Take a New Virtual Reality Tour of the Metropolitan Museum of Art

You can go to the Metropolitan Museum of Art today, and in real life at that. This isn’t true of all the world’s great art institutions, still shut down as many are by measures in response to the past year’s coronavirus pandemic. But then, none of them have offered a digital visiting experience quite like The Met Unframed, recently launched in partnership with cellphone service provider Verizon. For a period of five weeks, anyone can join and freely roam a virtual reconstruction, or rather reimagining, of the Met and its galleries. There they’ll encounter paintings by Pollock, Van Gogh, and Rembrandt, as well as work by current artists and majestic artifacts from antiquity.

“Upon entering the website, visitors are welcomed to the museum’s Great Hall with a view of Kent Monkman’s diptych mistikôsiwak: Wooden Boat People (2019),” writes Hyperallergic’s Hakim Bishara. “From there, banners offer broad thematic concepts — Power, Home, Nature, and Journey — through which visitors can explore the galleries.”

Embedded in certain pieces of art, you’ll find not just historical details and audio-tour explanations but mini-games, which “include trivia questions and riddles that encourage close observation of the artworks and labels. A game called ‘Analysis’ uses the Met’s infrared and X-ray conservation scans of paintings to reveal underdrawings and other hidden details of well-known paintings.”

Win enough such games, and you’ll get the chance to “borrow” the artwork you’ve clicked to display, through augmented reality, in your space of choice — for fifteen minutes, at least. At Artnet, critic Ben Davis writes of placing here and there around his apartment Frederic Edwin Church’s Heart of the Andes, Jacob Lawrence’s The Photographer, and a Baby Yoda-scaled version of Rembrandt’s Self-Portrait. He even makes a serious if ultimately frustrated effort to win digital borrowing rights to the ancient Egyptian Temple of Dendur, one of the Met’s pièces de résistance since the late 1970s.

To experience The Met Unframed for yourself, just head over to its web site and use your phone to scan the QR code that comes up (if you’re not browsing on your phone in the first place). You’ll then be taken straight to the virtual Great Hall, which you can navigate by swiping in any direction — or physically moving your phone around, if you’ve enabled gyroscope mode — and tapping the icons glowing along the ground or on the walls. The combination of high technology, historical reference, depopulated but elegantly designed settings, puzzle challenges, and a score in which synthesizers meet ambient noise will remind visitors of a certain age of nothing so much as the adventure games of the early 1990s, especially Myst and its clones. But then, what does a museum do if not unite the past and the present?

via Hyperallergic

Related Content:

An Unbelievably Detailed, Hand-Drawn Map Lets You Explore the Rich Collections of the Met Museum

Download 584 Free Art Books from The Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Metropolitan Museum of Art Puts 400,000 High-Res Images Online & Makes Them Free to Use

Download 50,000 Art Books & Catalogs from the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Digital Collections

Take a Virtual Tour of 30 World-Class Museums & Safely Visit 2 Million Works of Fine Art

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletterBooks on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall, on Facebook, or on Instagram.

How Lava Lamps Help Secure the Internet

Try not to think too hard about the concept of randomness — and especially about the question of how, exactly, one generates a random number. Most of us, of course, simply ask a computer to do it. But how can a computer, which by its very nature follows unambiguous directions in a predictable manner, come up with a truly random number, in the literal sense of the word? As far as the everyday purposes for which we might need “random” numbers — setting the combination on a lock, for instance — merely unpredictable numbers suffice. But where, exactly, can we draw the line between unpredictability and randomness?

Albert Einstein famously pronounced that “God does not play dice with the universe,” drawing on a metaphor still central to humanity’s conception of randomness. Dice provide “random” numbers in that, when thrown, they’re subject to too many physical factors — an area of some interest for Einstein — for us to reliably guess which way they’ll land. And so we find ourselves again delivered back from randomness into unpredictability. But achieving ever-greater unpredictability, which has proven invaluable to fields like cryptography, has necessitated combining computers with analog physical phenomena essentially similar to the rolling of dice.

