Monthly Archives: March 2009

Brian Peter George St. John le Baptiste de la Salle Eno is Luminous

Luminous

In an announcement that is sure to get your little cochlea and oculi all in a flutter, musician, singer, producer, composer and knitter (probably, he can do everything else) extraordinaire Brian Eno, is to curate the innaugural Luminous Festival. A total legend of the music industry, Eno started off in rad as hell band, Roxy Music before going on to produce albums for Talking Heads, U2, and Coldplay, write a regular column for The Observer, publish a deck of cards that can help you solve any quandary you may find yourself in and create an app for the piece of technology that still eludes me – the iPhone. At some point during all this madness, he even found time to compose that short bite of sound you hear when starting up Microsoft Windows. Although, as that sound signals the start of my work day, I can’t say I’m particularly attached to it. Sorry, Brian. 

Surprisingly, Eno has never been to Australia before, but what a way to make an entrance. He’ll be bringing with him math rockers, Battles, reggae and dub god, Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry and my personal favourites, Ladytron. One of the ten people who could change the world, ClientEarth’s chief executive James Thornton, will be leading a forum on the environment and social change. I’m sure that title sitting on my shoulders would weigh me down far too much to even leave the comfort of my large, mahogany scented office, and this is probably the main reason I am not on that list.

To kick off the festival, Eno’s vivid artwork will be cast on to the sails of the late Jorn Utzon’s architectural masterpice. That’s right, lights and laserZ projected on to the Opera House for three weeks straight. If somebody lends me a tent, I think I might just set up camp on the bridge and stare. If someone else brings me graham crackers and marshmallows, maybe we can have some smores as well. The festival will also feature the Australian debut of Eno’s amazing 77 Million Paintings, a visual and audial delectation that has been described by Time Magazine as “layers of gorgeous, intensely coloured abstract images [that] appear, morph and dissolve into one another, then fade away into something entirely new.”

I don’t know about you, but I’m almost peeing my pants in anticipation. And I only say almost because, while I’m often accused of being incompetent, incontinent, is definitely one thing I’m not. Luminous takes place at the Sydney Opera House and is just one part of the city-wide Vivid Sydney that begins on the 26th of May, and will sadly come to a close on the 14th of June. There will be so much going on, I can’t even begin to cover it in the few words I have to write before you lose interest, so check out the Luminous website for performance dates, tickets, more info and some pretty graphics. 

Ra  xxx

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For My Sydney Wish List

Design Festa Gallery

After my recent three week jaunt, I’ve come to the conclusion that Japan is the single most awesome place on the planet. Even the Natural History Museum can’t compete with this corner of the world. Heated toilet seats to keep your bum toasty warm, vending machines EVERYWHERE selling anything and everything you could possibly imagine, insane fashion and technology, a polite, honest and friendly population and more culture oozing out of every temple and crack in the road that in a ten litre tub of yoghurt. God, I could holiday in that place forever. Sadly, reality is a bitch and the holiday is more than over. Luckily I have an infinite supply of memories and one of the highlights of the trip was definitely Tokyo’s Design Festa Gallery.

Tucked away in the back streets of Harajuku, this gallery only adds to Tokyo’s um, radness. Every single space in the gallery’s two wings and courtyard is an exhibition space, even the toilets. Everything is a canvas – the walls, vending machines, bins, ceilings, staircases…

Design Gallery Fiesta Recycle (Ra Lake)

The gallery was opened as an off shot of Design Festa, an international art festival held biannually at Tokyo Big Sight, that boasts to be the biggest event of its type in the world. 7000 artists and 2600 booths – quite large. Anyway, back to the gallery. There are 29 art spaces spread between the older West Wing, which used to house traveling gaijin like myself, until 1998, and the East Wing, which opened in 2007. The gallery also features 77 Wall Art Piece spaces. The cost for the artist varies depending on the size of the space and the length of time they wish to show, but the gallery takes no commission on any sale. You may not pardon the cliche, but this place really is an artist’s paradise.      

After wandering up and down stairs, in and out of exhibit rooms, conversing with the artists as they cooked with friends to the sound of a little bit of J-Pop and drawing us as egg people, we sat down for an Asahi and a short chat with Nigel, who wanted to find out about our experience at Design Festa Gallery. He quizzed us about Australia, what brought us to Japan, how long we were staying and how five girls from Australia even knew how to snowboard. At one point he may have asked us what we thought about the gallery. We even made it on to the gallery’s blog. Yes, I’m on the Japanese interwebs, I must be famous. What do they say? I’m big in Japan.

