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)
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)
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)
At times, riding the subway in Moscow can feel like roaming an art museum.
The underground hallways and platforms are full of mosaics, statues and ornate chandeliers that celebrate war heroes, depict Soviet life and commemorate writers — but opening such stations isn’t always an easy process.
The Dostoevskaya station — which opened this summer in memory of Russian writer Fyodor Dostoevsky — met a fair share of opposition when psychologists expressed concern that dark murals of the violent scenes from Dostoevsky’s books could put riders in gloomy moods — or, worse, even encourage suicidal impulses.
Such criticism has clouded and delayed a 19-year effort to honor one of Russia’s greatest writers and thinkers.
Raskolnikov On The Platform
Ivan Nikolayev, the artist who was commissioned to create the murals that surround the subway platform, started rereading Dostoevsky’s books and making sketches for the project 20 years ago.
"My task was to draw out the meaning, creativity and entire life of Dostoevsky," says Nikolayev, 69.
Nikolayev’s design takes you right into Dostoevsky’s world as soon as you step off a train.
The walls are gray and bare, except for murals capturing scenes from Dostoevsky’s famous novels: Brothers Karamazov, The Idiot, and of course, Crime and Punishment, the book where Dostoevsky digs into the mind of his lead character, Raskolnikov, exploring a young man’s path to murder.
In one famous passage, Raskolnikov cries out, “Good God! Can it be, can it be, that I shall really take an ax, that I shall strike her on the head, split her skull open … that I shall tread in the sticky warm blood, break the lock, steal and tremble; hide, all spattered in the blood … with the ax … Good God, can it be?”
The fictional character — poor, desperate for money to help his family and mentally tortured — ends up killing two women. And it’s all depicted in a mural right on the subway platform in which Raskolnikov holds an ax over a woman’s head, while a corpse lies on the ground.
The tale itself is stirring, and the underground tunnel and echo of subway trains make it even creepier.
The Danger Of Life Imitating Art At Dostoevskaya
Mikhail Vinogradov, who heads a psychological help center in Moscow, went on Russian TV to complain that the murals will make people “afraid to ride the subway.” Like other psychologists who raised concerns in Russia and abroad, Vinogradov says gripping images can induce violent behavior — and a subway station is the last place for that.
"There will be suicides more often," he says. "I can’t rule out people will commit murders or attacks."
But Natalia Semyonova, another clinical psychologist in Moscow, defended the artist and the author, whose books she uses in lectures and to treat patients.
"We try to jump into these books and try to understand once more the motives of human behavior, the motives of human suffering, how to overcome, how to find a sense of life, and so on," Semyonova says.
Using powerful literature to help overcome challenges in one’s own life, she says, is very Russian.
As for the murals, perhaps international visitors will be startled, Semyonova says, “But, for Russians, Dostoevsky is so familiar to them. They know everything in these books.”
Commuters traveling through Dostoevskaya say it’s about time the city built the station. They say forget Russian literature, this is about cutting down the commute.
Rider Alexander Alexandrov, 63, says the bottom line is that “this is a good, new station” built to honor a Russian literary icon. He says he was angry that psychologists raised such a stink.
"They walk in here and try to find negative things," Alexandrov says. "Well, there are too many negative things in our lives."
But Natalia Yuryevna, a Moscow retiree, is not altogether pleased with the station. She likes that the gray decor and macabre murals are “in line” with Dostoevsky’s writing. But the lighting, she says, make her “lose her orientation.”
A Portrait Of The Artists
Since the station opened its doors, Nikolayev, the artist of the murals, has been asked repeatedly whether the mural of Raskolnikov from Crime and Punishment, in particular, was over the top.
His answer comes in the form of another question: “If someone handed you Dostoevsky’s own manuscript, would you just go cross out this scene from the novel?”
Besides, most of the murals aren’t actually that violent. Many are simply sullen — like the gray, bearded face that greets commuters in one of the station’s tunnels.
It’s a portrait of Fyodor Dostoevsky — the newest addition to the club of Russian writers memorialized in Moscow’s underground — and he’s looking melancholic as ever.
