Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Step Pyramid at Saqqara

Where do I start with this one? Maybe I should start at the end……the only content from this tomb is a mummified left foot and a pile of rock. Okay, now let’s move backward. The Step Pyramid for Djoser (Zoser) was the largest pyramid of it’s time when completed around 2600 B.C., and was made of stone, not mud and clay like its edificial predecessors.

(image from: www.en.wikipedia.org)

The tomb was built in the third dynasty in Egypt (the Early Dynastic period, if anyone cares) and was meant to be the final resting place for the Pharoah, Djoser. Well, this guy reigned north and south Egypt for almost 20 years, (some say 30) and gave the Architect, Imhotep, plenty of time to keep building and building and turning this tomb into a complex. This complex trumped any previous tomb to date in size. It is one of 97 pyramids found at Saqqara near the necropolis (City of the dead) Memphis, Egypt. It still remains, although its outer limestone shell has since disintegrated.

The final pyramid design ended up being 6 stepped levels above ground, built one at a time. Each level is called a mastaba. Or “bench”. As usual, there was a maze of chambers underground as well. It is believed that the complex, as a whole, emulates the kingship of Djoser over the North and South of Egypt. There are double courts and two mock palaces within the temple walls. Today a scale model is housed at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. I know, because I was just there and I saw it!

Egyptians believed that the structure of the tomb was relevant in this life and the afterlife. The steps have been thought to be a way to ascend to the North Star. Others have suggested that they resemble a crown, but the definitive reason for the shape is unknown. And the tombs have always been grand enough to accommodate even the richest, pickiest king in all the land in the afterlife. There were also false doors along the enclosure wall used for the King’s use in the afterlife, and for the Ka (soul) to move in and out of the tomb. In the years after the construction was complete, this complex doubled as a distribution center for agricultural products that flowed into this funerary estate. Having said that, I suppose I should pay homage to this tomb and complex for being one of the first distribution centers. Today's distribution centers are still made of stone and are also enormous. However, you won't find anyone's Ka there, though. They are generally pretty soulless. We have, however, refined the art of Code compliance. That is, until the current code changes or the wind blows.

(image from www.touregypt.com)

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Frank Gehry

I swear; I feel compelled to write about an Architect because this is what I used to have to do for piano class. (Of course, the subject then was a composer) Well, let me back up. This is what I’d forget to do, and then my best friend would write my biography for me while I went into my lesson, and vice versa. This is my reparation for it…..

Ephraim Owen Goldberg is one of the greatest living Architects of our time. You may know him better as Frank Gehry, the Canadian guy who gave us edificial eye candy all over the world. He is one of the outliers of contemporary Architecture and is referred to as a “Starchitect” in reference to his celebrity status. (I didn’t make it up)

Gehry was born in Toronto Canada on February 28th, 1929. As a boy, his grandmother encouraged him to be creative. He built little cities out of scrap wood and anything that he could use from his grandfathers hardware store. He is now known as the ‘the apostle of chain-link fencing and corrugated metal siding‘; Makes sense. His designs are in step with Deconstructionism or Decon Architecture.

With fame, comes judgment. He is criticized for his reuse of ideas and the similarity of his designs. His uniqueness is also mistaken for crudeness, but it has been proven that he is ‘a sophisticated classical artist”.

One of the most phenomenal aspects of his craft, to me, is that he is known for meeting budgets. Any building can easily go way over budget, but especially “show stopping” pieces are prone to it. It has been reported that the Sydney Opera House was over budget...just a little. (originally budgeted at $7 million, completed at $102 million) But, Geary’s come in on budget and on time. Bravo Frank!

Not only is he an architect, but he has a jewelry and furniture line as well. He is inspired by fish, and loves hockey. What a canuck.
I’ll leave you with some pictures of his buildings to enjoy!

Royal Canadian Museum

*I will see you soon, my friend. Inside and out.*

The Dancing House - Prague, Czechoslovakia

*Also "The drunk House" or "Fred And Ginger" *

Walt Disney Concert Hall - Los Angeles, California

*hard edges: shimmer in the SoCal sun*

Gehry House - Hanover, Germany

*assymetrical: yet orderly*

The Guggenheim Museum - Balboa, Spain

*snake like and brittle: perhaps his most famous*

Frank Gehry's private residence

*Gehry got acclaim : paper architect no more*

Kitchen at Gehry's residence

*oh my! This kitchen I do adore!*

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

X-Ray Spex and the Aryan Nation

I heard a stint on the radio yesterday, that really made me smile, and freightened me too. It was about X ray glasses, sea monkeys, and their inventor. My generation was on the tail end of novelty toys, sadly, but I did dabble in the fine art of using trick ink and cultivating a farm of Amazing Hair Raising Monsters.

Back in the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s, kids clamored for comic books. The advertisements in in the comic books were targeted directly at the heart of every kid’s fantasy world of alternate universes, crime solving and prank pulling. One of the inventors of such novelty toys, had 195 patents, was a marketing genius, and a bigot. (yuk!)

Harold von Braunhut was Jewish, and evidently supported the Aryan Nation by purchasing fire arms for the Ku Klux Klan, and speaking at Aryan Conferences. He was quoted as saying, "Hitler wasn't a bad guy. He just received bad press." He died on November 28, 2003 at the age of 77, after an accidental fall. By the way, November 28th, is the day that I am to be wed this year!

von Braunhut invented Sea Monkeys, Amazing Hair raising Monsters, Invisible Goldfish and X-Ray Spex. Let’s break this down.