This rant really only leaves me with one question. Why is there no place like this in Sydney?* 

Egg People

* Correct answers will be rewarded with cupcakes. Or penny farthings. Whichever I have more stock of at the time.

Ra  xxx

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Feathers, Tianyulong? Really?

tianyulong-bristly-dinosaur

So the recent discovery published in Nature last week by researchers from the Institute of Geology in Beijing of an apparently bristly 130 million-year-old ornithischian fossil has had quite the rapturous reception by the international media. The palaeontologists, however, prefer to keep their excitement cautious, quietly asserting, “Whatever, man, I already knew about this like twelve months ago,” and “Haven’t we already done all this like seven years ago? LOL.” Paraphrasing with nonexistent LOLs as I might be (because I dream of scientists who say LOL), the point is that according to the experts, there is far more to this story than just, “Holy shit, this particular bitch is not supposed to have feathery bits, is it? So all early dinosaurs were covered in feathers now?”

tianyulong-specimen-480

But before we get to the cautionary part, a bit of background information first. The features of the fossilized specimen in question, dubbed Tianyulong confuciusi, that have everyone talking are the three distinct patches of long, hollow filaments at the base of the tail, suggesting the presence of a kind of “dinofuzz” coating. Of course feathered dinosaurs and dinofuzz are nothing new, one of the more famous examples of this being the plumaged Velociraptor, but what is remarkable about this new fossil is that the cat-sized Tianyulonh was an ornithischian and that is something.

The significance of this discovery lies in a fundamental separation in dinosaur types, having split at the base of the Dinosaurian family tree into two groups, the saurischias, which include the carnivorous bipedal theropods such as the Tyrannosaurs and Laelaps etc, and the lovely sauropods, and the ornithischians, which were quadrupedal herbivores such as the various horned, armoured, and duckbilled dinosaur varieties. Within the saurischias group is the coelurosauria clade containing theropods such as Raptors and the Archaeopteryx etc who, with their upright stance, birdlike hand postures and feathery coats, have long been considered the ancient ancestors of today’s birds. But for the distinctly unbird-like ornithischians (not to mention a basal species like the Tianyulong) to be found with dinofuzz when they were assumed to have been strictly scaly, and therein lies the peculiarity of this discovery.

But as exciting as this Tianyulong fossil is, it’s certainly not as ground-breakingly unique as the accompanying hype would have you believe, a controversial precedent having been discovered some seven years earlier. The first ornithischian fossil to show signs of filamentous integumentary structures was discovered in 2002, a Psittacosaurus, displaying sparsely distributed examples at the base of its tail. Rife with controversy due to the questionable legality of its export and the possibility that the bristles were in fact well-positioned leaves, it has been relatively left alone by palaeontologists. Until now, of course.

But this is the only example amongst a number of fleshy and skeletal Psittacosaurus fossils to show signs of dinofuzz, and together with the Tianyulong it raises the question: have we not seen more fuzzy ornithischian fossils because soft tissue rarely survives in the fossil record? Or did the ornithischians outgrow their fuzz, like a kind of “reverse kitten,” thereby effectively reducing their potential fuzzy fossil representatives to merely those in the short-lived juvenile state? Alternatively, was their fuzz selectively distributed, ie in crest or ridge-form, and therefore managed to avoid appearing in the fossils uncovered so far? Perhaps, but only more fossilised fuzzy ornithischian specimens will tell.

Visit Dave Hone’s Archosaur Musings and SV-POW! for much better explanations of all this, and thanks, Not Exactly Rocket Science.

– bec

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Bulk Up, Tyrannosaurus Rex

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It’s times like these when you’re fully within your right to be all, “What’s up, T-Rex? Why so lame?” because researchers at the Natural Museum of Oslo have discovered a new pliosaur that could eat a four wheel drive. At 50 feet long and a suggested 45 tonnes, the so-called Predator X (nerds!!), whose 10-foot jaw filled with 12-inch teeth had a 16-tonne bite force, well and truly shits all over the Tyrannosaurus in size, force and name. Oh way to be outdone, T-Rex. You’re nothing without your claim to being the Ultimate Predator. Raptors might be kinda little, but at least they’ve got caché. You’ve got nothing. My advice is you start writing your tell-all autobiography now and get it published fucking fast because people are losing interest in that sub-par 4-tonne bite force and clappy forelimbed shitfest you’ve got going on. If your book does well (positive thinking, T-Rex), you can totally come live in my backyard. I’ll quit my job and we’ll drink Long Island iced teas before noon and yell obscenities at the neighbours till tea time and once or twice you’ll try and eat my cat, and the first time it’ll be kinda funny because holy shit, you should have seen his face, but the second time it’ll be like, “Haha ohh… no more iced teas for you, Mister. Go make us some macaroons.” Now come on, it doesn’t sound that bad…

