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Nuit Blanche 2011 coverage

12 Oct
Suited up for the future.

Suited up for the future.

How can a public spectacle help to shape our ideas of how we interact with nature, space and cities? Can it really offer a tangible route for creative alternatives to transportation, civic engagement and an investment in how we live with a less harmful impact on the natural world? These questions have been on my mind for years, and in the context of Kindle Project, it has recently become relevant. As we set out to explore the most current incarnations of unique collaborative efforts on the blog these past two months, we came across one such effort that got our attention. Flightpath Toronto took place on October 1 as a part of Toronto’s Nuit Blanche, where for one sleepless night the city was transformed by hundreds of artists for the sixth annual sunset-to-sunrise celebration of contemporary art.


The mystery of the Kessel Run

5 Feb

You’ve never heard of the Millennium Falcon?…It’s the ship that made the Kessel Run in less than twelve parsecs.

Han Solo

Mos Eisley Cantina in Tatooine. Two robed men are looking for an escort past an Imperial blockade off the planet. They are negotiating with a smirking lowlife and hairy, bearlike creature. The older of the two men asks if the lowlife’s ship is fast. That is when the lowlife utters his famous line.

What I never got about Han Solo’s line was that a parsec is a measure of distance and not time. I thought about it from time to time until one day, I figured it out while showering.

What I understand about traveling in hyperspace is that a ship cannot pass near massive objects, as the gravity of the object, such as a sun or planet, would pull the ship off course, or worse, out of hyperspace with disastrous effect. That is why everyone says “plot a course to X”, before jumping to hyperspace, and that is why they need navigational computers. Han Solo was able to make the Kessel Run in record time because he plotted routes that edged closer to gravity wells, shortening the length of the Run. Normally this is dangerous, but Han Solo, being a gambler, probably acted on his instinct and went for it.

I was going to draw some diagrams showing a gravity well and its effect on a ship traveling at FTL speeds, but I found a cool map and a fuller explanation of the Kessel Run here.

I just want you to know that I fully put this explanation together in the shower, using knowledge gathered from Einstein’s writings on the gravitational effect on space, and Timothy Zahn’s Thrawn Trilogy, in which ship-borne gravity generators are routinely used to prevent Rebel pilots from escaping to hyperspace.

There are many attempts at retconning this line to show that Solo is lying, but I stand by my explanation, and the following comment from Lucas himself bears out most of it.

In the commentary for Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope DVD, George Lucas mentions that the parsecs are due to the Millennium Falcon’s advanced navigational computer rather than its engines, so the navicomputer would calculate much faster routes than other ships could. 1

Sunday Digest – XCamp

1 Mar

Xcamp for XClinic (jargon alert)

On February 25th we had a changecamp style unconference on establishing guidelines on both the porting of Natalie Jeremijenko’s environmental health clinic project, XClinic, to Toronto, and the development of a start up kit to help spawn other XClinics in other cities.

The event was very successful, with “many gifts” in the room, and fantastic discussion.

Basic bullet points.

XClinic thesis – Health is a factor of our environment, not just our genes and individual behaviour.

XCamp issues

– The scalability of an art/design environmental project to larger audiences, esp. in the absence of direction from Natalie Jeremijenko

– The goal of XClinics: quirky art (potentially meaningless) projects , or effective (potentially boring) projects? I say neither and both are necessary and sufficient.

– Related to above, we had a lot of conversation about whether there was a formula for the NJ magic. I think there is, but I also think it would be meaningless to try and reproduce it.

– Ibid, we also talked a little about metrics. How would we gauge success of a project.

For more information on XClinic in Toronto, subscribe to this blog or visit

Event photos here.

SHIFT – A work in progress.

23 Dec

I’m working on a draft of an article for Shift, from the OCAD Student Press

This is going to be an epic deja vu for my thesis, and redemption. I finally get a chance to put together a cogent interpretation of all the research and thinking that went into my thesis project. The draft is below, and it’s still very early alpha stage.


Man’s principle gift, and the only thing that distinguishes it from
other animals, is his ability to tell stories. The first words created
the world. Ancient stories gave meaning to the stars.

The following is a work of fiction. Any similarity to any person, or to any actual events, or institutions is intentional and
anything but coincidential.

In 1937 the future of airships came crashing to the ground in a fiery, smoking ruin, amid the famous cries of “oh, the humanity!”.

Since the Hindeburgh crash in Lakehurst Naval Station, New Jersey, only the ghosts of these once important vehicles are seen: floating vestiges of the past above the Super Bowl, or largely ignored, hawking electronics above Queens and Manhattan. A few are still ferrying tourists on harbour tours and over vineyards for wine tastings, but they are largely seen as curiousities, if seen at all. In most of my conversations with people with airships, the first reaction is perplexity, then incredulity.

But everyone I have met agrees with me eventually, that airships are needed in this world again.

