Filed under: Art, Connections, Humor, Music, National Geographic, Predictions, Science Fiction, Wales, Writing stuff | Tags: America the Beautiful, art, blogging, Elsie Kaplan, humor, jim downey, music, National Geographic, New Mexico, predictions, Science Fiction, Singing Road, St. Cybi's Well, Tijeras, video, Wales, writing
Darnell Sidwell had just crossed the Severn Bridge on the M4, heading west. He read the highway sign:
Sound Sculpture Ahead. Move to outer left lane, maintain speed of 70 kph.
He pulled the little GM rental hybrid into the left lane carefully, and thought about setting the cruise control, but was unsure where to find it on the unfamiliar vehicle. The car crossed the first warning rumble strips. Darnell turned his attention to the sound of the tires, and a few moments later was treated to a long, drawn-out rumble over a series of carefully spaced and specially shaped strips, which distinctly said: “WWWWW-ELLL-CCCCOOOOOMMME-TOOOOO-WWWWWAAAALLLESSSS”.
Playing with rumble strips is nothing new (and wasn’t when I first came up with the idea mentioned on my archive site above), but it’s fun to see that it is now being used more in the way I envisioned:
Sounds emanating from 1,300 feet of roadway just west of Tijeras have been listened to around the world, and it’s more than just tires on pavement catching international attention.
The Singing Road, installed last week, uses rumble strips to play “America the Beautiful” for drivers who obey the speed limit as they cruise down Route 66.
The National Geographic Channel approached the New Mexico Department of Transportation about the project last June, asking if they could construct the road for an upcoming series. The project was privately funded by National Geographic and NMDOT didn’t make – or spend – any money on it. Since the road was finished last week, Melissa Dosher, the public information officer for NMDOT, said she’s fielded questions from television stations as far away as Australia.
There’s a video (with sound) at the above site, so you can hear it. Fun stuff.
HT to ML for the initial link last week.
Filed under: Art, Bipolar, Connections, Depression, Health, Predictions, Science, Slate | Tags: apophenia, art, bipolar, blogging, creative process, depression, health, jim downey, Katy Waldman, Lancaster University, medicine, mental health, Northwestern University, predictions, Rick Nauert, science, writing
Since this blog has recently picked up a bunch of additional followers, I’m going to reiterate something I’ve said in the past: I’m mildly bipolar. Have been all my adult life. My ‘natural’ bipolar cycle is about 18 months, though that can be influenced by outside factors. It’s mild enough that I’m able to manage my bipolar swings without medication, but I keep a close eye on it. I’m thankful that I can manage it without medication, because I have always perceived a connection between this bipolar condition and creativity.
And increasingly, science agrees with me:
Professor Steven Jones, co-director of Lancaster University’s Spectrum Centre, said, “It appears that the types of inspiration most related to bipolar vulnerability are those which are self-generated and linked with strong drive for success.
“Understanding more about inspiration is important because it is a key aspect of creativity which is highly associated with mental health problems, in particular bipolar disorder.”
“People with bipolar disorder highly value creativity as a positive aspect of their condition. This is relevant to clinicians, as people with bipolar disorder may be unwilling to engage with treatments and therapies which compromise their creativity.”
And then there’s this, from an article on apophenia:
Another possible culprit in apophenia is dopamine. A 2002 experiment revealed that people with high levels of dopamine more often extract meaning from coincidences than those with lower dopamine levels. And when self-described skeptics (team “UFOs are fake”) were given the drug L-dopa, which ups the brain’s dopamine supply, they began to perform more like self-described believers (team “I can speak to spirits”) on the same pattern-finding tasks. Likewise, when Brugger and his colleagues administered dopamine to a group of healthy adult men, that group proved more likely than a control group to notice visual similarities between random pairs of shapes.
Personal accounts from manic patients fizz with an almost compulsive meaning-making, but the research on connections between apophenia and bipolar disorder is thin. One clue: Just like people with schizotypal tendencies, people at risk for bipolar disorder often ace creativity tests. They seem to excel especially at the type of “intuitive, open-minded thinking” that results in surprising associations. (Though he hasn’t studied apophenia and bipolar disorder, Brugger says he would “assume that you see connections everywhere in a manic state.”) A symptom of mania known as clanging, in which ideas are strung together not in a logical order but because of how the words sound, has an apophenic aura.
