I was going along Crown street, in the inner Sydney suburb of Surry Hills the other week, when I noticed that the only DVD hire shop that I was aware of in the area, was having a closing down sale. Another one bites the dust, sadly.
The odds are pretty much stacked against movie rental shops now, but I started wondering how long its stakeholders had spent trying to avert the store’s closure before finally deciding to cease trading. I suspect it would have been an uphill battle though, if the experience of former Portland DVD/video shop worker Dennis Perkins, is anything to go by:
I started a weekly blog/newsletter for the store. I intended it to be a place for customers and staff to continue the ongoing movie conversation through movie reviews, debates, and think pieces about the store and movies in general. In theory it was, apart from being a chance for me to exercise my brain and writing skills, a way to bind customers to the store by giving them a sense of ownership in the place. In practice, as the customers drifted away, it became more like a running, increasingly desperate 10-year argument as to why our video store deserved to exist, written by me.
Los Angeles based artist j.frede trawls flea markets looking for old photos, typically of landscapes featuring hills or mountains, and later matches up the disparate images to produce what appears to be a single panorama, based on the ridges of the hills and mountains, that form a collection he has titled The Fiction Landscapes.
The Croatian city of Zadar is home to a sea organ, an experimental musical instrument, made up of polyethylene tubes and a resonating cavity, whose sounds are generated through the motion of the coastal waters that it is situated above.
Why not put active volcanoes to some practical, day to day, use? Such as acting as giant garbage disposal units? It seems like an interesting idea at first, but in reality it is a notion fraught with peril, in terms of disposing of your household rubbish anyway. File that one to the too-hard-basket then, I think:
The ideal trash incinerator would be a slow-erupting volcano that gradually spews lava out onto the surface of the earth, like the volcanoes in Hawaii, called shield volcanoes. But the majority of volcanoes on Earth are stratovolcanoes which occasionally have lava flows like Kilauea, but also have the unfortunate tendency to explode when the pressure of hot gas and magma inside the volcano gets to be too much. Long story short, you don’t want to throw trash into an explosive volcano (think Mount St. Helens) when it’s erupting. If you’re close enough to throw trash into the exploding mass of molten rock, ash, and gases, you’re already dead.
Former newspaper writer Ted Geltner thought he had landed the perfect job, with a company writing in-house material for a range of its clients. But for one problem, there was no work to do, even though management carried on as if he were fully occupied.
Keen to extract something meaningful from the time spent at the office each day, Geltner resorted to engaging in, or organising, a variety of extracurricular activities… though that didn’t really help either:
With no way to shorten the endless hours of nothing, I began to create activities to pass the time. The company had a new health policy that encouraged walking. Pedometers were distributed. To capitalize on this, I tried to organize walking groups among the other editors. A few of them agreed to walk around the industrial park for 15 or 20 minutes in the afternoon. When a few of them began to beg off because of work, I became desperate and began pleading with them. Before long, the walking group was defunct.
Bed warmer, whereby you warm beds for hotel guests by occupying a bed before they do. Professional queuer, lining up on behalf someone ahead of, say, the latest iPhone release. Waterslide tester, self explanatory surely, and a personal favourite.
Chief listening officer, monitoring social media channels for another person or company. Crisp inspector, ensuring only the best quality potato chips make the final cut. Pet food taster, another one that speaks for itself, though likely a role that’s not to everyone’s taste.
These are but a few of the job choices available for those who not only like to think outside the square, but also work outside it, to some degree anyway. The money isn’t always too bad either, considering some of these roles are work that may not feel like work.
Bridges in movies do not behave as they would in the real world, when blown up or attacked, says structural engineer Alex Weinberg, who contends that audiences are being duped by the way filmmakers depict bridges that have somehow been damaged. And it’s Christopher Nolan, of all people, who appears to be the worst offender in this regard:
Imagine stringing a clothesline between two buildings and putting some shirts out to dry. Now, cut the line in the middle. In our world, the line loses all its capacity and the shirts all fall to the ground. In Christopher Nolan’s world, the clothesline is unharmed and, who knows, may actually be stronger. I consider this the worst suspension bridge destruction scene in motion picture history. The Golden Gate Bridge collapse in The Core is somehow more realistic than this. Nolan, who famously hired astrophysicist Kip Thorne to advise him on black holes for Interstellar, failed to hire a sophomore engineering student to explain regular gravity here on Earth.
Long showers, possibly several times a day, may feel as if they are at the forefront of a healthy, clean, lifestyle, but the reality sounds like another matter all together. Being “too clean” runs the risk of removing too much of the “good bacteria” that helps keep us in good health:
Overall obsessive washing “disrupts the normal flora which keep you healthy by competing with harmful organisms”, says Ruebush. “Operating your immune system in an environment of sterility is like a sensory deprivation for the brain. Eventually, it goes insane, thus the increased amount of allergy and autoimmunity associated with persons who try too hard to avoid all exposure to anything in their environment,” she says. A long shower every day may not be advisable, as it removes the “good bacteria” from our skin. But you should wash around your genitals and anywhere you sweat a lot. And you should change your underwear every day.
Because there’s nothing more I enjoy than being in a state of high anxiety… watch as Théo Sanson attempts to set a world record slacklining, or walking a tightrope, over a distance of five hundred metres. I’m not sure what to say about his choice of location for the undertaking, Castle Valley, Utah, except that it is certainly scenic. Best viewed in full screen mode. If you dare.
It’s the problems of faster than light travel that I’m grappling with at present, in regards to a science-fiction project of mine, but that’s the great thing about sci-fi, those sorts of troubles are easily taken care of, thanks to the conveniently timed advent of some futuristic technology, or advances in the understanding of the laws of physics, between now and a certain future time.
The downside there of course is that people may take exception to such ideas, because they’re not scientific. I guess I’ll cross that bridge when I reach it, because, by thinking fourth-dimensionally, by the time I arrive at the location where the bridge should be, it should have been built, and I can coast safely across the ravine.
Whether the laws of physics are sufficiently malleable to the point they may one day be manipulated so as to allow faster than light travel, remains to be seen. In the meantime, an understanding of Albert Einstein’s special, and general, theories of relatively, might help, and here they are, set out in relatively simple terms.
The first idea is called the special idea, because it covers only a few special parts of space and time. The other one – the big idea – covers all the stuff that is left out by the special idea. The big idea is a lot harder to understand than the special one. People who are good at numbers can use the special idea to answer questions pretty easily, but you have to know a lot about numbers to do anything with the big idea. To understand the big idea – the hard one – it helps to understand the special idea first.