Friday, September 26, 2008

CERN in 3 minutes

This is a shorter video about CERN, but really informative.

Large Hadron Rap

Here's the rap.

End of the World as We Know It (and I feel fine)

There’s been a lot of talk and hoopla about this huge particle collider, the Hadron, in Switzerland (actually on the Swiss-Franco border just outside Geneva) at CERN.

There is even a rap about the collider on youtube (see below).

I must admit I’ve watched the rap three times and am still a bit fuzzy on exactly how it all it works, but the whole idea is very cool in a Star Trek kind of way (not that I was ever into Star Trek, mind you).

As per their usual m.o. to sell papers by frightening the general public, most of the media has focused on the potential to create a black hole which will suck up the earth and/or the rest of the galaxy. Others have said they may just blow up Geneva. Some people say, that's fine as there's not much to do in Geneva anyway.

Now, I may be crazy or just far too trusting but there are something like 8,000 scientists working on this from twenty different countries. They have been spending two decades on this project, spending billions of dollars. I'm going to assume that they've done their homework here.

Would they seriously go through with this experiment if they thought they were going to obliterate humanity?

Hmmn,...on second thought…

No seriously, its 8,000 scientists. I think we can trust the fact that if there is an error in their calculations or their theorizing, that one of those 8,000 scientists might raise their hand and say, “Hey guys, according to this calculation, we might totally vaporize ourselves and I don't know about you but that would seriously cut into my time playing Spore...” In fact, that discussion might have already happened (8,000 scientists in a room and not one of them is thinking about their own hide? I don’t think so.)

There is of course the other discussion of why they are doing this in the first place and what they hope to learn. They answer that they don’t know, but wouldn’t it be cool if we could create a little big bang just like at the beginning of time?

Um, okay…but it would be cool if I could levitate, or we could eradicate malaria or fight global warming or I don't know, disarm the world from nuclear weapons...but y'know, super colliders, that's fun, too.

They talk about the success of this and proving a theory of matter and anti-matter which could be on the same scale as splitting the atom and creating nuclear energy.

And we all know where that could lead…

And if you don’t,. you should come watch my show this fall.

Then there are the conspiracy enthusiasts, those who avidly wept for months when The X-Files went off the air, who believe that the governments have conspired against all us normal citizens…For instance, its not an experiment and they know exactly what they’re doing--they are using alien technology, probably found from the crash site in New Mexico to open another doorway to another dimension, like Stargate. Others think maybe these scientists are aliens themselves trying to return to their home planet. Some people on Wall Street think its tied to our economic collapse somehow...

Brian Cox is the “rock star” of the science world. I know that’s a little like saying a mushroom is the rock star of the vegetable world. Of course, given his haircut and nice clothes, he could in fact, be an alien. But if you want to know more about the collider or the universe and/or the Unified Theory of Everything (well, not really), check out this talk from TED.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

If this were a sitcom, we'd be in syndication

This is the 100th post!!!!

That doesn't really mean anything. I mean, it's not like I accomplished running a marathon or writing a book or building a house.

It basically means that at least 100 times this year I have been either bored or thoughtful enough to interrupt my day by bringing you some taste of triviality to your life.

Yeah, me!

As a celebration, let's all print out this 100 dollar bill and see if we can spend it.

Here are some other trivia items regarding the number 100 (courtesy of me and wikipedia):

100 is a good enough golf score for me
The 100 dollar bill is the highest denomination in print of US dollars
100 dollars is also how much money I've lost in bets thinking I can break 100 on the golf course
100 is about 25 cents in Indian Rupees
100 is the number of times I've said, "Maybe I should bet in Rupees".
100 is the number of yards in a football feild
100 milliseconds is about how much football I like to watch
100 is the number of tiles in a Scrabble set
100 games of Scrabble would make me want to pull my eyeballs out of their sockets
The 100 Years War didn't actually last a 100 years
100 years is not the actual length of Oliver Stone's movie JFK, but it feels like it
"100 Years" is a song by Five for Fighting
100 seconds is how long Five for Fighting remained on the pop culture radar
100 degrees celcius is the boiling point of water
-100 degrees is an average winter day in Buffalo
The first 100 days is an arbitrary benchmark for the US President
100 hours is how long it would take to retrain a person who incorrectly pronounces "nuclear"
100 Senators sit on the US Senate
100 days a year are spent by US Senators arguing about how much pay increase they should receive
100% is actually the maximum amount of energy you can give, despite what your football coach told you
100 is the number of people in the world who have not heard of Facebook

And finally...

