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June 21, 2010

BehindTheMedspeak: 3D in the OR


Long story from the June 17, 2010 Economist short: On June 10 at the Royal Surrey County Hospital in Guildford, England, Dr. Iain Jourdan performed the world's first-ever laparascopic surgical procedure using three-dimensional imaging.

The article follows.


In "Avatar," a film that has enjoyed a certain modest success at the box office recently, 3D technology brought blue-skinned extraterrestrials to life. On June 10th, a similar innovation helped improve life on Earth when Iain Jourdan, a surgeon at the Royal Surrey County Hospital, in Guildford, England, donned polarising glasses to perform the first-ever laparoscopic surgery assisted by three-dimensional imaging.

The procedure he performed, a routine gall-bladder removal, is typically done by incising a slit in the patient’s navel, through which a tiny camera is inserted. Guided by the resulting video feed, the surgeon wields long-handled tools to excavate the gall bladder from its neighbouring organs before removing it though the slit. Until now, however, that video has been in two dimensions. Anyone who has tried threading a needle with one eye shut will understand that this is not ideal.

Past attempts to design a 3D display for use in the operating theatre have not worked. One prototype, a stereoscopic helmet worn by the surgeon, left users seasick after only a few minutes. The new system, manufactured by Solid-Look, a firm based in New York, abandons such missteps in favour of technology originally developed for the entertainment industry: 3D glasses and a specially modified television screen.

During the surgery, a camera sends back two live video feeds taken from slightly different angles, as it surveys the abdominal cavity from within. The signals are polarised in opposite directions, and the resulting images displayed as alternating rows of pixels on a high-definition television screen. The polarising lenses of the glasses filter these images, meaning each eye sees only one of them. The brain then adds them together as if they were natural, to create the impression of depth, as well as width and height.

The resulting vista of receding cavities and organic bulges allows for more accurate cutting and stitching. The first gall bladder removed by Mr Jourdan using the new system was extracted in 30 minutes, less than the normal average.

3D thus looks as though it could be poised for a dramatic future. And with the laparoscopic-device market valued at more than $5 billion a year, the new technology could soon be a medical, as well as cinematic, blockbuster.

June 21, 2010 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack



A fascinating 1983 movie starring, among others, Natalie Wood, whose still-mysterious death on November 29, 1981 occurred during filming.

The film — in which scientists create a machine that records and then plays back simultaneously all sensory experiences from and to the brain — was completed after her death and recut to allow use of the scenes she'd already completed.

Watch the trailer below.

You could do worse for $7.99.

June 21, 2010 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

"For me, poems are almost the only reality." — Anselm Kiefer


Who knew that one of the world's greatest artists believes that painting is "unable to reach the metaphysical realms of poetry," as described in Rachel Spence's penetrating May 22, 2010 Financial Times review of the protean artist's new show; the FT piece follows.

Above, from the show: "The Order of Angels" (2010; paint, clay, ash and charcoal on board with iron, resin, ferns, and cotton and linen dresses; 280 x 140 cm [110" x 55"]).


Anselm Kiefer's Latest Paintings

“They are not paintings,” said Mark Rothko of his late work. By then, the American was exhausted after decades dedicated to rendering the “single tragic idea” that, he believed, animated human existence. Yet his judgment was not the obliterating self-criticism it appears. Rather, he felt that finally he had transcended his chosen medium to reach the heights of expression attained by literature and music.

Rothko’s comment is brought to mind by the latest work from Anselm Kiefer. On show at the Lorcan O’Neill Gallery, Rome, the nine canvases and two sculptures are so drenched in allusion to literary sources it is as if the texts themselves – from classical and Teutonic myth to modern German poetry by way of the Torah and the Kabbalah – had been unscrolled across the walls.

Kiefer’s love affair with text puts him at risk of valuing his ideas over their execution, a trap into which many of his contemporary peers have fallen calamitously. Yet the artist who recently said “For me, poems are almost the only reality” knows, as Rothko did, that only painstaking manual labour will permit him to express his own lyrical vision.

The urge to build was planted in Kiefer’s childhood, when his parents gave him bricks to play with because toys were non-existent in Donaueschingen, the German town where he was born in 1945. Although his earliest works were photographs of himself miming the Nazi salute, from the 1970s onwards his oeuvre has been animated by a materiality so visceral it hovers on the compulsive. Laden with paint, glass, straw, lead, ash, plant matter, earth, concrete and rusting metal, the intolerable physical burden that characterises Kiefer’s landscapes has been art’s most eloquent response to the last century’s most ineffable horror.

Yet recently, Kiefer has leavened his bleakness with fragile seeds of hope. In Aperiatur Terra (White Cube, 2007) he sewed his signature rubble-scarred terrritories with splashes of brilliant poppy-like colour. His 2006 "Palm Sunday" installation – now in the Tate Modern collection – is a trope for resurrection as well as suffering.