Related, this news about another scientific discovery concerning depression:
The first blood test to diagnose major depression in adults has been developed by Northwestern Medicine scientists, a breakthrough approach that provides the first objective, scientific diagnosis for depression. The test identifies depression by measuring the levels of nine RNA blood markers. RNA molecules are the messengers that interpret the DNA genetic code and carry out its instructions.
* * *
“This clearly indicates that you can have a blood-based laboratory test for depression, providing a scientific diagnosis in the same way someone is diagnosed with high blood pressure or high cholesterol,” said Eva Redei, who developed the test and is a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “This test brings mental health diagnosis into the 21st century and offers the first personalized medicine approach to people suffering from depression.”
I suspect that it won’t be long until some similar test is developed for markers indicating bipolar condition.
Oops, there I go, drawing connections again …
Filed under: Art, Connections, H. R. Giger, movies, Paleo-Future, Science Fiction, YouTube | Tags: art, blogging, Dan O'Bannon, Dune, Frank Herbert, jim downey, Jodorowsky, Moebius, movies, Open Culture, Science Fiction, video, www youtube
A decade before David Lynch’s flawed but visually brilliant adaptation of Dune hit the silver screen (see our post on that from Monday), another cinematic visionary tried to turn Frank Herbert’s cult book into a movie. And it would have been a mind-bogglingly grand epic.
And be sure to check out the still images. Great stuff, and would have made one hell of a Science Fiction movie. Perhaps a completely *bonkers* one, but nonetheless …
Filed under: Art, Book Conservation, tech, University of Missouri | Tags: 1480, art, blogging, book conservation, bookbinding, incunabula, jim downey, Legacy Bookbindery, technology, Thomas Aquinas, University of Missouri
Been a little while since I did a book conservation post. So let’s have some fun.
Recently I had this item come in for some minor work: Summa contra gentiles by Thomas Aquinas, printed in Venice in 1480. That makes it an incunabula, one of the relatively rare books published before 1501 (in this case, just a quarter century or so after the Gutenberg Bible). Even more noteworthy, this book is still in its original binding. And that binding is in remarkably good condition.
Here’s a pic of the outside of the binding:
Lovely. And an excellent example of bindings of that period. That’s the front cover, a nice very deep red (almost a dark brown to the eye) in goatskin. What I love is the way the binder used fairly simple tools to create an elaborate cover design. Here’s a detail:
And the hardware is wonderful, too. Here’s a detail of the front clasp hardware:
That clasp was designed to receive a simple hook attached to a leather strap mounted on the back, here:
Also, take note of the delightful small brass strip mounted on the corners:
There’s a similar strip mounted to the bottom (called the “tail” in bookbinding) edge of the covers, near the spine of the book on both the front and rear. That protects the cover from excessive wear when the book would be resting in a lectern or something similar for reading (books in this time period were usually shelved on their side):
Cool, eh? But the real treasure of this binding was revealed when I removed the (probably) 19th century endpapers which had been added. Under that was the original structure of the book, showing both the original boards (probably quarter-sawn oak) as well as the way the supporting strips of alum-tawed goatskin of the sewing structure was laced into those boards. Here’s an overview:
And here’s a detail showing how the supporting strips were lain within a small channel carved into the wooden board covers, and then pinned in place using a softer wood or (in this case) other leather:
But equally cool is a detail shot showing the simplicity of how the leather cover comes around the corner of the board:
Lastly, here’s a little detail from one sheet inside:
It’s a little hard to tell what it is you’re seeing there, so let me explain. The darker strip is the outside edge of a piece of vellum which has been adhered to the spine of the text block. This was added *before* the supporting strips of alum-tawed goatskin were laced into the wooden covers, and just serves to help protect the exposed sewing thread.
So, there you have it: a perfect example of late 15th century binding. Just like all the history books (and book conservation training) says it should be, but exposed by me today for the first time in probably 200 years or so.
