Everything but existence

Karl Waldmann had it all: the talent, the drive, and the inspiration of purest Dada. What he may not have had was actual human life:

Kunsthaus Dresden, the city’s contemporary art gallery, has removed works by an artist named Karl Waldmann after the police announced it was investigating whether there ever was anyone with that name.

Waldmann, according to his biography [pdf] on the website of the virtual “Waldmann Museum,” was a German-born Dadaist who never exhibited any of his work and “disappeared” in 1958. A French journalist supposedly acquired all of his known oeuvre — more than 1,000 works — in a flea market in Berlin in 1989.

Doubts about Waldmann’s existence have flourished of late:

Late last month, the journalist Thomas Steinfeld wrote in the Süddeutsche Zeitung that Waldmann probably was an invention. No references to the artist can be found during his alleged lifetime, and none of the curators who have selected Waldmann’s works for their exhibitions have had any idea of the collages’ true provenance. Chemical analysis of the paper used in the collages has found chemicals that could only have been used since the 1940s, although the works’ style is firmly fixed in the first 30 years of the 20th century.

Steinfeld went so far as to say that the Waldmann portfolio ought to be locked up until its provenance can be determined. But it’s not like the works are causing any grief to their owners:

Indeed, this could be a victimless crime. Even if Waldmann never existed, the collages are not exactly fakes. They are anonymous creations that people buy because they like them — but more likely, because they are good conversation starters: a mysterious artist, echoes of Russian and German totalitarian pasts, Dadaism, Bauhaus.

And at €10,000 and up, they ought to be.

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Future breakthrough from the distant past

Pioneer, after all, knows something about frickin’ lasers:

The self-driving cars of the future are coming, but to get here a little bit quicker, they may use technology straight out of the 1980s.

Pioneer is launching manufacturing trials of a new LIDAR (light detection and ranging) system that could help autonomous vehicles scan the world around them, and the company is leaning on its decades of experience with laserdiscs to develop it.

You remember the LaserDisc, don’t you? (If you don’t, dial back to this 1998 piece.)

Driverless vehicles like the Google car already use LIDAR tech to “see,” but the units are very expensive. In fact, the roof-mounted sensors can cost as much as the cars themselves, ranging in price from about $25,000 to over $70,000. Pioneer’s contribution, however, is expected to be much cheaper. By basing its products on the optical pickups used to scan laserdiscs, Pioneer hopes it can bring to cost down to around $85 by 2025, reports Nikkei.

My current LaserDisc player has held up nicely for the last, um, 25 years. (It was around $500 new, or about a third less than the first one I bought in 1982.) The format does have one disadvantage, as pointed out by the submitter of this Fark link: “Not mentioned is if passengers will be required to flip the car halfway to their destination.”

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A merman it’s your turn to be

Not exactly a cast of thousands, I surmise:

In the Jimi Hendrix Case only you, Detective Jimi Hendrix can solve the mysterious murder of Jimi Hendrix, with a crazy cast of characters from Officer Jimi Hendrix, to secretary Jimi Hendrix, to fishmonger Jimi Hendrix there to help and hinder you on your way. In case you hadn’t guessed, in The Jimi Hendrix Case, everyone is Jimi Hendrix.

Wait, what?

The Jimi Hendrix Case is a new short point-and-click adventure game made for the latest Monthly Adventure Game jam, the prompt for which, funnily enough, was Hendrix. And one of the rules was that the game must relate to fish in some way. I won’t go into detail but let me just say that I truly admire the way the creators of the game, Benjamin Penney and K. Williams, took these rules to heart.

Screenshots and a download link here.

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Bits of you everywhere

I was taken aback by this, not so much from its origins, but from its implications:

My online life has already gone on for 30 years, and if I have any secrets left — but never mind, let’s not go there.

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Sort of dreamy

For those of us who are occasionally beset by sleep issues, here’s a possible musical solution:

British composer Max Richter spent about two years writing and recording a piece of music which, if it’s successful, few people will hear in full. It’s a composition called Sleep and it runs eight hours long — the perfect length for a good night’s rest.

This is not actually a segment therefrom, but it’s very much in the same spirit:

Difficulty, at least for me: I own no device designed to play for eight hours straight, though apparently it’s streamable through Global Classics. There are also one-hour versions on CD and, um, vinyl. And really, I wouldn’t expect anything less from Max Richter, who once rewrote Vivaldi’s Four Seasons and got Deutsche Grammophon to record it.

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Gauging the distance

In this morning’s paper: Dodgers win, move a season-best 30 games over .500.

Um, okay. The Oklahoma City Dodgers, Triple-A farm club for the Los Angeles Dodgers, won their 85th game last night, bringing their record to 85-55. (The Pacific Coast League plays a 144-game season, so the series starting tonight against the Memphis Redbirds will close out the regular season, after which the Dodgers go on to the PCL playoffs.)

