Showing posts with label Nelson-Atkins. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Nelson-Atkins. Show all posts

Monday, April 16, 2012

Nelson-Atkins World's Fairs Exhibit Opening

Margo would love a visit at Meet Margo: The Gold Royal with Star(let) Power

Entertainment for the evening.  Sadly, there was a conspicuous lack of mimes.

Photography is not allowed in the exhibit due to the number of pieces on loan from other galleries and private collections.  Visit the website for more:

This is a major exhibit with many special programs and educational tie ins through its run.  Skim the website and you'll get a good idea of the treasures that await.  Our favorite part was the transition from Art Nouveau  to Art Deco.  Margo's designer, Henry Dreyfuss, even built a model city, "The Democracity", for the 1939 New York World's Fair.

In keeping with the tradition of the World's Fairs, the Nelson-Atkins decided to house a temporary structure showcasing technology and design.  After an open competition, the Sun Pavilion was born.  It lives on the lawn just past the sculpture garden.

The structure is comprised of reused scaffold support parts and old cargo containers.  It is interactive.  Visitors can donate various bits of debris which artists will turn into new art.  The solar panel array is functional and connected to a power management system so visitors can learn about the mechanics of taking DC and making it into AC.

Here is the official description from the museum website:
In conjunction with Inventing the Modern World: Decorative Arts at the World’s Fairs, 1851–1939, The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art is proud to present the Sun Pavilion. World’s fairs were the most important vehicle for debuting technological and stylistic advancements for functional objects and the pavilions that housed them. The Sun Pavilion is a temporary structure keeping with these important themes. The design and construction team for the Sun Pavilion includes Generator Studio, Tm Gratkowski, Brightergy LLC, Thornton Tomasetti, BC Engineers and Prosser Wilbert Construction. The Sun Pavilion will be a sophisticated and visually compelling mixture of architecture, design, and technology. The open and fragmented array of solar panels, scaffolding and interior spaces will create an exterior connection to the featured exhibition in the Bloch Building and provide interactive experiences on the museum campus. Visitors of all ages will experience progressive principles of contemporary design and technology in this exciting new space. 

gingercat making electricity.
 You can learn more about building the interactive portions from the designers.
 And here is the power output for the day:
Architectural Record story

I hope you can make it to the exhibit!  The pedicab driver is lonely.

Friday, March 2, 2012

TED - Ideas Worth Spreading (in pen *)

* This is where you find out why I type and use a keyboard.

My Spousal Unit, MEK, and I had the distinct pleasure of attending a live simulcast (that was redundant) of Wednesday's sessions at the TED2012 conference. This event was hosted by the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art and sponsored by a local web design firm, VML.

So, what is TED and why did I actually take notes?  TED stands for Technology, Entertainment and Design.  It is a fusion of ideas from creatives that are placed out on the web for our mutual benefit.  TED talks are fast paced "Ideas Worth Spreading".   A TED or licensed TEDx conference is synergy in action.

From past experience, I knew just how fast TED goes.  In theory, I could just look all the talks up on after the fact.  However, with a maximum length of 20 minutes and a few 3 minute talks interspersed, there can be an awful lot of content thrown at an audience in the course of six hours.  TED features some of the best minds and best speakers on the planet.

These few pages just barely skim the surface of a TED event.  If you read any of this and something catches your eye, dive into the TED website  It's one of the best ways you can possibly waste time.

As for February 29th, the new director at the Nelson, Julian Zagazagotia, encouraged the audience to always do something extraordinary every four years with our extra day.

REWIND >>>>>>> Back to the first page for some commentary....

The first thing you will notice is that my handwriting is horrid and always has been.  But I can actually read my own writing this time, so I will count that as progress.  Bonus:  After the introductory talks, the other 27 pages of notes were done in an almost completely dark auditorium.

The opening speaker was Scooter, the Muppet.  Scooter talked about the tangible vs. the digital - felt vs. pixels.  My favorite line that pretty well sums up TED:
   "TED is like the Academy Awards for Nerds."