Fun stuff. Have I mentioned recently how cool my job is?
Filed under: Amazon, Art, Bipolar, Book Conservation, Connections, Depression, Emergency, Failure, Feedback, Flu, Health, Kindle, NPR, Pandemic, Predictions, Preparedness, Publishing, Science, Science Fiction, Writing stuff | Tags: art, blogging, book conservation, bookbinding, Communion of Dreams, COPD, direct publishing, Ebola, feedback, Guinea, health, jim downey, Kindle, Liberia, Nigeria, NPR, predictions, reviews, science, Science Fiction, Sierra Leone, St. Cybi's Well, WHO, writing
For one reason and another, this past week has been a little rough, hence the paucity of posts. The rejection from the agent kinda took the wind out of my sails a bit, since I thought that the prospects were good. And continued news on the Ebola front* kept reminding me just how grim St Cybi’s Well is getting, in regards to the onset of the fire-flu (though I hope that other aspects of the novel more than balance that out for the reader).
But now the winds have shifted again, and things are looking up. We’ve gotten a bunch of bids in the auction to help my friend (though you can still pick up a hand-bound limited edition hardcopy of Communion of Dreams for a song). There’s a new review of CoD up on Amazon. And this morning I got word that a major new project I’ve been involved with helping to get organized is going to be implemented — more on that when there’s an official announcement in a couple of weeks. But it’s kinda a big deal and one which I am excited to be part of. Oh, and there’s a fun little item here about a recent book conservation job I did which might be of interest.
So, those are the latest developments. Watch for more to come. Oh, and go put a bid in on something on the auction site — there are a number of great items available! Thanks!
*I do want to note that I don’t think that Ebola poses a significant risk to people in the US. We have the medical infrastructure to deal with isolated cases, which is likely all that we’ll see here. There’s no reason to get into a panic. But that doesn’t change the horror of the disease itself, nor the impact that it is having on people in Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone.
Filed under: Art, Connections, Failure, Feedback, NASA, Promotion, Publishing, Science, Science Fiction, Space, tech, Writing stuff | Tags: art, blogging, Communion of Dreams, direct publishing, feedback, jim downey, NASA, promotion, rejection, science, Science Fiction, space, St. Cybi's Well, technology, writing
Good news! This morning the bidding opened on the auction I mentioned the other day, and I understand that there’s already something of a bidding war on some of the “become immortal” options I offered:
Be Famous! Have your name (or the name of a loved one, pet, etc) included in my next novel! Can be a character, a named place (manor/restaurant/pub), a book title/author, et cetera. Any sort of name you wish.
You have three choices:
Passing mention. Five available.
Name and some description. Three available.
Tertiary character, who will have some dialog & interaction with other characters. One available.
Yay! Thanks for the vote of confidence, and for helping out my friend!
* * *
I’ve seen several preliminary news items on this, and it’s … intriguing.
Nasa is a major player in space science, so when a team from the agency this week presents evidence that “impossible” microwave thrusters seem to work, something strange is definitely going on. Either the results are completely wrong, or Nasa has confirmed a major breakthrough in space propulsion.
Very intriguing. Basically, this is the third test conducted on a theoretical reactionless drive, with NASA (British publications consider it stylistically appropriate to just capitalize the first letter) doing the independent testing of previous claims. It’ll be interesting to see what comes out of this.
* * *
From three months back:
…but the other is far enough along that I’ll share: there’s a literary agent who is potentially interested in representing me, something which I have been thinking about for a while.
I’ll keep you posted as to any concrete developments.
Well, I just got a very nice note back from said agent, who complimented me in several ways but said that he wasn’t going to represent me after all.
Rejection is part of the game, and any writer or artist has to come to terms with that, or you might as well just give up. As I told a friend earlier:
He’s gotta do what he thinks makes business sense – when I ran the gallery, I had to turn down hundreds of artists who wanted us to represent them. And as I told them, just because I wasn’t going to rep them didn’t in any way mean that their work wasn’t quality. So I understand the equation from both sides of the = sign …
Still … I think I might take the rest of the afternoon off.
Do something nice for my friend. Go place a bid on something which interests you.