And 85-55 is certainly nothing to sneer at. But is it really 30 games over .500? A team that actually was .500 through 140 games would be 70-70 — and would be 15 games behind.

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Under a modicum of pressure

A Twitter follower professed last night to be impressed by the volume of bloggage I churn out, which got me wondering if there was any particular item I’d done which might be notable for the sheer speed of composition. (I’m an okay typist at best, but typing and writing are two different skills entirely, and Truman Capote might even have agreed.)

So I pondered for a moment, and then recalled that I’d posted this established version of a generic limerick, which inevitably led to someone Googling “generic limerick,” which I duly cited in the weekly round-up of weird search strings, along with this impromptu example:

There once was an A who did B
In front of a horrified C;
The sight of his D
Made her cry loudly, “E!”
And we’re happy this ends before Z.

As I recall, this took all of sixty seconds to concoct, with the semicolon marking the halfway point. (And a reader later pointed out that the fifth line would not rhyme in places like Canada.)

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Returning to the fray

Rebecca Black shows up at the VMAs:

Rebecca Black at the 2015 MTV Video Music Awards

MTV’s publicity machine actually tweeted her arrival, which suggested to me that they Know Something. And this, I suspect, is what they Knew:

I’m guessing that this will be the first track we get to hear from that New Album that’s presumably going to drop some Friday when I least expect it.

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Negative charge

There are plenty of people in the area served by Public Service Company of Oklahoma who don’t want those damn newfangled meters, and PSO plans to apply a little, um, persuasion:

PSO won approval from the commission in April to charge customers an extra $3.11 per month to install more than 520,000 smart meters throughout its service territory in eastern and southwestern Oklahoma.

The utility now wants the commission to approve a one-time charge of $183 and monthly fees of $28 for customers who wish to opt out of the smart meter program. The one-time charge would rise to $261 when PSO finishes the rollout of its smart meters.

An Oklahoman editorial says the fees are reasonably debatable. Some of the other objections, maybe not so much, according to one study:

[B]efore smart meters were installed, electrical distribution equipment was associated with residential fires in just 0.4 percent of cases. Following smart meter installation, that figure fell as low as 0.1 percent in 2012 and never went higher than 0.4 percent in subsequent years.

In comparison, cooking was the cause of residential fires in 29 percent of cases in 2011 and 2012, and 34.5 percent of cases in 2013 and 2014. Smoking was the culprit in approximately 17 percent of fires both before and after smart meter installation.

Heaven help you if you smoke while you’re cooking.

I have a smart meter, installed in early 2011. It seems to run up numbers just as fast as the old device with the dials and everything. My major concern — that it would interfere with WiFi in the household — has not materialized.

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Giant exiled from valley

He’s jolly, he’s green, and he’s outta here:

General Mills has had enough frozen and canned vegetables, it seems, as the company announced it’s selling off its Green Giant and Le Sueur brands for $765 million in cash. It’s been trying to move away from packaged food as consumers’ tastes have changed, and this appears to be one more way it’s shedding its old image as it looks for a new approach to selling food.

The new owner is B&G Foods, a company that owns brands like Molly McButter cheese flavoring and Pirate’s Booty, though General Mills said it will still operate Green Giant in Europe and other export markets under license from B&G, reports the Wall Street Journal.

Said Booty, I have learned, is a cheese puff with actual cheese.

And as I may have mentioned before, this isn’t the worst thing ever to happen to the Giant.

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Appropriate sustenance

“One does not,” Boromir pointed out, “simply walk into Mordor.” For one thing, it’s a long trip and you’ll need to eat. How much, you ask?

Throughout the series of fantasy novels by J.R.R. Tolkien, we are treated to complaints about the lack of food to meet a hobbit’s voracious appetite. Now, thanks to a study by Skye Rosetti and Krisho Manaharan that was published in the Journal of Interdisciplinary Science Topics, we have an idea of just how hungry the hobbits might have realistically been. In order for all 9 members to walk 92 days to Mordor, they’d need to consume exactly 1,780,214.59 calories.

This is not just a one-off study. To calculate the whole caloric need of the trip, Rosetti and Manaharan had to first figure out the individual energy needs of the several different species in the fellowship, which includes four hobbits, one elf, one dwarf, and three humans. A previous work of Rosetti’s and Manaharan’s does this, which is aptly titled Modelling the [Base Metabolic Rate] of Species in Middle Earth]. Hobbits require a daily diet of about 1,800 calories, while elves can survive on just 1,400.

The evil that does not sleep presumably has needs of its own, which may or may not be nutritional in nature.

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Just friends, nothing more

Although the little green fellow does seem to fancy a certain, um, type, wouldn’t you think?

Kermit the Frog and Denise the Pig

But just to be absolutely sure:

Not buying it: HelloGiggles. “This frog/pig romance is so on.”