“For what it’s worth: it’s never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit, stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you’ve never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of. And if you find that you’re not, I hope you have the strength to start all over again.”—Benjamin Button, The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button (2008)
If art conservation is like surgery, then early handlers of Thomas Eakins’s masterpiece, “The Gross Clinic,” violated the Hippocratic oath: “First, do no harm.”
Eakins painted this ambitious medical portrait in 1875, with a deliberate contrast between the daylit foreground and the darkened background of the surgical theater. But sometime between 1917 and 1925, the smoky varnish Eakins had applied to the shadowy areas was stripped away. The result was a garish, orange-red tone above the operating table, one that distracted viewers from the bloodied but dexterous hands of Dr. Samuel Gross.
Few people had bothered to consider the condition of “The Gross Clinic” until 2007, when the painting’s longtime owner, Jefferson Medical College, arranged a sale to museums outside Philadelphia. Keeping the work in Philadelphia quickly became a local cause célèbre, with the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and some 3,600 individual donors teaming up to prevent it from leaving.
Since then “The Gross Clinic” has been in the care of the Philadelphia Museum’s skilled curators and conservators. They have performed a difficult operation on an operation, with excellent results.
You can now visit the painting in “An Eakins Masterpiece Restored: Seeing ‘The Gross Clinic’ Anew” at the museum, where it is flanked by two of the artist’s other medical scenes and accompanied by X-radiographs of works. The exhibition pinpoints some of the qualities good artists and good doctors share: precision, instinct and patience.
By applying a fresh coat of varnish, the conservators have plunged the painting’s supporting characters (including the figure of Eakins at the right edge of the canvas) back into darkness. Attention is thereby refocused on the main event, an operation to remove dead tissue from an infected thighbone.
The restoration has corrected color as well as contrast. With the reddish cast gone, the light is consistently cold and clinical. It neutralizes some of the scene’s histrionic touches, for instance the cowering woman at the left (thought to be the patient’s mother).
The initial response to the painting, as it was seen at the 1876 Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia, now makes more sense. A writer from The Nation, for instance, opined, “A tendency to blackness in the flesh-shades is the principal artistic infelicity in this curious and learned work.”
The current show’s first gallery contains photographs and ephemera from the Centennial Exhibition, a world’s fair that included the first historical survey of American art. Much of this material is filler. (Do we really need to see the shareholders’ certificate or Eakins’s exhibitor’s pass?) More to the point are the interior shots of the exhibition sites, which show how “The Gross Clinic” made its debut.
The selection committee found the painting too visceral for the main art show, a stuffy, salon-style affair in Memorial Hall, but with help from Dr. Gross, Eakins was able to display it in a model Army-post hospital elsewhere on the fairgrounds. Photographs show “The Gross Clinic” prominently featured at the end of a long row of beds, framed by dark curtains.
It has a similar placement here, in a second gallery that’s visible from the first. And it’s attended by Eakins’s other well-known portraits of doctors: “The Agnew Clinic” (1889) and “Portrait of Dr. Benjamin H. Rand” (1874). Neither of these works is as captivating as “The Gross Clinic,” but each shows that Eakins prescribed a range of pictorial treatments for his medical subjects.
In “The Agnew Clinic” he made the composition horizontal and the onlookers fully visible. Painted just a decade and a half later than “The Gross Clinic,” it reflects exponential advances in medicine: artificial light and modern antiseptic techniques. At the same time, the operation pictured — a mastectomy — suggests that not all diseases can be conquered.
Dr. Rand, meanwhile, is depicted at a remove from the blood and guts of the operating table. (He was a chemist, not a surgeon.) Shown at home, he strokes a gray cat perched near the microscope on his desk.
The show’s final gallery assembles compelling evidence in support of the museum’s restoration of “The Gross Clinic.” Most persuasive is a photograph of the painting from 1917 (about a year after Eakins’s death); it is in black and white, but the relationship of dark to light tones is revealing.
