The Telectroscope

A while back, I mentioned the coast-to-coast Burrito Tunnel. Now comes word of a new tunnel, the Telectroscope, connecting New York and London:

The telectroscope, a looking-glass tunnel connecting New York and London has been completed at last, over 100 years after it was abandoned. The tunnel, which starts in Brooklyn, was designed and partly executed by late 1800s inventor Alexander Stanhope St. George. A series of mirrors, cameras and a large underground tunnel, connects the two cities.

More details at the New York Times (seriously). The telectroscope goes live on June 15th. Some photos of the terminal ends in London and New York:

the perfect sunset

This is amazing – a photographer wanted the perfect photo of a sunset framed by a long pier. So, using math and information from websites like Google Maps and the US Naval Observatory, he calculated what day the Sun would appear at the ideal angle to catch the shot. And here’s the result:

Perfect Sunset

Brilliant. This is the essence of Geek. See the original post for full details of the calculation.

Lost in translation

I saw Lost in Translation yesterday via Netflix. This movie was really a surprise, I think I was just expecting a light comedic drama without any real heft to it. The premise of the movie seems like a setup for comedy: an old actor and a young newlywed both arrive in Tokyo, stay at the same hotel, and experience culture shock together. But there’s so much more to this movie, especially as a commentary on marriage and relationships, that it transcends the level of ordinary pseudo-romantic comedy and enters into Artistic territory.

I haven’t seen Rushmore so this was my first exposure to Bill Murray playing a complex lead, and his performance was just .. well, there was no Bill Murray, there was only Bob Harris. You get inside his head and really, really understand him and who he is, even though 90% of his lines are wisecracks, and the lines themselves are only 50% of his acting. His expression, as he sees the elevator doors close on Charlotte at the end… I don’t think there are many actors who can communicate that kind of emotion with just a look, but you read it on his face like it was printed there.

The other half of this film is Scarlett Johansson, and she probably ranks as my favorite actress right now on the strength of her performance in this movie alone. Not just because she spends a few scenes sitting around in her underwear, though this helps. She has that kind of vulnerable courage in this film that I used to associate with Sandra Bullock. Again, with her performance, you simply understand her as Charlotte, like an open book – one which none of the other characters except Bob even bother to read, least of all her husband John (played with remarkable restraint[1] by Giovanni Ribsi).

Tokyo itself, and the hotel in particular, are vibrant and fleshed out and almost characters in their own right. The movie does a masterful job of exposing the characters to all the wierd and wonderful, but unlike some critics I did not find it disrespectful. In fact there was an odd beauty to it, like the teenager simultaneously dancing while playing a video game, or the crazy talk show host, or even the hysterical scene in Bob’s hotel room with the call girl[2].

I think I’ll take another run through this movie and grab some screenshots later. It was really one of the best movies I have ever seen. This film isn’t one that is content to play by the rules of romantic comedy. The two characters don’t do what you would expect them to do, which actually is how it would be in reality. And the two characters don’t keep up the facade about themselves that you expect them to, and which you yourself might maintain as well. And that too is more real, particularly in the context of the isolation that they both share, one exacerbated by being in a place so foreign, but still primarily deriving from their spouses’ neglect. I won’t spoil the ending but then again, the ending is almost impossible to spoil.

[1] Dude, you’re married to Scarlett Johansson sitting there in her underwear and all you can look at is your camera?? ahem.
[2] “lip my stocking!” omfg rofl. I laughed so hard I choked.

the golden goddess of daytime

Oprah Winfrey is indeed a semi-divine figure, on the landscape of daytime television. She rules it like Pharoah ruled Egypt. She rises like the sun god Ra in a flame of gold over her talk show empire.

Which is why I find this sculpture by controversy-affine artist Daniel Edwards to be so fascinating:

Oprah Pharoah

The artist is known for being provocative in his celebrity-inspired sculptures; he’s crafted one of Britney Spears, giving birth, naked on a bear skin rug. Other targets of his attention are Prince Harry and Paris Hilton. Overall you get the idea that he’s obsessed with celebrity royalty (and royalty celebrities). He claims Oprah is the closest thing America has to a living deity, so he crafted her exaggerated sarcophagus. It sort of makes sense.

Of course the attention the sculpture of Oprah is getting hinges on how it’s supposedly insulting to her, but i actually think on that score that it works as a homage rather than insult. It’s a combination fertility-goddess image with Pharonic qualities. In that sense, as a fertility totem it suggests Oprah as a mother goddess figure which I think is fairly accurate as far as symbolism goes.