A 100 year old person is called a centenarian and they are allowed to say and do whatever the hell they want.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Cartoon for the day

I just think this is too darn funny...

Friday, September 19, 2008

Brainstorming…or…90% of what you throw at the wall won’t stick.

Oscar Madison: Now kindly remove that spaghetti from my poker table.
[Felix laughs]
Oscar Madison: The hell's so funny?
Felix Ungar: It's not spaghetti, it's linguini.
[Oscar picks up the linguini and hurls it against the kitchen wall]
Oscar Madison: Now it's garbage.

Ideas are like the plate of spaghetti that Oscar throws across the room in the movie The Odd Couple (or is it Linguini?).

Not all of it is gonna stick.

Most will fall to the floor and you'll have to pick it up.

But one or two strands of noodle will cling to the wall like a Jackson Pollock masterpiece.

It’s pretty accurate that 90% of what you write (or create) is going to be crap. The trick is, and this is where the rewriting part comes in, to only show the good 10%. Keep writing then cut. Write some more, then cut. And so on.

And don’t tell anyone about how many bad ideas you had before the good idea so that you can pull off the illusion that you are some kind of genius like Mozart.

I’ve been a bit busy lately working on the fall “show” aka 7 MINUTES TO MIDNIGHT. We're still in that early phase of collecting and creating material based on our research and our questions. I firmly believe that’s how most good plays begin their original impetus—with a question examining the world or human nature.

It's a wonderful place to be, free and open, and really you can go in so many different directions.

Later we'll have to make actual choices. Making choices is much harder...


Last week we created points of view of characters each with a firm YES or NO on this question:

“Was it necessary for the U.S. to drop the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki?”

This is a big question and not one easily answered. It is not the main question of our show, by the way, but one worth exploring. The characters the actors created via a behavioral exercise each had personal and philosophical reasons (all plausible and all justifiable) and from within this work, stories began to arise. Now some of the work we did was just to get started and although most of that material may not make it to the final presentation of the performance two months from now, we got a lot of brilliant little things to start working from and to begin a fuller dialogue about.

What we discovered from the exercise was that:

1) this issue is far more complex than a simple yes or no answer can give (which is good)


2) this catastrophic event in time affected not just those in Japan, but all around the world.

This one device has changed the world.


And it still shapes political powers today.

But we never think about it…Never contemplate the 27,000 warheads in the world, of which 2,000 of them are ready to launch.

Right now.

Any minute.

It’s like living in a straw village under a volcano. Waiting for the top to blow.

But I’m getting off track.

The point is we’re still “playing” with the play-dough in our rehearsals. We’re bringing stuff in and seeing if our spaghetti will stick to the wall or not. That’s what life is like for the earlier days of creation.

Perfection is not the goal. Good and bad is not really an issue. We just want to throw some ideas around. We need to play. We expect some good stuff, some brilliant stuff, but probably a lot of stuff that's not so great.

We may try an exercise or an idea and it will totally suck.

Because eventually we find those little nuggets of gold. And when we find them, we’ll use it for all it’s worth.

So tomorrow we have another long rehearsal and we’ll see what we can discover.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Waist Deep In The Big Muddy - Pete Seeger

Pete Seeger: Power of Song trailer

"If you love your country, you find ways to speak out and do what you think is right..."

Right on.

Pete Seeger is my new American Idol

In this age of "America's Got Talent", I have a new idol...Pete Seeger.

We just watched the documentary, Pete Seeger: the Power of Song.

Oh my god.