So is another Eakins painting that recently underwent corrective surgery, the outdoor scene “Mending the Net” (1881). Its steely blue sky had been strip mined, leaving pale, watery patches that made Eakins’s white-shirted fishermen practically invisible.
The X-radiographs of “The Gross Clinic” are fascinating, as these things almost always are. They show how Eakins nipped and tucked his composition, moving the clinic clerk down and an assistant’s arm up, so that the action pivots around Dr. Gross.
And if that’s not enough TV-style medical drama, you can watch a 24-minute video that shows the museum’s team of concerned specialists examining the painting. Faced with the prospect of losing “The Gross Clinic,” Philadelphia has finally given it the care it so richly deserves.
“An Eakins Masterpiece Restored: Seeing ‘The Gross Clinic’ Anew” is on view through Jan. 9 at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Benjamin Franklin Parkway at 26th Street; (215) 763-8100, philamuseum.org. (via NY Times)
“Today, California’s Proposition 8 was declared unconstitutional. When Prop 8 was passed two years ago, I said, ‘One day we will look back and realize how wrong this is.’ Now, we’ve made a huge step forward. In today’s ruling, the court stated that Prop 8 ‘fails to advance any rational basis’ for denying the right to marry, and the court is right. We’re all equal, and we should all have equal rights. I’m so grateful for today’s decision.”—Ellen Degeneres
PROP 8 OVERTURNED: Gay Marriage Ban Struck Down in CA
After a five-month wait, 9th Circuit District Court Judge Vaughn Walker offered a 136-page decision in the case of Perry v. Schwarzenegger, firmly rejecting Proposition 8, which was passed by voters in November 2008.
"Although Proposition 8 fails to possess even a rational basis, the evidence presented at trial shows that gays and lesbians are the type of minority strict scrutiny was designed to protect," Walker ruled.
"Plaintiffs do not seek recognition of a new right. To characterize plaintiffs’ objective as "the right to same-sex marriage" would suggest that plaintiffs seek something different from what opposite-sex couples across the state enjoy — namely, marriage. Rather, plaintiffs ask California to recognize their relationships for what they are: marriages."
"Proposition 8 places the force of law behind stigmas against gays and lesbians, including: gays and lesbians do not have intimate relationships similar to heterosexual couples; gays and lesbians are not as good as heterosexuals; and gay and lesbian relationships do not deserve the full recognition of society."
The judgment was the first offered by a federal court with respect to laws banning gay marriage at the state level and it promises to have massive reverberations across the political and judicial landscape. The decision is now expected to head to the Ninth Circuit Appeals Court (also based in San Francisco) for appeal and from there to the Supreme Court.
In the interim, however, Walker’s ruling gave gay-rights activists a second occasion to rejoice in less than a month. In July, a federal judge in Massachusetts ruled that the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which defines marriage as one man and one woman, was also unconstitutional. (continue reading via Huffington Post)
IS ITALY TOO ITALIAN?
THE Carlo Barbera factory is a series of glass and brick buildings beside a stream about 55 miles west of Milan. Luciano Barbera grew up here, learning the craft from his father, before heading to the University of Leeds in England.
He brought home know-how in textile engineering as well as admiration for British finery, to which he added a flair for color and pattern and which he has turned into a personal trademark. A fashion director at Neiman Marcus once called Mr. Barbera “the most elegant man in the world.” It is not uncommon for strangers to introduce themselves and ask, “How can I look like you?”
“I don’t want to generate people who all look the same,” he says, sitting in his office one recent afternoon. “I am a soloist. You can be a soloist and play in an orchestra.”
His career as a designer began, he says, almost by accident. In 1962, a photographer from Vogue snapped a photo of him in a suit made of fabric he had designed. (In the image, he is leaning against a fence, a cigar in hand, gazing at his horse, Edwan.) Several years later, a man named Murray Pearlstein, who owned LouisBoston, a menswear store, knocked at the Carlo Barbera factory, introduced himself to Luciano and told him that he wanted to sell his line of clothing to the American market. (continue reading via NY Times)