NIKE PATENTS MARTY McFLY’S SELF-LACING SNEAKER
Remember the McFly 2015s, the Official Shoes of Gadget Lab? They were a fairly faithful rendition of Marty McFly’s amazing self-lacing sneakers from Back to the Future 2, forced to the market by the tireless work of the Maloof brothers who spent years badgering Nike into making them.
They looked great, but lacked the flashing lights and auto-lacing functions of the “real” thing. Now, Nike has actually patented a self-lacing sneaker. This, you are no doubt just realizing, is completely frickin’ amazing: It’s entirely possibly that these shoes could actually be in stores in the year 2015, just like in the movie. This would be a weird, time-warping paradox so perfectly mimicking those in the Back to the Future movies that the world might possibly end.
That Nike has filed a patent for these things is mind-bending enough, but pretty much everything has made it in. The shoes will of course fasten themselves, but there are also LEDs a-glowing and a detailed breakdown of the batteries, circuits and control-systems. There is even a charging stand.
One problem Nike might have to face, though, is the existence of prior-art. Not only did the sneakers already show up in the movie, but just last month we saw that an enterprising hacker had made his own self-lacing shoes. (via WIRED)
Bathers with a Turtle, 1907-08
AT MoMA, A LOOK AT A PIVOTAL MOMENT FOR MATISSE
In 2003, the Museum of Modern Art put on an important show comparing Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse, maybe the two greatest European painters of the 20th-century. They were friends and rivals; they influenced and even collected each other’s work.
Now a marvelous new show at MoMA — Matisse: Radical Invention, 1913-1917 — suggests one central way Matisse in which was very different from Picasso. The Spanish master, practically a synonym for modern art, had an unstoppable sense of direction. He’d pursue one style — a Blue Period, a Rose Period, Cubism — and when he got to the bottom of it, he’d move on to another.
But in the four-year period this Matisse show investigates, that artist’s development emerges as much less linear, much less divided into straightforward chapters. Matisse seemed to be trying all sorts of different things at the same time, and he produced some of his greatest paintings. But it would be hard for anyone not an art historian to place the work in chronological order.
Bathers by a River, 1909-10, 1913, 1916-17
Modern artists were trying to find new ways of looking at the world, moving away from depicting images in traditional three dimensions, discovering livelier and simpler — yet also more complex — ways to convey those images. Even before the central period stressed in this exhibit, we see Matisse experimenting with dimension, a kind of flattening process in which the images become less literal and more symbolic. One of his strangest and most original paintings, Bathers with Turtle, is from 1908, barely a year after Picasso’s tradition-shattering Demoiselles d’Avignon, in which the bodies of five women have been transformed from rounded human beings into fractured and contorted figures with African masks for faces. Matisse’s figures are even more mysterious: three simplified nudes, almost like a child’s drawing. He offers no explanation for why they’re feeding a turtle, or why one of them has her fingers stuffed into her mouth. How can we tell if this is a casual incident or a profound ritual? Does it matter? Horizontal bands of blue abstractly represent a backdrop of water and sky. It’s like Cezanne, but more radical. Modern art is just beginning.
Throughout the show, we see Matisse wrestling with the same issues his most celebrated contemporaries were confronting. But Matisse seems to be moving backwards and sideways as well as forward. And through new x-ray technology, the curators have been able to trace Matisse’s own processes. We now know when he’s deliberately muting his dazzling spectrum of colors, or changing the position of his figures. And in many places, instead of hiding some of his changes, he actually allows us to observe them — as if the figures themselves have been moving around the surface of the canvases.
The Piano Lesson. 1916
The climax of the show includes two of his most extraordinary paintings, both combining an extreme of abstraction with readable figurative images. Both are huge, but one of them is monumental and hieratic, and the other is achingly poignant. One is the 8-foot by 12-foot Bathers by a River, from the Art Institute of Chicago, where this show originated. Matisse re-worked this painting over the entire period covered by the exhibition, changing it from a lightweight pastel-colored beach scene to an exotic Eden, a gigantic icon with four female demigoddesses outlined against a row of broad flat vertical panels, with a sinister — or is it benign? — white snake rearing up its head from the bottom of the canvas. We feel something intensely symbolic, but Matisse doesn’t feel the need to explain the iconography.
