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February 26, 2020

Birdsong in the air

February 26, 2020 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Bracelet of Silence

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From Kashmir Hill's New York Times story:

Last year, Ben Zhao decided to buy an Alexa-enabled Echo speaker for his Chicago home.

Mr. Zhao just wanted a digital assistant to play music, but his wife, Heather Zheng, was not enthused. "She freaked out," he said.

Ms. Zheng characterized her reaction differently.

First she objected to having the device in their house, she said.

Then, when Mr. Zhao put the Echo in a work space they shared, she made her position perfectly clear: "I said, 'I don’t want that in the office. Please unplug it. I know the microphone is constantly on.'"

Mr. Zhao and Ms. Zheng are computer science professors at the University of Chicago, and they decided to channel their disagreement into something productive.

With the help of an assistant professor, Pedro Lopes, they designed a piece of digital armor: a "bracelet of silence" that will jam the Echo or any other microphones in the vicinity from listening in on the wearer's conversations.

The bracelet is like an anti-smartwatch, both in its cyberpunk aesthetic and in its purpose of defeating technology.

A large, somewhat ungainly white cuff with spiky transducers, the bracelet has 24 speakers that emit ultrasonic signals when the wearer turns it on.

The sound is imperceptible to most ears, with the possible exception of young people and dogs, but nearby microphones will detect the high-frequency sound instead of other noises.

"It’s so easy to record these days," Mr. Lopes said. "This is a useful defense. When you have something private to say, you can activate it in real time. When they play back the recording, the sound is going to be gone."

During a phone interview, Mr. Lopes turned on the bracelet, resulting in static-like white noise for the listener on the other end.

The "bracelet of silence" is not the first device invented by researchers to stuff up digital assistants' ears.

In 2018, two designers created Project Alias, an appendage that can be placed over a smart speaker to deafen it.

But Ms. Zheng argues that a jammer should be portable to protect people as they move through different environments, given that you don't always know where a microphone is lurking.

At this point, the bracelet is just a prototype.

The researchers say that they could manufacture it for as little as $20, and that a handful of investors have asked them about commercializing it.

"With the Internet of Things, the battle is lost," Mr. Zhao said, referring to a lack of control over data captured by smart devices, whether it gets into the hands of tech companies or hackers.

"The future is to have all these devices around you, but you will have to assume they are potentially compromised," he added. "Your circle of trust will have to be much smaller, sometimes down to your actual body."

February 26, 2020 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Bonnie MacLean, Psychedelic Poster Artist, Is Now a Spirit in the Sky

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She died earlier this month in Newtown, Pennsylvania, at the age of 80.

Constant readers will recall a recent post about Wes Wilson, another legendary creator of psychedelic posters, who died last month.

From the New York Times:

Bonnie MacLean, whose colorful posters for rock shows in San Francisco in the 1960s and early '70s helped define the psychedelic scene and have since become collector’s items, died on February 4 in Newtown, Pa. She was 80.

Her son, David Graham, said Ms. MacLean, who moved to Bucks County, Pennsylvania in the 1970s, died at a nursing home.

He did not specify the cause.

Ms. MacLean was married to the famed concert promoter Bill Graham as he was beginning his career in the mid-1960s in San Francisco, where she was immersed in a vibrant cultural scene that generated influential groups like Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead.

She worked with him mounting shows — most of them at the Fillmore Auditorium — which he promoted with attention-getting posters commissioned from several artists.

A group of men became known as the Big Five of poster art: Wes Wilson (who died last month), Victor Moscoso, Rick Griffin, Stanley Miller (known as Stanley Mouse) and Alton Kelley.

Ms. MacLean wasn't initially part of the group; when Mr. Wilson and Mr. Graham had a falling-out in 1967, she stepped in to fill the void.

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If she is sometimes left off the list of pioneering poster artists from that moment in time, it is in part because that world was dominated by men and in part, as she acknowledged, because her output and tenure were limited.

"I designed a total of 32 posters," she told The Key, a music news site maintained by the Philadelphia radio station WXPN-FM, in 2015. "I was off the scene by 1971, though, so it was not a long time doing it."

The works she created in that time, though, stood with the best of psychedelic poster art.

Her first poster, in May 1967, was for a Jefferson Airplane show.

