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Posts from the ‘stuff’ Category

Beautifying Yelp

June 11, 2018


Is Yelp’s new user photo classification system a case of pattern recognition as a cultural form?


Some of the 100,000 pics snapped by Yelp users each day. Until recently, user-generated content like this has been made accessible as a database, timeline or data stream. Now, using a convolutional neural network, Yelp can identify and organise images much more accurately—sorting not just by image content but also by composition, tonal balance, color palette and overall aesthetic. It’s all about surfacing “beautiful” images, apparently—and burying the ones that look like Shitty Food Porn. Which kind of defeats the purpose of a review site, and leads to the depressively same-ish, faintly Leni Riefenstahl-ish effect above. Expect more aesthetics influenced by the power of deep learning to excavate similarity and analogy, though hopefully without the Stepfordy overtones.

Paintings of paintings of paintings

May 24, 2018


A curious chapter in art history is the sudden fad for meta-paintings that blew up in Belgium in the 17th century.

If you were a wealthy, fashionable member of Antwerp’s cognoscenti living in the 1620s, you not only owned paintings—you owned paintings of paintings.


In some cases you might even acquire paintings of paintings of paintings, as in the case of this picture gallery painting attributed to Hieronymus II Francken …


I tried to enhance but that’s the highest resolution I could find (and the original is in some private collection). But there is obviously some potential for a cool, hyper-dimensional Droste effect, like the gif I made below.

It’s actually an offshoot from a li’l side project I’ve been wasting time on about recursion. It’s made with this nifty little ImageMagick script by Mark Setchell.


h/t Alexander Marr for his neat explainer, “The Flemish ‘Pictures of Collections’ Genre: An Overview” ($)

A non-exhaustive list of horses that have fallen from the sky

June 11, 2017




The horse caused by a glitch in Skyrim


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The dead horse that kills Finn’s mom due to a freak accident in this YA novel.


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The one thousand horses that fall from the sky in this folk song from Siberia

Karl Marx’s great-great-great grandson is doing parkour outside McDonald’s

May 27, 2017


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That cherubic blond guy holding the skateboard? He’s a direct descendant of Karl Marx, according to Rachael Burford of the UK’s Surrey Comet.

I’m a little late to this story, but a couple of years back he spent a week sleeping rough with two of his mates to raise money for homeless people. Which of course is precisely the sort of mealy-mouthed humanitarianism Marx dismissed as bourgeois meddling.

It turns out the apple has rolled pretty far from the tree:

Mr Marx says he flirted with his great-great-grandfather’s socialist ideals, but ultimately decided that they did not work in practice. Kingston’s McDonald’s has been the group’s base.

That would be their base for their epic parkour busking squad.

The teenagers became friends through their shared interest in free running, the art of acrobatically jumping around urban environments, and have been doing “back flips for money” to buy food.

Mr Marx, who teaches gymnastics, said: “The public reaction to us hasn’t been too bad …”

Fuck yeah comrade!

Invisible, Soft, Green

April 29, 2017


I’m obsessed with the adjective quiz questions on this educational site, which are full of existential doubt and despair.


I want to meet an invisible, soft, green alligator. It sounds a lot like Chomsky’s colorless green ideas that sleep furiously, his example of a grammatically correct nonsense statement.

But this little guy is definitely my fav.

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How To Outrun A Katamari

April 17, 2017


I’ve been working on a bunch of troll articles for WikiHow.

Here’s a preview one of them:

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“How To Outrun A Katamari”


And another:


“How To Be More Recursive”

Fan theories

March 21, 2017


Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego?



Anna is the Grand Duchess Anastasia who’s hallucinating after being shot by the Bolsheviks in 1918


Pride & Prejudice
Kitty in Pride & Prejudice is Lydia’s cat that’s why everyone ignores her and she has no personality she’s a cat

My own private multiverse

March 21, 2017


I found an artist on Fiverr, alysserin, who draws 1950s-style advertising mascots. So of course I decided to request a quantum multiverse. I think she totally nailed it. And the emails it came with were pretty good too:

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Pep talk

March 19, 2017


Back in 2011, I wrote a little pep-talk for Lily Tomlin as an opener for the live telecast on Foxtel. Kinda dorky but she did ask me to write a couple of jokes for her to say later in the telecast, so there’s that. She even ended up using one of them.

Embed from Getty Images

In a few minutes, we’re going to walk, ride, skate, salsa and cha-cha-cha down Oxford Street in front of 250,000 people. And when we get out there I expect each and every one of you to do your duty.

I want to see the kinds of public displays of affection that can still get you arrested in over 70 countries … You have the right idea, sir.

I want to see lots of hogging the limelight and basking in your own glory.

I want to see girls being boys, and boys being girls, and people being whatever kind of people they damn well like. I want to see waxed eyebrows and hairy armpits, and bare asses winking at the moon.

I want sequins and glitter and feathers and faux fur – I want to feel like it’s raining craft supply stores out there.

But most of all I want you to ignore everything I just said because tonight’s about not caring what other people say!

Back in 1978, at the first Mardi Gras, 56 people were arrested just for standing up for their rights. The world’s a much brighter place now but there’s still a lot of dark corners where our sisters and brothers are facing violence and discrimination.

Which is why you need to you put away that bushel you’ve been hiding your light under and get ready to shine. The other 364 nights of the year might be their nights … but this is our night!

So ladies and gentlemen – I want you to give me an L! (RESPONSE) Give me a G! (RESPONSE) Give me a BLT! (RESPONSE) Are you ready to do this? (RESPONSE) I can’t hear you? (RESPONSE)

Welcome to the post-sublime

December 2, 2016


screen-shot-2016-12-03-at-12-00-59-amOK, so consider this.

  • Fractals are kitsch
  • Recursion is a cliché
  • Quantum theory is banal
  • Nature just reminds us of shitty motivational posters or the default wallpaper in Windows XP
  • Infinity is middlebrow.

Do we live in the age of the post-sublime?

(This is the first in a series I’m calling “Drunk Theories”, because they’re speculative and probably full of shit,  but kind of fun to think of, although not really that fun to hear).