dec 07



Tomorrow night 20/20 is airing a story about web harassment implausibly more vile than what Megan Meir experienced:

Not long after their 18-year-old daughter died in a car accident, Christos and Lesli Catsouras were forced to relive their grief.

They soon began receiving anonymous e-mails and text messages that contained photographs of the accident, including pictures of Nicole Catsouras’ decapitated body, still strapped to the crumpled remains of her father’s Porsche. A fake MySpace page was created, which at first looked like a tribute to Catsouras but also led to the horrific photos.

“What type of individual would do that?” asked Christos….

The images became so persistent that Lesli Catsouras stopped checking her e-mail. Nikki’s three younger sisters were forbidden to use the Internet, and 16-year-old Danielle was taken out of school to be home schooled out of fear that her peers might confront her with the pictures.

They are currently suing the California Highway Patrol for releasing the photos. As their attorney explains, ” “One of the officers e-mails some of the photographs to a dispatcher and then the dispatcher e-mails them outside the Police Department. And then from there, you know, it, it created a life of its own and created momentum and it just, it just exploded.”


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Tonight is the third, and final part of the SciFi Network’s enjoyable miniseries, Tin Man. It is The Wizard of Oz revamped, and tipping its hat to Perdido Street Station. Director Nick Willing seems deathly afraid of coming off as cute, and as a result a whimsical sense of humor is missing. Still, Zooey Deschanel has that perfect balance of jaded and adorable. At twenty-seven she might seem like an over the hill Dorothy Gale [“DG,”] but really, how many mid-twentysomethings really know their own backyard?


But TIn Man is only using Baum’s chess pieces. The game is entirely its own. I’m really surprised at how far they run from the familiar storyline, and would put money on it that DG won’t be clicking her heels back home at the end.

In terms of entertainment, you can never go wrong drawing from either L. Frank Baum or Lewis Carroll’s influence. I love all of them from The Wiz to Tideland. One of my favorite films in childhood, one I badly need to see again, is Return to Oz. Although I haven’t seen it in ten years, the sound of wheelers – the men with wheels for hands –screeches loudly in my memory, as well as their cackling maniacal laughter.



I’ll never forget that sound! That is why I wasn’t surprised to learn that Return to Oz the only film that legendary sound mixer/editor Walter Murch ever directed.


BLDGBLOG interviewed Murch several months ago:

BLDGBLOG: [Brian] Eno once said that he would make field recordings in different parks around London, then listen to the tapes until he’d memorized them – the way you would memorize a Beatles song. So he would know exactly when the church bell rang, and the mother called out to her child, and the birds flew overhead – or a distant truck rumbled by. He memorized the space according to the sounds that occurred within it.

Murch: There’s a wonderful essay by Michelangelo Antonioni, notes for a film that he was going to make in New York. To familiarize himself with the acoustic space of Manhattan (where he had never made a film) he sat in a room 34 stories up in a hotel somewhere on Fifth Avenue, writing down exactly what he heard over a period of three hours from dawn through rush hour. He came up with the most wonderful metaphors for sounds that were mysterious and unfamiliar to him, but which would be run-of-the-mill to a New Yorker. It’s a great read: a kind of meditative poetry, or song, just like Brian Eno said. It can evoke a whole series of emotional responses if you’re sensitive to that kind of stuff.

BLDGBLOG: Speaking of which, is there a specific place, like Leicester Square or some forest near San Francisco, where you thought to yourself: I could do this better – I could make this place sound better?

Murch: [laughs] Back in the late 60s we used to think of hiding a series of playback devices around a house to improve the sounds of the doors closing, the toilets flushing, and so on. Creating a real-life alternate acoustic universe.

Certainly the dominant thing that’s happened over the last hundred years is the universal spreading of white noise – just the general mush of traffic, air-conditioning, and jet planes. Whereas if you were in Leicester Square a hundred years ago, it might have been just as noisy – but the sounds would be more specific, less mushy and ill-defined because of the lack of the internal combustion engine and the constant whir of rubber tires on asphalt. For a number of years Aggie and I lived very near a freeway, on a Sausalito houseboat, and that constant mushy sound eventually became a kind of water-torture for me.

So I don’t have a specific answer for your question – but, generally, it would be to try to find some way to eliminate the white noise and to make people more sensitive to the individual sources of sound and reverberations within the space. Church bells can do that: they attract the ear with their tonality and reverberation, making you aware of the space between you and the church, and making you less aware of the underlying white noise.