One man and a banjo can really change the world, start a revolution, stand up for beliefs and truth (and yes, still be a patriot despite being a pacifist).

Truly amazing.

Almost makes me wish I knew how to play the banjo.


Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Art is Alchemy

Dario Robleto, At War With The Entropy of Nature / Ghosts Don't Always Want To Come Back, 2002, Cassette tape made from carved bone and bone dust from every bone in the body, trinitite, melted and dissolved audio tape of an original composition of military drum marches and soldiers' voices from battlefields of various wars made from EVP recordings (Electronic Voice Phenomena: voices and sounds of the dead or past, detected through magnetic audio tape), metal, screws, dust, Letraset, 5/8 x 3 3/4 x 2 1/2 inches, Collection Julie Kinzelman and Christopher Tribble

“If you don’t know the history, you’re just making a jumbled mess. So sampling actually offers a way out of the criticism of this generation because sampling insists that you know your history. That you actually engage with it. That’s why I’m so compelled to know my history.”

-- Dario Robleto

Over the weekend I went to the Frye Museum to check out an exhibit that the designer working on the show 7 Minutest to Midnight recommended to me.

All I can say is, I’m so glad he did…

Dario Robleto is the most exciting artist I’ve seen since I discovered Matthew Barney years ago at his exhibit in the Guggenheim. But where Barney works more with myth and biology, Robleto deals with transformation, memory, and war. They both use alternative substances for creation of their installations, but Robleto is bravely embracing the controversial memory of war in American society.

At first glance, that cassette tape is just a cassette tape with an interesting title of songs on it...but then you read the list of materials and a narrative starts to emerge. You realize the tape is made with dust from all the bones in the human body, trinitite (the glass made from the heat of the first atomic test, Trinity, in the desert sands of New Mexico, that the tape is made from audio of military marches, soldiers voices from the battlefield...and suddenly the frame upon which you view this tape is altered. There is a connection to history, to war, but ultimately tied to the present becuase of the package (a modern cassette tape). It hits you on an intellectual level, but also hits you in the gut and in the heart...Maybe you're repelled by the fact that it was made from human remains, sure, but you can't escape the fact that the artist is reminding you about the history and legacy of war...and how we view it if it were a mix tape.

It's like post-modernism with heart.

To learn more about Robleto, just google him, or check out this interview here.

I liked the exhibit at the Frye so much, titled Alloy of Love, that I bought his book, with photos of the peices, but also some essays and interviews. One comment he made is about how some people view his work as “destructive”. He usually uses old vinyl records which he melts down and restructures into something else (like making buttons out of Billie Holiday records). He takes old love letters and grinds them to a pulp and remakes them as “love pills” and puts them in a bottle. He took the unabomber's manifesto, cut it up and made his own "love manifesto" which he sent to random friends. He’s taken old letters from soldiers in the Civil War, or taken lead from bullets collected at Civil War battle sights and transformed them into wedding rings for a piece. He’s even made a magic wand out of trinitite.

He doesn't view this as destruction, but rather transformative. He uses material that first of all, ethically, is not in desperate need from archivals, but is still historical--things you might have in the attic that have meaning on a small level, and then gives them even greater universal meaning. It's like turning lead into really, he views his art and process as alchemy. His gestures are positive, not embracing the cynical, but filled with hope, turning the remains of violence into something beautiful.

And he uses art as if he were making a mix tape, or creating music, or “sampling”, like a DJ.

And I wonder, how can we play with these ideas in our show this fall? How can we transform the destructive forces of the atomic bomb and make something hopeful?

I realized that I've always been very much interested in art that transforms suffering into hope (its certainly there in Beckett, Shepard, Shakespeare, etc.). Perhaps all art does that, I don't know.

As Robleto says:

"Hope is everywhere in my belief and I hope that comes through because I’m not a pessimistic person. I want to stress the point that my work is ultimately about hope. It’s about acknowledging the horror of the past and the present but suggesting that we’re not powerless against it. We can be proactive about changing things, and that’s where the hope comes in. The fact that you would even think that you could change something is a hopeful act."