 22, 2006 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

The Mozart Machine

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In last Thursday's Wall Street Journal Stuart Isacoff wrote about a novel fusion of Mozart and computers entitled "Enlightenment."

Long story short: A group of digital artists known as the OpenEnded Group "... deconstructed the five-themed fugue at the end of Mozart's 'Jupiter' Symphony... and created an artificial intelligence program that reassembles the fugue's complex structure from scratch."

As it does so, visual images of the computers' successive refinements and reiterations appear on 10 high-resolution video screens in Lincoln Center's Avery Fisher Hall (New York City) while 10 independent sound systems, representing 10 sections of a symphony orchestra, each produce their respective parts.

Isacoff found the 20-minute spectacle (once complete, it starts again from scratch) stunningly beautiful and a source of wonderment.

Here's the article.

    The Mozart Machine

    In a bare room deep within the bowels of Lincoln Center, electronic panels, tentacles of streaming cables and the cold light of video monitors provide a stark ambiance for the team of digital artists known as the OpenEnded Group. They arrived at this temporary lodging at the beginning of April, and though their pace has been fervent, when we first meet in early July they are not quite ready for a looming deadline — an outdoor installation for this summer's Mostly Mozart Festival entitled "Enlightenment."

    The group — Marc Downie, Paul Kaiser and Shelley Eshkar — has worked at Lincoln Center before, having collaborated with choreographer Trisha Brown last year in a piece for which they developed computer-generated "creatures" that learned to move across the stage by predicting the positions of the dancers. That project embodied many of the artistic concerns that drive their newest creation.

    "We are interested in representing, through computer imagery, the thought process that goes into grasping the world," says Mr. Kaiser. "But to do so, we have to challenge some common ideas. Computers seem to work so instantaneously that we usually miss the mistakes, the approximations and the strategies that occur when they are engaged in problem solving. What we are after is to give a sense of the actual struggle, of what it's like to 'feel' one's way into a solution."

    "Enlightenment" is their most ambitious venture to date. At the suggestion of Louis Langrée, Mostly Mozart's music director, they have deconstructed the five-themed fugue at the end of Mozart's "Jupiter" Symphony -- one of that composer's most complex achievements -- and created an artificial intelligence program that reassembles the fugue's complex structure from scratch.

    Ten high-resolution video screens and independent sound systems, mounted in the colonnade of Avery Fisher Hall, represent 10 sections of the orchestra. The complete Mozart score, though imbedded deep in the circuitry of "Enlightenment," is kept from the individual computers that make up the installation, explains Mr. Downie. "They get to ask only indirect questions: 'Are these notes likely to appear? How about these intervals? Does this passage yield the correct harmony in the context of what the other computers are producing?'" In response, they are told how "hot" or "cold" they are on their path to building the elements of the "Jupiter" fugue. "Thus the individual computers, which begin with random guesses, get better at figuring out the solution as they go along."

    As these separate "instrumental sections" go about their tasks (a process that takes about 20 minutes), images and sounds display the program's progress. And when the journey is complete, all 10 join together to play the 30 seconds of music that encompass one of the classical era's most intricate moments — after which they erase their data and begin all over again. "Enlightenment" finds artistic expression through the journey it undergoes in searching for the blueprint of Mozart's fugue. Although the 30-second conclusion is always the same, the path to reach it never is.

    A short preview is enough to convince an observer that this approach can yield stunningly beautiful results. Scattered tones and disembodied fragments grow into stuttering shards of melody as the computers gather musical pitches in a hit-and-miss process, then discover themes, and finally meld the strands together into a seamless whole. The graphic images — from undulating bands of color and rotating geometrical figures to animated line sketches of musicians in action (imagine a Disney short subject with art direction by Paul Klee) — are thoroughly enticing. As they shift and change shape to signal the unfolding of the program's stages, it is easy to succumb to the idea that this is a living, thinking thing.

    Mr. Langrée's suggestion turned out to be an ideal springboard for creating a contemporary response to Mozart's work. "It gave us an opportunity to recast the past in a new light," says Mr. Kaiser. "Think about how quickly the world moves now, and how many clichés we have about Mozart's time, with its quill pens and such. Yet this music is so complex, it contains more information per second than most of what is written today. That's why it takes a long time to reconstruct it. Its very complexity forces us to re-evaluate our ideas about our respective times."

    The intricacy that Mr. Kaiser values in this music by Mozart is also what has attracted centuries of composers to the writing of fugues, a musical technique in which a melody is first introduced in one voice, then imitated in another, and so on, with the entrances timed so that the statements overlap in a complex, often dense texture. (The popular nursery song "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" is special, strict type of fugue known as a canon.) Mozart began collecting fugues by the greatest master of the form, J.S. Bach, in the early 1780s. He found them astounding, and they continue to fascinate us today.

    Keyboardist and composer Anthony Newman, who teaches the art of fugal writing at Purchase College of the State University of New York, says that the procedure for creating one is often mathematical. "When I map one out I know that the initial subject, or musical theme, for example, will occur so many times, taking so many bars," he explains. "Mozart said he planned pieces in his head, but I'm sure he carefully worked out the number of entrances of each subject, and of the combinational material." Such formal procedures would seem to place the minds of composers and of computers on a similar plane. The danger, of course, is in believing there is no difference. Perish the thought, says Mr. Kaiser. "Our point is not to recreate the mind of a composer. We don't want people to think we are producing pseudo-Mozart. We are offering a contemporary perspective on his genius."

    The commission for "Enlightenment" began rather serendipitously. In the summer of 2004 Jane Moss, Mostly Mozart's artistic director, was walking across the Lincoln Center plaza, she says, when she suddenly became aware of the sounds of frogs. It was a sound installation promoting the Lincoln Center production of Stephen Sondheim's adaptation of Aristophanes' "The Frogs." "It made me think that it would be wonderful to have some kind of outdoor installation for the Mostly Mozart Festival," she says.

    It was a good idea. At the opening of the exhibit last month, when the night sky was filled with occasional lightning streaks and the threat of rain hung heavily in the air, a crowd of enthusiastic onlookers took in the show. Since that moment, walking the Lincoln Center plaza has become an artistic experience. Better still, it is now possible, even on the streets of New York, to find 20 minutes of solace, immersing oneself in a world of color, sound and imagination.

    But only until the installation closes.

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The installation runs through next Sunday, August 27, but might be extended due to popular demand.

August 22, 2006 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

'Super Bowl XL Opus' — At $40,000 it's the world's most expensive new sports book

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It's also the biggest, measuring 24"W x 24"L x 5.5"D and weighing in at 90 pounds.

The 950-page coffee-table-size limited-edition book (above), which comes in a silk-encased box, is signed by every living Super Bowl M.V.P.

How do you spell "collectible?"

Not up to spending $40,000 for a book?

Can you go $4,000?

That'll get you the very same book, minus the autographs but containing all 2,000 pictures, many never before published.

Interestingly, when Richard Sandomir wrote about the book back on January 17 of this year, each signed copy was projected to cost $25,000.

Stuff happens.

Order yours here.

[via the August 20 New York Times "Play" magazine supplement]

August 22, 2006 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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