I was thinking about that interview the other day, as I attended the COLLISIONtwelve art opening at the Stata Center on Friday night. One of the exhibits, “The Sound of Touch,” was an instrument that recorded sounds and played them back, when one took a wand to a board covered with different sorts of textures and fabrics. A sample of a simple piano note seems ethereal and spooky when the wand is dipped in an assortment of small pebbles, or harsh and stuttering against sandpaper. The creative statement explains, an “acoustic instrument’s resonance is typically determined by the materials from which it is built. With the Sound of Touch, resonant materials can be chosen during the performance itself, allowing performers to shape the acoustics of digital sounds by leveraging their intuitions for the acoustics of physical objects.”


But back to Return to Oz. That film was also a cohesive dystopia, a rare and especially disturbing concept for children. I have a lot of friends that had childhood nightmares because of that film. Its vision was much bleaker than the hazy sense of paranoia in Tin Man. You know, I think I might just add it to the top of my Netflix queue.

More YouTube clips likely to keep you up late tonight:

Mombi’s gallery of heads


The stone people (at 1:10)

Flying out of there

And beautiful Ozma

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A few weeks ago I came across a Gucci baby carrier selling on Craig’s List for $350. I thought it had to be a fake, as it’s so unneccessary, tacky, and ugly. But as it turns out, Gucci has a number of items just for children including monogramed baby shoes and a polyester teddy bear that inexplicably costs $155. Look even Gwen Stefani needs to brand her baby:



Fall River street artist Rene Gagnon tags trash with the Louis Vuitton monogram:


Sadly, the comments on Purseblog suggest people would line up for those old mattresses if they were authentic. Most people agree the baby carrier is adorable but could be “uncomfortable” and is impractical only because “it can’t be used after about 4 months.” Never mind that your baby doesn’t need a stamp of luxury

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As it turns out, the Lewis Carroll- smashed-accordian-fantasy that is MIT’s Stata Center, is as as much of a disaster as it looks. MIT is suing Frank Gehry and his construction company Skanska USA Building Inc for faulty construction resulting in leaks to spring, masonry to crack, mold to grow, drainage to back up, and falling ice and debris to block emergency exits.


The best comment I’ve read on this comes from the blog, Why Architects Drink:

those swooping curves and angles make it really hard to flash and seal things up the same way you do in a building made of lots of clean and/or simple angles or fewer curves. Hence, I’m not surprised at all that the building is having leakage and slab cracking problems. In the NY Times article, Gehry states that MIT is “after [his] insurance money.” Okay, fine. I heard somewhere (from a very reliable but confidential source) that the contractor of the Denver Art Museum addition took out an insurance policy on leaks, which it did indeed have to file claims on less than a year after it opened. Having worked on much less complicated buildings than either the DAM addition or the Stata, I find the idea rather intelligent and as demonstrating foresight. Sounds like Mr. Gehry should have done the same, if he hadn’t already. But let’s step back to the design process itself: if Franky-baby is going to be willing to design such weirdness, he’s going to have to doubly stand behind it and vouch for the quality of said design. By quality of design, I mean a wide range of things, including how well it satisfies the program, how physically comfortable the space is, how easy it is to heat/cool, and how well it keeps out the elements.


I have to go up to the board of MIT and the Stata Center, grasp them firmly by the shoulders, and then shake the living crap out of them. And as I shook them, I would ask in a loud voice, “Have you not seen the kind of Pink-Floyd-and-Demerol-nightmare shit that Gehry designs?!?!?!” Because, frankly, if Gehry didn’t take leak/fuck-up insurance out, then MIT shoulda. I mean, did they seriously not know what they were getting? And frankly, if ANY of them have ever built a building, they would know that there are ALWAYS a few problems.

Recently, JG Ballard wrote in the Guardian about how much detests the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao. It “throws up a fountain of light and good cheer that promises all the fun of a travelling circus – erecting its tent beside a disused railway yard in a run-down industrial city…Stay outside it, at a distance of about one hundred yards, and you will absorb all its audacity, magic, good humour and genius. And its infantilising charm. This is Disneyland for the media studies PhD.”

But the Stata Center, for all its weirdness, really fits into the Kendall Square landscape – a post-industrial park urban nightmare that could be the setting for a number of Ballard’ novels. The neighborhood is ridgid and cold, but not without some similarly innovative neighboring buildings like I. M. Pei’s Wiesner Building. Gehry calls it his “party of drunken robots,”. The playful spirit that was there at conception has carried on with the kind of activities the building houses.

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