– bec

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Now You Can Judge Them

dinosaur

Very quickly, because I have things to do,* but Wired Science has just posted a Dinosaur Illustration Competition, which pits those found in the public domain against each other in a battle of popularity. Go here to vote for your favourite, be it the pouncing laelops, the weeny Hesperonychus elizabethae, (which I’ll possibly discuss later), or the above, a 1930’s WPA Federal Art Project poster which appears to be advocating the use of a friendly sauropod as a cure for syphilis. Or something. And you can submit your own illustrations if you really want, but I’m pretty sure the prize is more honour and glory than large riches, so personally, I don’t know why you’d bother.

* And this time I don’t just mean eating cookies and refreshing my browser whilst staring out the window at that aggressive Dalmatian across the street. Okay okay, I do.

– bec

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“Twilight” Conquers Earth, Invades Sea

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So I know Twilight is all like super-important to the kids these days, and that it’s the most popular badly-written fiction in the history of the world or something, but I didn’t really think the whole “stoner (/emo) vampire” thing would actually permeate to Under the Sea. Totally didn’t see that one coming. Is nothing immune from this wildly overrated drivel? Nothing? The Natural History Museum of London have just announced the discovery of yet another new species of fish, the Myanmar-native and aptly-named, Danionella dracula or Vampire Fish, a resident zoologist, Dr Ralf Britz, declaring,

“This fish is one of the most extraordinary vertebrates discovered in the last few decades.”

The Museum had kept their D. dracula in captivity for over a year, only recently coming to realise their status as an undiscovered species when they suddenly started dying, the microscopic autopsy treatment on their tiny 15mm minnow-carcases revealing the true glory of their ridiculous fangs. But alas, it wasn’t to be:

“When I preserved them and looked at them under the microscope, I thought, ‘My God, what is this, they can’t be teeth.'”

Turns out they’re just ridiculous “protuberances of the jaw.” Still pretty emo though. I can totally imagine what it would be like at dinnertime with a family of Danionella draculas

Continue Reading Twilight Conquers Earth, Invades Sea

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Intelligence Test – You’re Doing It Wrong

oct_in_box_9

Oh Truman, you umm… you look like you could use a hand. Or maybe just a hug. I know how much you octopi enjoy having your tentacles fondled. And yes, I see you there, Crab-in-the-box, laughing it up like some kind of delirious madman because you think you’ve just taken on Death and won. Well you might as well wipe that shit-eating grin off your face now, because we all know the next octopus you come across won’t botch this shit up like Truman has, bless him. And did it ever occur to you that maybe he just isn’t interested in your soggy crab meat, maybe he just wants to be a dancer, but he’s scared because his parents are both really successful astrophysicists and they wouldn’t understand so he hides in this (albeit devastatingly translucent) box? Take your flaky wares elsewhere.

Contrary to what Truman over there would have us believe, octopi are actually remarkably intelligent creatures, tales of their unusual antics dividing the opinion of Aquarium staff the world over as they try to figure out if these are the most playful, or more sinister of all the sea creatures. In a case for the former, an octopus at the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium recently flooded the entire building with 760 litres of seawater when she managed to swim to the surface of her enclosure, dissemble and redirect the water valve so it flowed outside her tank for ten hours overnight. Just for kicks. Tee hee. But then in a frightening case for the latter, recounted by Eugene Linden (worded in such a way that it will haunt my dreams forever) in The Octopus and the Orangutan:

“An octopus, when given a slightly spoiled shrimp, stuffed it down the drain whilst maintaining eye contact with its keeper.”

Oh dear God. And Truman couldn’t even manage a simple task like unfastening a smaller locked box inside a bigger locked box to get to his terrified but delicious lunch. He just smushed his two-metre-long body through a two-inch hole in the side, hung out for about half an hour, and then exited again. What a simpleton. This is probably the first time anyone has actually been disappointed about not getting crabs on their way out.*

More photos of the madness here.

*No more jokes about STDs for at least a week. Promise.

– bec

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