Using a somewhat less ancient technology, internet security provider Cloudflare has taken a step closer to genuine randomness. “Every time you log in to any website, you’re assigned a unique identification number,” explains Wired‘s Ellen Airhart. “It should be random, because if hackers can predict the number, they’ll impersonate you.” But who could predict “the goopy mesmeric swirlings of oil, water, and wax” within a lava lamp, let alone an entire wall covered with them? “Cloudflare films the lamps 24/7 and uses the ever-changing arrangement of pixels to help create a superpowered cryptographic key.”

Theoretically, Airhart acknowledges, “bad guys could sneak their own camera into Cloudflare’s lobby to capture the same scene,” but the company also “films the movements of a pendulum in its London office and records the measurements of a Geiger counter in Singapore to add more chaos to the equation. Crack that, Russians.” Constant vigilance against a threat from Russia aided by psychedelic bedroom light fixtures? You’d be forgiven for feeling unstuck in time, partially transported to the reality of half a century ago. But then, Cloudflare is headquartered in San Francisco — a city where the groundbreaking and the groovy haven’t parted ways just yet.

Related Content:

Stephen Fry Explains Cloud Computing in a Short Animated Video

“The Bay Lights,” The World’s Largest LED Light Sculpture, Debuts in San Francisco

How Art Nouveau Inspired the Psychedelic Designs of the 1960s

Visualizing WiFi Signals with Light

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall, on Facebook, or on Instagram.

Dial-a-Poem: The Groundbreaking Phone Service That Let People Hear Poems Read by Patti Smith, William S. Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg & More (1968)

Thanks for allowing me to be a poet. A noble effort, doomed, but the only choice. —John Giorno, Thanx for Nothing

Dialing a poem today, I’m connected to Joe Brainard, who died of AIDS-related pneumonia in 1994, reading an excerpt of “I Remember.” He stumbles over some words. It’s exciting. There’s a feeling of immediacy. When the reading ends in an old-fashioned dial tone, I immediately think of a half-dozen friends I’d like to call (assuming they respond to something that’s not a tag or text).

“Take down this number,” I’d say. “641-793-8122. Don’t ask questions. Just call it. You’ll love it.”

And they probably would, though they wouldn’t hear the same recording I did.

As Dial-A-Poem‘s founder, the late John Giorno, remarked in a 2012 interview:

 A person asked me the other day: “What happens if I listen to a poem and I want to tell a friend to listen to it?” I told him: “Well, she can’t.” [laughs] That’s the point. What happens is, when things are really successful, you create desire that is unfulfillable. That’s what makes something work.

Giorno established Dial-A-Poem in 1968, placing ten landlines connected to reel-to-reel answering machines in a room in New York City’s Architectural League:

I sort of stumbled on [the concept] by chance… I was talking to someone on the telephone one morning, and it was so boring. I probably had a hangover and was probably crashing, and I got irritable and said to myself at that moment, “Why can’t this be a poem?” That’s how the idea came to me. And we got a quarter of a page in The New York Times with the telephone number you could dial. 

In its first four-and-a-half months of operation, Dial-A-Poem logged 1,112,237 incoming calls, including some from listeners overseas. (The original phone number was 212-628-0400.) The hours of heaviest traffic suggested that a lot of bored office workers were sneaking a little poetry into their 9-to-5 day.

Dial-A-Poem reconceived of the telephone as a new media device:

Before Dial-A-Poem, the telephone was used one-to-one. Dial-A-Poem’s success gave rise to a Dial-A-Something industry: from Dial-A-Joke, Dial-A-Horoscope, Dial-A-Stock Quotation, Dial Sports, to the 900 number paying for a call, to phone sex, and ever more extraordinary technology. Dial-A-Poem, by chance, ushered in a new era in telecommunications.

Featured poets included such heavy hitters as William S. BurroughsPatti SmithAllen Ginsberg, Ted Berrigan, Robert CreeleySylvia PlathCharles Bukowski, and Frank O’Hara (who “only liked you if you wrote like him”).

The content was risqué, political, a direct response to the Vietnam War, the political climate, and social conservatism. No one bothered with rhymes, and inspiration was not necessarily the goal.