The other masterpiece is MoMA’s own Piano Lesson, an 8-foot-high canvas depicting Matisse’s young son at the keyboard, with his mother or piano teacher on a stool keeping shadowy watch. I grew up in New York, and this has been one of my favorite paintings since I was old enough to go to museums. The Piano Lesson too has its mysteries, in its combination of cool geometry and touching intimacy. The shadow on the boy’s face replicates the triangular metronome on the piano. And an even larger green triangle crosses the room. Is it a shaft of unsettling twilight? It’s as if Time is casting its own shadow over everything, including youth and art itself.
These two amazing paintings, within a period of staggering artistic ferment, emerge out of Matisse’s complicated search for direction, a search that took many turns before the artist found his direction. Or were these very turns Matisse’s true direction? (via NPR)
NINE WEST CREATES BOOTS WITH A BUILT-IN PEDOMETER FOR BREAST CANCER CHARITIES
As a partnership with the CFDA, Nine West has created a limited-edition boot that comes with a built-in pedometer that tracks the amount of steps that their key models—Coco Rocha, Jessica White, and Lisalla Montenegro—will take during New York Fashion Week. From early morning fittings to late night events, each step taken will translate into a monetary donation that Nine West will make towards Fashion Targets Breast Cancer. So, if you’re around during the week and see one of the three ladies, make sure that they’re taking the stairs and forgoing those cabs—every little bit counts! (via Refinery 29)
TALE OF ANSEL ADAMS NEGATIVES GROWS HAZY
SAN FRANCISCO — It was a dream come true, straight out of “Antiques Roadshow.” In 2000 Rick Norsigian, a painter in a school maintenance department, bought a box of photo negatives at a garage sale in Fresno, Calif., for $45. Last month, a decade later, he stood in a Beverly Hills art gallery to announce that a team of experts had concluded “beyond a reasonable doubt” that Ansel Adams had taken the pictures.
The gallery’s owner, David W. Streets, appraised the value of the 65 images, which the experts called “the lost negatives,” at $200 million, and the incident made news around the world.
But a fairy-tale ending is eluding Mr. Norsigian. A day after the announcement, Matthew Adams, a grandson of the photographer, disputed the finding, questioned the credentials of the experts and went so far as to call the whole business a “scam.”
A few days after that, an Oakland woman, Marian Walton, announced that she had a photo that was identical to one of the negatives. It had been taken, she said, not by Adams, the famous outdoors photographer, but by an uncle of hers, Earl Brooks.
And now, in the latest complication, court records reveal that Mr. Streets, who set the value for the negatives and is handling the related sales, is a convicted felon with a criminal record for petty theft and fraud in Louisiana and Kentucky. Though he says on his Web site, davidstreetsbeverlyhills.com, that he has 25 years of fine-art appraisal experience, two of Mr. Streets’s former employers say his true talent is in the embellishment of his credentials. (continue reading via NY Times)
IT LEAPS (GASP!) OFF THE SCREEN
DOES 3-D represent the future of the movies?
After a few months of ambiguous box-office results for stereoscopic movies, that’s a question Hollywood executives would love answered in the affirmative, because of the higher ticket prices they can charge. We won’t really know the answer for a year or so, when audiences respond — or fail to respond — to the big-budget 3-D films now entering the production pipeline, all chasing the phenomenal figures generated by “Avatar.” But 3-D is definitely part of the cinema’s past — never as gloriously and gaudily as in the approximately 45 stereographic features released by the American film industry between 1952 and 1955.
Fifteen of those vintage films, filled with flaming arrows, pointy surgical instruments, guys in gorilla suits and high-kicking chorines all hurtling from the screen and into your face, will be featured over the next two weeks in Classic 3-D, a series at Film Forum in the South Village.
For 3-D aficionados (and they are a dedicated bunch) that was the period known as the Golden Age. This is not as much for the blindingly high quality of the films themselves — as lovable as they are, “Cat-Women of the Moon” and “Gorilla at Large” are not “Citizen Kane” — as for the 3-D system then in use.
Generically known as “double system” — because it requires the use of two 35-millimeter projectors, running side by side in perfect synchronization — ’50s 3-D at its best produced an illusion of depth of such brightness and clarity that it puts many modern single-projector systems to shame.
And forget about those red-and-green glasses. Though it’s a myth that refuses to die, the 19th-century anaglyph process (to give the red-and-green technology its textbook name) played only a tiny role in the 3-D boom of the ’50s.