Yep.  And next, the director of the Defense Applied Research Projects Agency (DARPA) carried on the Nerd theme:  "You should be nice to Nerds."  She used the history of flight as a narrative to talk about technology; including technology oriented towards defense.  Latest projects:  a Mach 20 glider/jet and a woodpecker sized robotic hummingbird.

One of the guiding precepts for DARPA:   

What would you attempt if you didn't fear failure?  What would you attempt if you could not fail?

She also delivered one of the better inspirational lines of the day.  DARPA was founded after the surprise launch of Sputnik with the mission of "preventing strategic surprise".  Some of their work and grants are pure research to push boundaries.  Many have defense applications.  It is a heavy responsibility and sometimes overwhelming.  On one of those occasions, a coworker sent an email that said: 

     "There is only enough time to iron your cape, and back to the skies with you."

The next great idea comes from a research group at MIT that is working on commercialization of giant batteries to help buffer the electrical grid, have a place to put daytime energy production and assist in distribution of power in major metropolitan areas.

The lead researcher enlisted young, smart scientists in need of PhDs to get the practical applications down.  Conceptually, the cycle is similar to what happens in aluminum smelters, but at much lower temperatures and with abundant natural materials (local dirt).

So where are they now and where are they headed?  Today, a pizza box diameter cell stores 1 kilowatt hour.  In construction, they have a bistro table sized cell that will store 4 kWh.  Within two years, these will be stacked in modules.  With an investment by Bill Gates, among others, they are on their way to a shipping container sized battery that will store 4 megawatt hours ( MWh).   This is huge.

Best line:  "We choose to work on grid level storage, not because it is easy, but because it is hard."

Next up:  Robots.  Robot quadrotors, to be precise.  As a bonus for you James Bond fans, the talk featured a video of a squad playing the theme on actual instruments.

Let's just hope these little guys don't get hooked up with Tesla/DARPA death rays.

Go here for the Bond video:  UPenn Quadrotors playing the Bond theme

And go see Vijay Kumar's TED talk at

Next up:  T. Boone Pickens on energy policy.

T. Boone Pickens is not a shy man.  Every wildcatter has to have a strong ego, but this is one geologist with brains and charisma.  I have to give TED credit for bringing up difficult and controversial subjects.  In this case, he is concerned with national security and points out that oil is

     Dirty, Expensive and Theirs (as in countries that don't particularly like the U.S.)

Factoid:  There are 12 aircraft carriers in the world (counting the Russian scrap heap China is bringing back to life).  Eleven belong to the U.S. and at any given time 5 of them are in the Gulf region and 5 are in rotation ready to go back.  More here:  WIRED Danger Room on China's Carrier

And now for a dose of historic irony:  100 years ago, our choice was between oil and whale oil.  We chose oil because of the same rationale listed above.

Having made a huge play in wind energy and losing $150million in the process, he is looking short term at what is next.  His answer is what made wind unprofitable to start with:  natural gas.  Because of increased exploration and hydro-fracking, the price of natural gas dropped from $9.00 per MCF to $2.40 today.

He's crusty and brutally honest in admitting that this is a bridge to some unknown energy source of the future.  However, he firmly believes the bridge needs to be used now before more of U.S. blood and treasure (and GDP) flows to OPEC.

Wrapping up:  An update on past annual TED prizes.

A TED prize is awarded to a worthy idea or project that needs human capital to grow.  The first couple caught my eye. 

The Encyclopedia of Life is dedicated to Global access to knowledge about life on Earth  A TED talk in 2007 got this project off the ground.  The goal is to create a page for every species on Earth.  This started as a concept in 2007.

This deserves its own line:  at year five, they are up to 1.9 million species.  Amazing.

In order to make this happen, the founders had to talk scientists into giving away their work to populate the pages.  That was hard at first, but community sharing brings dedicated citizens into the mix.  Trading data to help fuel conservation is worth it.

Hence a quote from this talk repeated again:  "Science is changing."