Continue reading

Cutting edge technology

8 Dec

A recent comment made me think about the qualities of “cutting edge technology”. At least in terms of communication and computing, the aim of new technology is to make it more human. Gestural interfacing, voice recognition, biometrics etc are all efforts to make machines understand us. This is important because there is a general perception that technology is alienating. I tend to agree with that, as I am not convinced that a more mediated communication is better. However, in light if this recent revelation, I am starting to wonder if we’re not Pygmalion creating Galataea. So in the end, are we helping them, the machines, the marble or the poor flower girl, become like us, or are we trying to make ourselves more human?

Scenarios as Screeplays

18 Apr

Scenario writing is a great tool for .  You’re able to give a clear, compelling <–(starting to hate that word) picture really quickly.  You understand time, place, people and things.  They usually take the form of a short story.  Some people do story boards, others make a power point.  After watching World Builder, (which is a kind scenario, about the future of our ability manipulate information, the material world and perception), I wondered if you could write a scenario as a screenplay.  A screenplay can relay a lot of information about time, place, characters, and action in a very dense format, without getting too detailed.  It’s also a somewhat non linear form, as a number of elements (much like this aside, which I created by putting these words in brackets) can be read simultaneously.  It can be tricky though, if you get carried away by the formal elements, as it is a technical style.  However, if you don’t worry about the details too much, it might be a good way to show that what you are writing about doesn’t exist yet.

From London to Paris: A story.

11 Apr

A little story I wrote in the early days of my project.  Case studies and/or spinoffs are linked.


Jennifer and Julian are recent graduates, living just outside London.  They found out a week ago that they have a few days off at the same time, a rarity since they both started their new jobs.  There wasn’t enough time to book a trip their usual way at an affordable rate.  Julian had read about Logos Free Air on BoingBoing and checked it out at work.

“Tonight after dinner Jen and I were discussing holiday plans when I suddenly remembered the Airbus skyship run by LFA that goes to Paris.”

“Julian mentioned this to me and it sounded interesting, but a bit dodgy as well.  I was wary about some catch.”  After reading the reviews online, and taking a virtual ride in Second Life, they decided to give it a go.  They reserved a seat on the airship to Paris, booked a hostel and made dinner and theatre reservations, all on the LFA portal.  They download all the confirmation and reservation information onto their smart phones via the LFA SkyPass and prepared to head to Waterloo Station.

I used to stress about packing.

Jennifer and Julian get to the LFA SkyDock at Waterloo station, a gleaming, Meidesque tower along the River Thames.  They see the skyship as they come out of the Tube, and it takes their breath away.  It floats above Waterloo, sensuously joined to the SkyDock looking like something between a cumulous cloud, and an Olympic stadium.  It is, in short, like nothing they’ve seen before.

They board with small bags…. Julian brought his own clothes, but Jennifer opted for the Clothing Library service. When they arrive at their hotel, there will be a box of clothes waiting for Jennifer.  Initially hesitant, Jennifer finally decided to try the service for the opportunity to try the latest clothes from her favourite brands.  Jennifer and Julian both filled out a passenger profile when they purchased their tickets.  She chose the outfits, tried them out virtually, and even got shoes to match.  Her friends will marvel at her wardrobe when they see her travel snaps!

After they settled into their seats, they notice the difference in the interior of the skyship to a regular airplane.  Gone were the narrow aisles, the uncomfortable looking seats.  Even the usual First Class, Business Class and Economy sections seemed to have disappeared.  Instead, the Skyship is Service Separated by passenger profile.  Passengers are seated by preference (e.g. quiet or social), and charged by service.
The experience reminds them of being in a restaurant, albeit a very cool, spacious restaurant with a climbing wall and jungle gym.  The entire space is filled with light, and surrounded by an observation deck; basically a promenade like you would find on a cruise ship.  There is a bar and cafe in the centre, selling a wide selection of French products.  The seating is arranged for a spectrum of situations, from large family settings to work/seclusion.

Jen and Julian chose to have a quiet space by the windows, and medium stimulation.  Julian aims to finish some work ahead of time, and Jen wants to finally start that book.  Around them are all people who have opted for a similar experience; minimal interruption, push button service, and internet connectivity.  At the other end of the space, parents of young children enjoy their coffees whilst their little ones clamber on the jungle gym.  The announcement for departure is given.

“Ladies and gentlemen, welcome aboard LFA flight 276 with non stop service to Paris Gare Du Nord.  Flight time is an estimated 2 hours 56 minutes.  Feel free to move about the cabin, and enjoy our bar service.  Please remember that for your comfort and safety, smoking is only allowed in the designated smoking area at the rear of the observation deck.  If you have any questions, do not hesitate to ask one of our staff, and we will assist you however we can.  Once again ladies and gentlemen, on behalf of Logos Free Air and our entire crew, we would like to wish you a safe and pleasant journey.”