Her posters have been shown in gallery and museum exhibitions, including "Summer of Love: Art of the Psychedelic Era," which began in 2005 at the Tate Liverpool in England before traveling to the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York in 2007.

That show included a poster she often identified as her favorite, "BG #75" (top).

It depicts a peacock's tail next to a human face, with swirling blue lettering listing the groups appearing at the Fillmore in a particular week in July 1967.

The roster, for aficionados of 1960s music, conveys just how exciting the scene was: Appearing were the Yardbirds, the James Cotton Blues Band, Richie Havens and the Doors.

Bonnie MacLean was born on December 28, 1939, in Philadelphia to Russell and Beatrice (White) MacLean.

She grew up in the Trenton, New Jersey area and earned a bachelor's degree in French at Pennsylvania State University in 1961.

She worked for a time at Pratt Institute in New York, taking a few art classes there on the side, before moving to San Francisco in 1963.

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When Mr. Graham started staging concerts at the Fillmore, Ms. MacLean would take tickets, pass out handbills and — her initial artistic contribution — draw the names of bands on the "coming attractions" board inside. She got to see a lot of excellent groups.

"My favorite was Cream, which had three great musicians" — Eric Clapton, Ginger Baker and Jack Bruce — she told The Bucks County Courier Times in 2015.

Although the San Francisco scene was known for hallucinogens, Ms. MacLean said she had avoided them.

"I didn't have much to do with that," she told The Philadelphia Inquirer in 2015. "Timothy Leary's idea that you just 'turn on, tune in and drop out' just nauseated me."

After she and Mr. Graham divorced in 1975, she turned her artistic abilities to pastels, paintings, and drawings, and was featured in gallery shows.

In 1981 she married Jacques Fabert, an artist, and she used the name Bonnie MacLean Fabert thereafter.

Although Ms. MacLean had moved on from poster art by the early 1970s, in the ensuing decades she would occasionally make a poster for a fund-raiser or a special occasion.

When the concert promoter Live Nation opened the new Fillmore Philadelphia in 2015, the company commissioned her to design a poster for the inaugural concert, by Daryl Hall & John Oates.

Even in the digital age, when computers opened up a world of new possibilities for poster artists and other designers, she preferred working by hand, as she did in the 1960s.

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"I think handwork needs to be kept alive," she told The Key. "It's something people are inclined to do naturally. It's something we have a human built-in desire to do. It always has been. It still is."

February 26, 2020 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Apollo 13: The moon in 4K

From NASA:

This video uses data gathered from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft to recreate some of the stunning views of the Moon that the Apollo 13 astronauts saw on their perilous journey around the far side in 1970.

These visualizations, in 4K resolution, depict many different views of the lunar surface, starting with earthset and sunrise and concluding with the time Apollo 13 reestablished radio contact with Mission Control.

Also depicted is the path of the free return trajectory around the Moon, and a continuous view of the Moon throughout that path.

All views have been sped up for timing purposes — they are not shown in "real-time."

February 26, 2020 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Supreme's $8 Oreos selling for over $30,000 on eBay

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Rachel Cormack's February 20, 2020 Robb Report story follows.

Forget twisting, licking, and dunking — refrain from eating entirely and jack up the price a few thousand dollars.

At least, that’s what a set of savvy hypebeasts have done with their Supreme-themed Oreos.

The designer cookies are part of the streetwear powerhouse's Spring/Summer accessories line which is only launching in Supreme's New York stores in Manhattan and Brooklyn today, though they have already hit the resale market.

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Just days after the label announced the SS20 drop, one seller posted a packet of "new" cookies on eBay for $4.

Since then, the listing has skyrocketed and, at the time of publishing, it's sitting at a sweet $10,600.

There are currently six other Supreme Oreo listings — all rapidly increasing in price — most of which appeared online well before the cookies were available in store.

The chances are these could be not-so-cheap imitations, but that's the way the cookie crumbles on the crazy resale market.

Supreme partnered with Nabisco to create the crimson-colored cookie, a riff on the beloved Double Stuf Oreo.

There have been no details shared regarding flavor — we're guessing red velvet — but the treat is said to be priced in-store at $8 for a pack of three cookies.

Note: at the time I wrote this post, yesterday afternoon (Tuesday, February 25) at 3:21 p.m., the price was up to $30,800 (top).

February 26, 2020 at 08:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)

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