Back then, just as in the systems most widely used today, polarized lenses were used to separate the two images projected on the screen into left-eye and right-eye views. But because 35-millimeter film has a higher resolution than the digital video used for today’s 3-D, and the use of two projectors allows more light to strike the screen than the single projector of digital 3-D, the illusion produced by the double-system technique has a sharpness and presence all its own.
The trouble with double system, and one of the reasons for its short life span in the 1950s, is that it’s a bear to operate. A veteran projectionist once described the experience as trying to drive two semitrailer trucks down the expressway at 90 miles an hour, while keeping the hood ornaments perfectly aligned. If the left-eye and right-eye images are allowed to slip out of synchronization by even a couple of frames, the illusion is lost, headaches are induced, and audiences flee screaming into the streets.
Bruce Goldstein, the Film Forum’s resourceful repertory programmer, will be doing his best to make sure that moviegoers avoid that fate. He has scoured the studio archives for projectable prints (the great majority were junked when the 3-D boom collapsed, and in many cases the studios held on to only one of the two negatives necessary to create new copies). He’s even located a couple of rare titles (“Those Redheads from Seattle,” showing on Aug. 16, and “Sangaree,” on Aug. 26) in the vaults of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. And with them all he’s made sure they will be run in tight synchronization.
Though several more films exist in the hands of private collectors, the Film Forum program offers a rousing and representative overview of the ’50s 3-D phenomenon, from its carnival-like beginnings to its late bid for respectability. Carnivals, along with roller coasters, side shows and wax museums, occur with amazing regularity in the 3-D films of the 1950s. This wave of 3-D was never meant as a subtle enhancement of storytelling technique, but rather as a novelty designed to lure customers back into the tent — a fairground attraction, just as movies had been at their late-19th-century beginnings.
Confronted with television decimating the movie audience of the early ’50s, the studios tried to pry the viewers loose from their home screens by promising something they couldn’t get in the living room. As the ads put it for “Bwana Devil,” the low-budget, 1952 film that touched off the boom, here was your chance to experience: “A lion in your lap! A lover in your arms!”
Phyllis Kirk in Andre de Toth’s “House of Wax” (1953).
Movies like Columbia’s “Man in the Dark,” which opens the Film Forum series on Friday, took unashamed advantage of the process’s flinch-inducing potential. The first 3-D film released by a major studio (it beat Warner Brothers’ bigger-budgeted “House of Wax” into theaters by two days), this otherwise unexceptional thriller — about an amnesiac (Edmond O’Brien) who learns he was a gangster in his former life — pokes a whole catalog of unpleasant objects into the spectator’s face, including a surgical scalpel, a lighted cigar, a rubber spider and countless meaty fists.
The pattern was set. As the title character in “The Mad Magician” (Aug. 23), Vincent Price pushes a giant buzz saw into the bridge of your nose; the outlaws in “The Stranger Wore a Gun” (Aug. 19) never seem to tire of discharging their six-shooters directly into the camera’s lens — a shot that echoes a famous image from the sensationalistic hit of 1903, “The Great Train Robbery.”
Audiences, however, did tire of the continual assault on their optic nerves — “The Stranger Wore a Gun” was not the only western that featured a character squirting tobacco juice into the auditorium. By the time 20th Century Fox got around to releasing its first 3-D film, “Inferno,” in August 1953, critics, including The New York Times’s Howard H. Thompson, were applauding the relative restraint shown by the film’s British director, Roy Baker. The fine Technicolor print to be shown at Film Forum on Aug. 25 reveals some ravishing use of receding perspectives, as a Howard Hughes-like millionaire (Robert Ryan), abandoned by his wife and her lover in the Mojave desert, tries to crawl his way back to civilization.
“While it still has far to go,” Mr. Thompson wrote, “in this tentative but sensible little undertaking 3-D comes of age.” More restrained work followed, including Raoul Walsh’s handsome “Gun Fury” (Aug. 18), in which that great action director (“They Died With Their Boots On”) largely conducts his business as usual, creating the carefully articulated compositions in depth that had been a defining feature of his style since the early 1930s.
Anthony Dawson and Grace Kelly in Alfred Hitchcock’s “Dial M For Murder” (1954).
But the move to naturalize 3-D may have come too late. By the holiday season of 1953 the studios were ready with their first batch of A-level productions in the new medium: MGM with the musical “Kiss Me Kate” (screening on Aug. 15 and 16), Columbia with Rita Hayworth in “Miss Sadie Thompson” (Aug. 26), Paramount with Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis in “Money From Home” (unavailable, alas) and Warner Brothers with Alfred Hitchcock’s “Dial M for Murder” (Aug. 20 and 21).