Unlike Andy WarholJasper Johns, and other career-minded artists who he hung out with (and bedded), Giorno never made a secret of his homosexuality. Sexually explicit and queer content had a home at Dial-a-Poem.

Meanwhile, Dial-a-Poem was featured in Junior Scholastic Magazine, and dialing in became a homework assignment for many New York City Public School students.

Two twelve-year-old boys nearly scuppered the project when one of their mothers caught them giggling over the Jim Carroll poem, above, and raised a ruckus with the Board of Ed, who in turn put pressure on the telephone company to discontinue service. The New York State Council on the Arts’ lawyers intervened, a win for horny middle schoolers… and poetry!

For anyone interested, an album called You’re A Hook: The 15 Year Anniversary Of Dial-A-Poem (1968-1983) was released in 1983. Vinyl copies are still floating around.

If you dial 641.793.8122, you can still access recordings from an archive of poetry, notes SFMoMA.

via Messy Nessy

Related Content: 

Stream Classic Poetry Readings from Harvard’s Rich Audio Archive: From W.H. Auden to Dylan Thomas

Library of Congress Launches New Online Poetry Archive, Featuring 75 Years of Classic Poetry Readings

Cartoonist Lynda Barry Reveals the Best Way to Memorize Poetry

Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine. She most recently appeared as a French Canadian bear who travels to New York City in search of food and meaning in Greg Kotis’ short film, L’Ourse.  Follow her @AyunHalliday

Technology Arbitrage: Amazon is Selling Airpods Pro Headphones for $50 Less Than Apple

Psst. Amazon currently has AirPods Pro headphones for $199, while Apple has them listed for $249. It’s the deal of the day for anyone looking for wireless Bluetooth earbuds, with noise-cancelling, immersive sound.

H/T Rolling Stone

In 1896, a French Cartoonist Predicted Our Socially-Distanced Zoom Holiday Gatherings

Imagine that, this time last year, you’d heard that your family’s holiday gatherings in 2020 would happen on the internet. Even if you believed such a future would one day come, would you have credited for a moment that kind of imminence? Yet our videoconference toasts this season were predicted — even rendered in clear and reasonably accurate detail — more than 120 years ago. “My wife is visiting her aunt in Budapest, my older daughter is studying dentistry in Melbourne, my younger daughter is a mining engineer in the Urals, my son raises ostriches in Batavia, my nephew is on his plantations in Batavia,” says the caption of the 1896 cartoon above. “But this does not prevent us from celebrating Christmas on the telephonoscope.”

This panel ran in Belle Époque humor magazine Le rire (available to read at the Internet Archive), drawn by the hand and produced by the imagination of Albert Robida. A novelist as well as an artist, Robida drew acclaim in his day for the series Le Vingtième Siècle, whose stories offered visions of the technology to come in that century.

“Next to Zoom Christmas,” tweets philosophy professor Helen de Cruz, Robida also imagined a future in which this “telephonoscope” would “give us education, movies, teleconferencing.” As early as the 1860s, says the Public Domain Review, Robida had “published an illustration depicting a man watching a ‘televised’ performance of Faust from the comfort of his own home.” See image above.

Though Robida seems to have coined the word “telephonoscope,” he wasn’t the first to publish the kind of idea to which it referred. “The concept of the device first appeared not long after the telephone was patented in 1876,” writes Verity Hunt in a Literature and Science article quoted by the Public Domain Review. “The term ‘telectroscope’ was used by the French scientist and publisher Louis Figuier in L’Année Scientifique et Industrielle in 1878 to popularize the invention, which he incorrectly interpreted as real and ascribed to Alexander Graham Bell.” The goal was to “do for the eye what the telephone had done for the ear,” though it wouldn’t be fully realized for well over a century. When you raise a glass to a webcam this week, consider toasting Albert Robida, to whom the year 2021 would have sounded impossibly distant — but who has proven more prescient about it than many of us alive today.

via Helen De Cruz

Related Content:

A 1947 French Film Accurately Predicted Our 21st-Century Addiction to Smartphones