Which brings me to the end of this blog entry, but not the end of the TED session.   The science is changing theme continued with an update on SETILIVE   Remember that movie with Jodie Foster?  No, not the creepy taxi one- the one with the search for extraterrestrial life.  Would you enjoy doing that?

Here is your chance to help crowdsource science.  SETI is listening and you can help classify portions of the radio spectrum.  If you flag something interesting, they will turn the Allen Telescope Array back to the source.  Right now, the SETI program is focused on exoplanets and especially those in the "Goldilocks zone".  Did you know that NASA just reported on a highly compressed water world?  We live in interesting times.

     "Science is changing."

That's it for tonight.  I hope you read this far and you give TED a chance.  Do some keyword searches and just bump around in there.  Let me know if you find something really cool you just have to share!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Ghosts: Happy Photographic Accidents

My photography tends to be on the tightly constrained, control freak end of the spectrum.  However, there are times I  just to shoot to see what happens.  In this case, I was at the Chinese New Year celebration at the Nelson Atkins Museum in Kansas City.  Some small child apparently found a light switch and the lights went out in the middle of a dance performance.

The professional dance troupe continued as if they weren't performing in the dark.  And I just let the camera run on some 2.5 and 5 second handheld exposures.  Combined with random flashes from other audience members, I ended up with the ghosts seen below.

 This is the kind of happy accident that has kept me in love with photography for 25 years.  I must constantly remind myself that risk equals reward.  I am not much of a portrait photographer, but street and candid shooting is especially enjoyable as I never know what will appear in front of my watchful lens.

These photos were taken with a Sony NEX 3 combined with a 1963 vintage Olympus PEN 5 38mm f1.8 manual focus lens.  There is little chance of getting auto focus to work in the dark, so this worked out well.

More information on this combination is way back towards the beginning of this blog at
A Tale of Two Cameras

Why the NEX 3 instead of a DSLR?  There are times it is advantageous to not have a big, black camera up to my face in a crowd.  Most people don't realize that a small camera is capable of the same quality level as the DSLR and are less intimidated by its presence.  The downside is that I don't have the same quick access to exposure control (which I use constantly) or precision focus point selection.

My weapon of choice for street shooting is a Canon 60D with either the 50mm F1.4 or 85mm f1.8.  The lenses are phenomenal and I enjoy the challenge of framing images in a fixed focal length.  It keeps me aware of my surroundings.  I miss some images in not having a zoom at work, but in the long run, the image quality and the challenge are what keep me shooting.

You can find more of my people photos at
And lots more photos of people are peppered through my Fotki files.  One of my favorite sets is from the Zombie Walk for Hunger.

Friday, November 11, 2011

11/11/11 Typecast - A Binary Evening with DJ Spooky

That was yet another great evening at the Nelson-Atkins.  This year we got to experience the opening of the special exhibit of Monet's Water Lillies, several great artist talks, TED X Kansas City, and now this.  If you live in the area and love art and being surprised, do yourself a favor and get a membership to the Nelson.

Claire with someone who looks just like the Six Fingered Man from "The Princess Bride".

DJ Spooky mixing with his Apple App.  Looks cool for Claire.  I do not need a sound hobby.
It's all about the sound.

Mixing videos.

Hitler did not like this print art and reportedly hated jazz as well.
From a DJ Spooky tribute created for the 100th anniversary of the NAACP.

Yeah, he has a subtle but wicked sense of humor.

Quartet playing to a Spooky mix on screen.  He wrote their music on a recent trip to near the North Pole.
DJ Spooky signed Claire's Nelson bookstore sketchbook.  She looks happy but needs a good nights sleep prior to hanging out with her friend Cyborg tomorrow.

As a side note, the Torpedo 18 arrived yesterday.  It has not been cleaned or lubed most likely in decades, but it is unbelievably smooth.  The key action is light and crisp and agrees with my style.  So far it is less jam prone than the Olympia SM3s.  I enjoy it so much that I will even use it without any kind of special type face.  I will need to adjust capital letter registration at some point.