Fox, however, had beaten its rivals to the punch. “The Robe,” a biblical spectacle in Fox’s new widescreen process CinemaScope, had opened in September, offering audiences an imposing spectacle that could be enjoyed without the use of glasses — and with relatively little risk of being sprayed by tobacco juice.
Suddenly — a little over a year after “Bwana Devil” initiated the craze — stereoscopic motion pictures were yesterday’s news. “Kiss Me Kate” was released in both 3-D and “flat” versions, “Miss Sadie Thompson” opened at the Capitol on Broadway with only two of its D’s intact, and “Dial M for Murder” was held back by Warner Brothers until May 1954, when it was released only in conventional prints.
The carnival may have moved on, but as the Film Forum series demonstrates, the old rides can still pack a thrill.
BAMBOO BIKES GROW IN POPULARITY
BAMBOO is one of the world’s fastest-growing plants, adding as much as three feet in a single day. That growth rate, along with the giant grass’s sturdy hollow stalks (with a strength-to-weight ratio similar to that of steel) may explain why bamboo is being heralded by bikers, environmentalists and social entrepreneurs as a material with no carbon footprint and the potential to provide cheap wheels in poor countries. Serious spandex-clad cyclists like bamboo bicycles, as do tattooed bike messengers and thrifty Ghanaian shopkeepers.
“There is something going on with bamboo bicycles,” said Jay Townley, a partner in the market research firm Gluskin Townley Group. “They’re catching on with urban and commuting cyclists.”
Though bicycles with bamboo frames account for only a fraction of the bicycle market, the number of bamboo bicycle start-ups is expanding. They include Boo Bicycles, with bamboo bikes available in shops like Signature Cycles in Manhattan and the Pony Shop in Chicago; Renovo Design out of Portland, Ore.; Panda Bicycles, in Fort Collins, Colo.; Organic Bikes in Wisconsin; and Calfee Design, of Santa Cruz, Calif., a pioneer in bamboo frames whose cycles sell in shops like Eco, a London store owned partly by the actor Colin Firth.
Bamboo’s distinctive texture quickly cues onlookers to a bicycle’s eco-credibility (and by association, that of its rider). Unlike carbon fiber, Mr. Townley said, bamboo can be composted.
Bamboo is also relatively easy to forage, making the bikes a hit with the do-it-yourself cycling set. One of several step-by-step, how-to-build-a-bamboo-bike guides on the Instructables website has more than 142,000 page views.
“This is a sustainable material for sustainable transport,” said Marty Odlin, 28, a founder of the Bamboo Bike Studio in Red Hook, Brooklyn.
When the studio began offering workshops on building a bamboo bike last year, Mr. Odlin would take participants on missions to cut it from patches on the property of landowners who eagerly granted permission to anyone willing to assist in taming the plant. “It grows like a weed,” Mr. Odlin said. Because of high demand, the studio now orders bulk shipments of bamboo from Mexico.
Mr. Odlin said he gets thousands of e-mails a week from people all over the world who want to build their own bamboo bikes. Spots for the first workshop in San Francisco, scheduled for October, sold out a day after the class was announced. Overwhelmed by the interest, the studio put together a mail-order do-it-yourself bamboo bike kit.
Mr. Odlin, who is also assistant director of the Bamboo Bike Project at Columbia University, will go to Ghana to help set up a bamboo-bike factory, which could make as many as 20,000 bikes a year, selling to Ghanaians for about $60 each.
In the developed world, well-heeled cyclists are willing to pay a premium for a one-of-a-kind bike. Nick Frey, owner of Boo Bicycles, builds and sells high-performance bamboo-frame bicycles (like the one pictured [above], $7,645), ranging from $3,000 for just the frame to $10,000 for a tricked-out racer. Mr. Frey recently sold a bamboo frame to a Spanish gallery to be displayed as art.
While an undergraduate mechanical engineering student at Princeton University, Mr. Frey, 23, studied bamboo and designed several bamboo racing bicycles. Everywhere he rode, people coveted them, said Mr. Frey, who started his company last September. “A lot of people think of bamboo as furniture or cheap fencing,” he said. “But bamboo is one of the strongest natural materials known to man. Plus, the bikes look really cool.” (via NY Times)