Jules Verne Accurately Predicts What the 20th Century Will Look Like in His Lost Novel, Paris in the Twentieth Century (1863)

How French Artists in 1899 Envisioned Life in the Year 2000: Drawing the Future

Mark Twain Predicts the Internet in 1898: Read His Sci-Fi Crime Story, “From The ‘London Times’ in 1904”

In 1911, Thomas Edison Predicts What the World Will Look Like in 2011: Smart Phones, No Poverty, Libraries That Fit in One Book

Paris Had a Moving Sidewalk in 1900, and a Thomas Edison Film Captured It in Action

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall, on Facebook, or on Instagram.

The Blob Opera Lets You Create Festive Music with Ease: An Interactive Experiment Powered by Machine Learning

Tis the season when we’re never more than one singalong Messiah away from wishing we had a better voice.

David Li’s interactive Blob Opera allows us to pretend.

The machine learning experiment takes its cues from four opera singers—soprano Olivia Doutney, mezzo-soprano Joanna Gamble, tenor Christian Joel, and bass Freddie Tong—who provided it with 16 hours of recorded material.

The result is truly an all-ages activity that’s much easier on the ears than most digital diversions.

Click and drag one of the gummy-bodied blobs up and down to change its pitch.

Pull them forwards and backwards to vary their vowel sounds.

Once all four are in position, the three you’re not actively controlling will harmonize like a heavenly host.

You can disable individual blobs’ audio to create solos, duets and trios within your composition.

Press record and you can share with the world.

The blobs don’t sing in any discernible language, but they can do legato, staccato, and shoot up to incredibly high notes with a minimum of effort. Their eyes pinwheel when they harmonize.

As Li describes to co-producer Google Arts & Culture below, it’s not the original singers’ voices we’re channeling, but rather the machine learning model’s understanding of the operatic sound.

Click the pine tree icon and the blobs will serenade you with the most-searched Christmas carols.

Begin your collaboration with Blob Opera here.

If you find yourself wanting more, have a go at the interactive Choir Li created for Adult Swim.

Related Content:

Stephen Fry Hosts “The Science of Opera,” a Discussion of How Music Moves Us Physically to Tears

The Met Opera Streaming Free Operas Online to Get You Through COVID-19

The Opera Database: Find Scores, Libretti & Synopses for Thousands of Operas Free Online

Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine. She most recently appeared as a French Canadian bear who travels to New York City in search of food and meaning in Greg Kotis’ short film, L’Ourse.  Follow her @AyunHalliday.

The Hertella Coffee Machine Mounted on a Volkswagen Dashboard (1959): The Most European Car Accessory Ever Made

Current auto-industry wisdom holds that no car without cup holders will sell in America. Though this also seems to have become increasingly true across the rest of the world, I like to imagine there still exists a country or two whose driving public holds fast against that particular design vulgarism. Such places would, of course, lie deep in unreconstructed Europe, where nobody can go long without coffee. The solution? The Hertella Auto Kaffeemachine, the first and only known dashboard-mounted coffee maker.

Manufactured specifically for the Volkswagen Beetle, this highly civilized automobile accessory has, 60 years after its introduction, nearly vanished from existence. Judging by the few known examples, it never had the time to evolve past its technical shortcomings. For one, it lacks a power switch: “As soon as you plug it into the cigarette lighter, it just gets hot,” writes The Drive’s Peter Holderith. “And as far as the type of coffee machine that it is, well, you would have to be pretty desperate for caffeine to make coffee in this thing.”

“I always thought they were a percolator, or espresso machine like a Moka… but nope,” says Dave Hord of Classic Car Adventures, who purchased his own Hertella Auto Kaffeemachine from an owner in Serbia. It seems “you fill the vessel with water, put your coffee in the (double layer) screen, and heat up the unit. I presume you heat the unit up with the coffee in it, which means this basically brews coffee as though it’s tea.” Perhaps only a transcontinental road-tripper in 1959 would grow desperate enough to drink it.