His latest work pursues this voyage between redemption and despair. The show’s title, The Order of Angels [top], suggests a world where divine intercession is possible. Yet the images themselves are poignant reminders that God’s celestial messengers were never invulnerable.

The structure of the paintings is simple: at the bottom of each tall, narrow canvas, a rough, cracked, crater-like pyramid of clay evokes a terrestrial land that dissolves upwards into an ethereal void of paint – in black, cement-grey or brick-pink – stained and spattered with pigment, ash, soil and, in the case of “Danae”, a shower of gold. Climbed by ferns, roots and, in a painting entitled “Jacob’s Dream”, ceramic ladders, these formless, infinite spaces evoke both celestial galaxies and infernal chimneys.

What makes these paintings shocking are the dresses. Smothered and splattered with paint and ash as if long buried under rubble, then suspended on skeletal, rusty hangers, these heartbreaking, doll-sized frocks float up and down the canvas. Their empty sleeves outstretched like stubby wings, the textiles conjure not only Jacob’s oneiric angels sailing to and from the heavens, but also the ghosts of girl-children such as Shulamith, the doomed protoganist of Paul Celan’s “Death Fugue”, who – together with her Aryan sister Margarete – inspired Kiefer’s most famous painting cycle.

Yet with their suggestion of souls drifting in a boundless cosmos, the paintings could also be illustrations for Celan’s more joyous imagery, the “times when/only the void stood between us we got/all the way to each other.”

These references barely ruffle the surface of possible interpretation. Even if one canvas were not entitled “Lilith’s Daughter”, the Old Testament she-devil who roams the night skies looking for babies to smother would come to mind. Seen here in Italy, Kiefer’s vision summons up the cherubim of the old masters such as Beato Angelico and Filippo Lippi. Choreographed around the newly crowned Madonna with neo-Platonic grace, they are surely the alter ego of Kiefer’s grotesque, Gothic anti-order.

Don’t doubt that the German master is alive to every nuance. On show in a separate room, the latest in his “Woman in Antiquity” sculpture series is entitled “Regina Coeli”, the ecclesiastical Latin translation of “Queen of Heaven”. Showing a mannequin in a plaster-resin period dress with a geocentric astrolabe as a substitute for her head, it is a manifestation of Kiefer’s intuition that the rules of science can, occasionally, be creatively contradicted.

He articulated this sentiment in a speech given at the Louvre in November 2007: “It is only art, poetry, music that can establish a real coherence beneath the quantum plane.”

In an epoch when so much art is only for its own sake, we should be grateful for the range of Kiefer’s ambitions. Yet he also knows that there are limits. In the same speech, he claimed that art was unable to reach the metaphysical realm of poetry: “When I’m reading poems I am connected to an invisible field that always knows what is happening everywhere ... Painting pictures I come closer [to the invisible field] without crossing the border. Art just barely avoids perishing, it halts just before the horizon of the black hole from whose depths no communication can occur, since even light is devoured.”

You can be sure that Kiefer, the man who once played with toy bricks, will keep building.

‘Anselm Kiefer: The Order of Angels’, Lorcan O'Neill Gallery, Rome, until September 1.

June 21, 2010 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Pet Camper


Fiberglass, aluminum and stainless steel.


41"W x 21"H x 19"D.

Apply within.

[via Cliff Hatch]

June 21, 2010 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Helpful Hints from joeeze: How to detect newly embedded surveillance devices


Many readers have asked for something like this.


But I happened on this tip in the new (June 2010) issue of Wired magazine, and figured there must be someone out there who'd like to have this information.


Not right?

But I digress.

Here's what Jack El-Hai wrote in his "Weapons of Mass Detection" Wired story:

"Fresh paint absorbs UV light; old paint reflects it. A UV flashlight is a low tech (and low-cost) method of examining walls, woodwork and molding for touchups that might hide newly embedded devices."

Pictured up top is a nifty 4-inch-long 8 LED UV nonrolling (hexagonal housing) flashlight that could jumpstart your career as a junior Inspector Gadget.


Cheap at twice the price, consider you could probably charge $100/hour to "sweep" a residence for hidden devices.

If you could find someone who'd pay you....

Oh, yeah, one last thing so you don't make a fool of yourself while trying to pass as a detection expert: In the context of the tip above, "absorbs" = not reflective; that is, newly painted areas DON'T light up.

Practice at home first, would be my advice.

June 21, 2010 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

5 Minute Candles


Each little 2.25" x 2.25" booklet


holds 10 small candles.


4 books (1@ green/orange/pink/blue): $6.

June 21, 2010 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Man as Industrial Palace

"A mechanistic view of reality is a mechanical construct of the mind. A quantum view of reality is a quantum construct of the mind."

[via Synaptic Stimuli and Milena]

June 21, 2010 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Push pin/heart embosser


"A cute acrylic pin, packaged neatly in its own book


decorated with a colorful Liberty of London print."


When the pin is worn,


it will leave behind a temporary embossed heart."



June 21, 2010 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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