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You do not know this

And if you did, you didn’t hear about it here:

The CIA and U.S. special operations forces have launched a secret campaign to hunt terrorism suspects in Syria as part of a targeted killing program that is run separately from the broader U.S. military offensive against the Islamic State, U.S. officials said.

The CIA and the U.S. Joint Special Operations Command are both flying armed drones over Syria in a collaboration responsible for several recent strikes against senior Islamic State operatives, the officials said.

Remember: this is a secret campaign, so you know nothing about it.

It is, however, enough to make you wonder if Hillary Clinton rewrote the classification rules.

(Via Interested-Participant.)

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Mount this, pal

You don’t see General Motors complaining about the name of that mountain in Alaska, do you?

[T]his most American of vehicles is named after a mountain in a park in a state that wasn’t even a state until after the Korean War. Nobody goes there, although it’s possible to be short-roped up the thing the same way the socialites are dragged up the side of Everest. I have no idea what the terrain around Denali looks like and neither do you. What matters is that it represents something beyond civilization:

“But I reckon I got to light out for the Territory ahead of the rest, because Aunt Sally she’s going to adopt me and sivilize me, and I can’t stand it. I been there before.”

That’s what Denali is: the territory ahead that we will never reach. Instead, we’ll stay at the office for another evening of forcible civilization and Starbucks. It’s all the better for being essentially useless and inhospitable, because that helps it remain just an idea and not a place you’d use your NetJets share to visit on a long weekend.

And after all, this sort of naming scheme for automobiles has been around for a long time, though certainly the ill-fated Lincoln Versailles has been forgotten by now.

After the mountain was Denali, but before it became Denali again, it was something else entirely:

No wonder, then, that the mountain is being renamed. We don’t deserve a Mount McKinley. McKinley was a winner. He protected American jobs and saved the economy and won a war and picked up Hawaii while he was at it. And when he died, the man he agreed to take as vice-president did a pretty decent job, too. We couldn’t use a guy like that nowadays; wouldn’t know what to do with him. So it’s perfectly reasonable to change Mount McKinley back to Mount Denali. Maybe Rainier will change back to Tacoma before you know it. That’s been in the works since 1921 or so, and it makes more sense. And it would free the name of Rainier to find its natural home: on the side of upscale Enclaves. Enclave Rainier. You know it makes sense. What better way to celebrate a class of vehicles, and of owners, that never looks up from the quotidian to the mountain, or, indeed, anything at all?

Buick, home of the Enclave, was — briefly — home of the Rainier. So all this stuff fits together far better than it has any right to.

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The new Rocket 88?

I suspect this will cost many, many grand:

What’s actually going on here:

The Japanese company, which has been making musical instruments for 35 years, has collaborated with German piano maker C. Bechstein to develop the Celviano Grand Hybrid, a digital grand piano that takes up no more room than the average keyboard. The idea is to combine all the benefits of electric and acoustic pianos, while delivering the experience of playing a grand piano.

Replicating the sound of such an awesomely powerful instrument is no easy feat, but Casio has gone so far as to offer sound profiles of three different, but long-established instrument styles for pianists to choose between. The first of these sounds, the Berlin Grand, has been developed in conjunction with the piano makers C. Bechstein, who have been polishing keys and stretching strings for over 160 years. It is apparently “known for its elegant clear sound and a reverberation that gives each performance rich melodic colour”. The Vienna Grand style, on the other hand, “provides a calm and stately sound with rich bass and beautiful tones when the keys are played softly” and the Hamburg style “delivers gorgeous power and strength with plenty of string resonance”.

Why this might actually work:

Recreating the sound of a grand piano is just one element of replicating the experience of playing one, however; there is also the small matter of making the instrument feel like a grand. For that, Casio has incorporated C. Bechstein’s traditional wooden keys into the build of the grand hybrid, which make fingers less likely to slip or fatigue. It has also brought in a natural grand hammer action to enhance response and feedback, which should enhance the expressiveness of playing.

Still unexplained: why Casio, which makes this wondrous instrument, chose to show it off with a selection from the Random Trailer Music catalog.

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Trademark erased

Infiniti’s US branch tweeted this on Tuesday:

I took one look at it, and shot back:

Turns out that there’s a reason for that:

We knew the Q30 had a lot in common with the Mercedes-Benz A-Class but as these images show, this is far more than a common platform. The steering wheel, instrument cluster, switchgear, and shifter are direct from the Mercedes parts bin. From the looks of the images, the Q30 will even have a Mercedes-style key.

Which invites a fairly obvious question: How are they going to sell this as a Benz competitor when for somewhere around the same price you can get an actual Benz?

There better be some serious chassis tuning going on here. (We already know it’s the same engine: the Mercedes M270 turbo four with around 208 ponies, albeit built by Nissan in the States.)

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