Everyone knows what Sea Monkeys are. The ad pitch looked like this:

image from www.wishlistnuwp/content.com

And you got this…. in a plastic tank

image from: www.regals.net

They were simply Brine Shrimp. Imagine if this guy had to pitch a High School Biology class to children?! They are supposedly “Sea Monkeys” because they are
1. in water
2. Have Tails
3. Are playful like a primate.....?

The secret formula for the revival of the “Sea Monkeys” was kept secret by the inventor and his wife.

Another product “invented” by von Braunhut was the Invisible Goldfish:
Come on! Only a child with a piggy bank burning a hole would actually go for this. The funny part about this one is that it was guaranteed!!!!

X Ray Spex:
The Ad should have said, “For the Pervert in all of us”, but instead was “see the bones in your hand and see through clothes.”

These were nothing more than a cheap pair of plastic glasses with cardboard lenses with a hole. In each hole, there was a feather, and it refracted images and gave the illusion of an X- ray. If a kid would have broken this down for a moment, they could have saved their money for the Johnny Bench rookie card. We are all required to put on ironclad suits to get an X-ray at the hospital because the rays are so dangerous. Adults didn’t have any type of X-ray glasses, and in hind sight, $1.25 wouldn’t have covered the cost per pair.

Now, a kid doesn’t think about this, especially one with raging hormones. This product was going to change his/her (most likely his) life. Now, he can see what are behind closed doors, and learn of the inner workings of a woman and her bra. He’d be a man. He’d know only what adults did, and at such a young age! Well, I guess some of that statement is true. He’d learn the very adult disappointments of life, and that not everything is what it seems at all.

Image from: www.3dstereo.com

So, what have we learned today? As children, our parents mowed grass, had a paper route and took out the trash in order to secretly buy gimmicks that would transform their lives. Instead, a piece of junk arrived and their money went straight to the munitions of white supremacists, or so it is alleged.

For more information about von Braunhut’s life, go to:http://www.splcenter.org/intel/intelreport/article.jsp?aid=390

Thursday, October 1, 2009

This Subject Blows!

No doubt, Upstate NY is beautiful in the spring, summer and fall; and no doubt it is a polluted state. However, they have wind turbines off I-390 that are absolutely breathtaking in size, presence and abundance. They are producing clean energy for power. Seeing them is one of the highlights to my often travelled trek from Buffalo to Horseheads. There is resistance to the placement of these “farms” near homes, schools and communities, however. New York Currently has 14 different projects running this year.

image from: www.wind-turbines.com

How it works:

Wind energy is quite simple, but very complicated. In short, the wind turns the blades, then it is “harnessed” by a nacelle. Here is a cross section:


The energy moves southward into the “stem” or the horizontal axis turbine. Each of the windmills has a box that is the point that is the first voltage increase, there is a second voltage increase after travelling a ways down a power line. The electricity then moves across power lines to the transmission towers, (The ones that look like metal Tasmanian devils to me), which is then brought to consumers. You and I! They are touted for their renewable energy, but run into many other obstacles.

Some of the elements the Department of Environmental Conservation studies are the migratory patterns of birds and bats, near the windmills, to ensure that they are not disrupted. Why? You ask…. There is not just one windmill in one area. They are omniscient in these groupings and loom over the landscape. (and are $3million a pop). They range any where from 2-3 to thousands in one area. Don Quixote would be absolutely terrified!

A lot of communities near these wind turbines are a-complainin’ about a lot of different elements from these monsters. http://www.windturbinesymdrome.com/ alleges that the low frequency noise is possibly the cause of Mad Cow Disease. Also, the low frequency noise is very loud, and impossible to get used to. Wind Turbine Syndrome, as taken directly from the eponymous website has the following symptoms:

1) Sleep problems: noise or physical sensations of pulsation or pressure make it hard to go to sleep and cause frequent awakening.
2) Headaches which are increased in frequency or severity.

3) Dizziness, unsteadiness, and nausea.

4) Exhaustion, anxiety, anger, irritability, and depression.

5) Problems with concentration and learning.

6) Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)

Image from: www.techenv.com

Last year, Jack Sullivan wrote an article for The Empire Page, detailing the dismal returns that the turbines have had. The energy output is too little and for too many people and suggests that this is an “Elaborate tax break” for the state. Money is being redirected from schools and hospitals to these turbines that are seemingly not very efficient. As we all know, New York State is full of upstanding politicians that are honest, loyal to their wives and great with money. Why would this project be any different? There is a plan to place turbines near Long Island and perhaps off shore in the ocean and Great Lakes in the near future. My opinion is that anything new will come up against conflict and resistance. I didn’t intend for my blog to be a negative “spin” on wind power plants, but in NYS, that is a prevalent theme in a lot of the articles that I came across.

Obviously, Upstate New York isn’t the only place with wind energy. They can be found in North America, Europe Asia and the Pacific. New Zealand has had turbines since the 1990’s (as opposed to UNY’s 2006 installation). New Zealand is a conducive place for this type of energy because it has a lot of coast line, and therefore, more sea breeze. Of course, Denmark has been successfully using wind power for decades and is arguably the PR agent of the windmill, or vice versa.

image from: www.gloucestershire.gov.uk

Just remember folks, even though wind turbines are found world wide, America is where we originated “Wind Turbine Syndrome”. Boo-yah!

For more information about Wind Power in New York, please visit: http://www.dec.ny.gov/

Thank you for reading my blog and have a nice day!