Still, as Holderith notes, “the machine does have a few clever features. The porcelain cups that came with it apparently had a metal disc on the bottom of them that allowed them to stick to the machine magnetically” and the unit itself “mounts to the dash with a simple bracket, allowing for the pot to quickly be removed and cleaned when necessary.” Perhaps today’s car designers, a group once again looking to the past for inspiration, will resume the pursuit of dashboard brewing begun by the Hertella Auto Kaffeemachine. If not, Wes Anderson can surely find a use for the thing.

via Messy Nessy

Related Content:

An Espresso Maker Made in Le Corbusier’s Brutalist Architectural Style: Raw Concrete on the Outside, High-End Parts on the Inside

The Coffee Pot That Fueled Honoré de Balzac’s Coffee Addiction

Wake Up & Smell the Coffee: The New All-in-One Coffee-Maker/Alarm Clock is Finally Here!

The Timeless Beauty of the Citroën DS, the Car Mythologized by Roland Barthes (1957)

178,000 Images Documenting the History of the Car Now Available on a New Stanford Web Site

10 Essential Tips for Making Great Coffee at Home

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall, on Facebook, or on Instagram.

The Internet Archive is Saving Classic Flash Animations & Games from Extinction: Explore Them Online

Flash is finally dead, and the world… does not mourn. Because the announcement of its end actually came three years ago, “like a guillotine in a crowded town square,” writes Rhett Jones at Gizmodo. It was a slow execution, but it was just. So useful in Web 1.0 days for making animations, games, and serious presentations, Flash had become a vulnerability, a viral carrier that couldn’t be patched fast enough to keep the hackers out. “Adobe’s Flash died many deaths, but we can truly throw some dirt on its grave and say our final goodbyes because it’s getting the preservation treatment.” Like the animated GIF, Flash animations have their own online library.

All those lovely Flash memes—the dancing badgers and the snake, peanut butter and jelly time—will be saved for perplexed future generations, who will use them to decipher the runes of early 2000’s internet-speak. However silly they may seem now, there’s no denying that these artifacts were once central constituents of pop culture.

Flash was much more than a distraction or frustrating browser crasher. It provided a “gateway,” Jason Scott writes at the Internet Archive blog, “for many young creators to fashion near-professional-level games and animation, giving them the first steps to a later career.” (Even if it was a career making “advergames.”)

A single person working in their home could hack together a convincing program, upload it to a huge clearinghouse like Newgrounds, and get feedback on their work. Some creators even made entire series of games, each improving on the last, until they became full professional releases on consoles and PCs.

Always true to its purpose, the Internet Archive has devised a way to store and play Flash animations using emulators created by Ruffle and the BlueMaxima Flashpoint Project, who have already archived tens of thousands of Flash games. All those adorable Homestar Runner cartoons? Saved from extinction, which would have been their fate, since “without a Flash player, flash animations don’t work.” This may seem obvious, but it bears some explanation. Where image, sound, and video files can be converted to other formats to make them accessible to modern players, Flash animations can only exist in a world with Flash. They are like Edison’s wax cylinders, without the charming three-dimensions.

Scott goes into more depth on the rise and fall of Flash, a history that begins in 1993 with Flash’s predecessor, SmartSketch, which became FutureWave, which became Flash when it was purchased by Macromedia, then by Adobe. By 2005, it started to become unstable, and couldn’t evolve along with new protocols. HTML5 arrived in 2014 to issue the “final death-blow,” kind of…. Will Flash be missed? It’s doubtful. But “like any container, Flash itself is not as much of a loss as all the art and creativity it held.” The Archive currently hosts over 1,500 Flash animations from those turn-of-the-millennium internet days, and there are many more to come. Enter the Archive’s Flash collection here.

Related Content: 

The U.S. National Archives Launches an Animated GIF Archive: See Whitman, Twain, Hemingway & Others in Motion

36,000 Flash Games Have Been Archived and Saved Before Flash Goes Extinct: Play Them Offline

What the Entire Internet Looked Like in 1973: An Old Map Gets Found in a Pile of Research Papers

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

More in this category... »
Quantcast
Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.