Filed under: Art, Book Conservation, Connections, tech, U of Iowa Ctr for the Book, University of Missouri | Tags: blogging, book conservation, Gutenberg Bible, history, jim downey, Johannes Gutenberg, technology, University of Iowa Center for the Book, University of Missouri, Wikipedia
As a book & document conservator, I’ve had the good fortune to see, handle, and work on some really interesting historical artifacts. Just the other day a client came to me for an assessment of a ratty old paperback book which had been in her mother’s underwear drawer for the better part of the last fifty years. Don’t think it sounds particularly special or interesting? Well, if it’s the right kind of paperback … yeah, there’s a *very* good chance that the book she brought me would be just the fifth known copy of that very important first edition. I recommended that she deal with a qualified rare book appraiser, though everything about the book — the paper quality and age, the sewing structure and condition, the amount of dust and dirt it had collected, even the smell of the thing — all fit perfectly into what I would expect of a book printed in that time and that place and then used and loved for a century or so, then put away and essentially forgotten for another century.
But there is one thing which is so iconic, which so perfectly focuses on a critical moment in history, that when I was first asked to work on it more than 20 years ago I knew that my talents and training had been accepted by the then-director of Special Collections at the University of Missouri – Columbia. This item:
I would expect that anyone who would find themselves reading my blog would already know the history and importance of the Gutenberg Bible, but just in case here’s the intro for the Wikipedia entry:
The Gutenberg Bible (also known as the 42-line Bible, the Mazarin Bible or the B42) was the first major book printed in the West using movable type. It marked the start of the “Gutenberg Revolution” and the age of the printed book in the West. Widely praised for its high aesthetic and artistic qualities, the book has an iconic status. Written in Latin, the Gutenberg Bible is an edition of the Vulgate, printed by Johannes Gutenberg, in Mainz, Germany, in the 1450s. Forty-eight copies, or substantial portions of copies, survive, and they are considered to be among the most valuable books in the world, even though no complete copy has been sold since 1978.
The title page from this presentation case explains a bit more why it is just a ‘leaf’ from one of the Bibles:
Basically, someone took a partial copy of one of the known authentic Bibles, separated it into individual leaves, mounted those into this presentation case, then sold those to collectors and institutions which wanted to have their own sample of the Bible. Each one is now worth on the order of $50,000.
Now, you might notice (if you dig around into the data on these images) that these are recent pictures all taken with my smartphone (and no flash). That’s because a week or so ago I brought the leaf home from Special Collections for some additional work. No big deal, honestly, just a little cleaning and a minor bit of repair. Here’s what the leaf looked like before (front and back):
And here’s what it looked like after:
Yeah, not a huge difference. But if you look closely, particularly on the lower fore-edge corner, you can see that it is notably cleaner. And there’s also an almost invisible repair in that area on the back of the page where a slight fold was weakening the corner. So I reinforced it with a bit of handmade kozo paper (from the UICB – where I trained as a conservator), and a little bit of wheatpaste. Here’s a detail of the repair in process, before the excess was trimmed off:
And here it is complete:
Almost, but not quite, invisible. That’s in keeping with current conservation practices, where you don’t want a repair to be a distraction, but you do want it to be evident to the trained eye, so they know the ‘honest’ history of the item and whether it has been treated/repaired.
To be perfectly honest in another way, working on this leaf was just completely straight-forward. Cleaning and simple kozo repairs are about the simplest conservation tasks performed, and in no way are a challenge to my abilities.
And yet …
And yet, because of what that leaf is, what it represents, I kept it locked away in the safe until I could devote a full afternoon of work to taking care of it. Until I had completely gone through a ritual cleaning of my bindery space. Until I was at the very ‘top of my game’ in terms of focus and attention. Until I was absolutely certain that I could do the tasks required with my full and total respect. Call it Zen & the Art of Conservation if you want. Or just call it a recognition that I am only one set of hands in a long chain who for a moment (once again) had a responsibility to both the future and the past.
The leaf has already been returned to the care of Special Collections.
PS: Tucked in the back of presentation case was this document from the first treatment I performed. Thought I’d share it as well, just for grins.