Richard Jay Potash 1946? 1948? – 2018

We’ve lost an amazing scholar, actor, magician. I’ll quote myself circa 2006, “I’m a big fan of Mr. Jay’s – he fits my mental model of a perfect sleight-of-hand artist – well read, raffish, incredibly good at what he does.”

Deceptive Practice: The Mysteries and Mentors of Ricky Jay is available to stream on Amazon; it gets a thumbs-up from me. Back when it was released, I drove to The Screening Room, a wee indy theater in Newburyport MA, to see it. Worth the trip.

Vulture has a good round up of clips showing Mr. Jay’s sleight of hand skills here, and I’ll leave you with this not great quality video of Ricky Jay and His 52 Assistants. Goodbye, Mr. Jay – I really wish I’d had a chance to see you perform live.

A visit to the city

I’m interrupting the bike/big adventure stream briefly with a automobile/shantyboat (and, yes there was a child’s bike in the mix too) small adventure. I’d planned on heading Brooklyn-ward last Friday to visit my son, L, and my friend, K. Via John and Kate Young, a show in Manhattan at Whitebox was on my priority list: photos from Wes Modes’ Secret History of American River People project. I’ve been clued in to Wes and the Secret History for a while (also via John and Kate a while ago) and a chance to see some of the project in the flesh was not to be missed. But, hark! Turns out Wes was scheduled to speak Thursday night at the Waterfront Museum, moored in Red Hook – very close to K. Plans were adjusted and off I went. A great evening; both Wes and David Sharps, Prez of the Museum, are interesting, funny, friendly and thought-provoking. Some photos from the evening:

Clouds Lady Liberty Glitch

Wes ponders

Secret History of American River People

Lehigh Valley No. 79

The rest of the visit was similarly excellent. Dinner and beer with L, and dog-walks & bike shopping with K. Not K’s dog – just a hilarious pupper at a dog park.

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Mud dawg.

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I told you there was a bike in the mix!

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Next mini adventure is a trip to a salt marsh south of Boston. Seaside Dragonlets, ahoy!


The Bathyscaphe Trieste and Captain Don Walsh, USN Ret.

With all the hubbub over James Cameron’s planned dive to Challenger Deep, a little attention should be paid to the  first and, at this point, only people to make it to the deepest point in the ocean: Auguste Piccard and then-Lieutenant Don Walsh. They did it in 1960 on the bathyscaphe Trieste.


The Trieste was, essentially, a dirigible. It was mainly buoyancy cambers filled with gasoline (here water:gasoline::air:helium) supporting an untethered bathysphere; there’s a huge difference in compressibility between liquids and gases, so I’ll leave the blimp vs. zeppelin distinction alone. *saunters away, whistling*

The point of this post is an interview NPR did with Capt. Don Walsh. I was blown away. Check out his Wikipedia bio – adventure scientist extraordinaire – and yet in the interview (unsurprisingly), humble and thoughtful. I’d encourage folks to give him a listen either at the NPR link or here (right click and save the mp3 locally).


Microphonograph and The Audible Audubon

My across-the-hall science teacher partner in thoughtcrime has a bag of tricks that would make Felix green with envy. Today, he reached in and a microphonograph and a deck of Audible Audubon cards appeared. The Microsonic microphonograph uses a fixed platter/record and rotates the tonearm.




Manual pages can be found here, here and here.

The Audible Audubon are a series of cards – one per species. On one side there is a picture of the bird; on the other, a brief narrative description and a clear record.

Microphonograph & Audible Audubon


Put the card in the microphonograph and out come calls!


A nice little bit of late-70’s tech and a reminder of how much more available info is now that it’s digitally encoded in semi-standardized ways (see Sibley and Audubon iOS apps).


KPK wunderkammer pano

At last Sunday’s NH Media Makers meetup, @spyboy turned me on to the 360 Panorama iOS app. It stitches in real time as you pan and uses the accelerometer to control panning when you display the photo. Way fun! Here’s the wunderkammer end of the classroom across the hall.

KPK Pano


Update – here’s a link to the spinny version.

Update II – pano taken during a lunchtime walk to a local bog here.


The Harvard Herbarium

First, let me acknowledge peacay as undisputed champion of Internet cool-stuff-finding. Today’s Butterfly Album post is a multi-dimensional winner. First, there are the images. I’m particularly partial to a painting containing what I think is a Giant Water Bug:


Then there’s the intriguing info on where the insects were collected:

The only other information known is that the butterflies and insects were collected from the Aralia (spikenard) and related Tetrapanax papyrifera (pith paper tree) plant species.

Followed by a link to the Harvard Herbarium for more info on the pith paper tree. The Herbarium rates a big marker pin on my mental map – it’s close, houses the Blaschka’s glass plant models and – most important for me – was the base of operations for Richard Evans Schultes (prev. posts here and here). I’ve wandered around the Herbarium website before, but today – thanks to peacay – I kicked around the Botany Library On-Line Exhibits (not sure I’ve ever happened upon this part of the site before). There’s a nice series on book covers/bindings:



a section on the ‘other’ Amanita (phalloides)


and then there’s this, from the Economic Botany Clipping File:

Dr. Schultes teaching in the Nash Lecture Hall

Painting by Hannah Barrett, November 1994

The caption in the tiles says, “Richard Evans Schultes, Director Emeritus, demonstrating the blowgun in the Nash Lecture Hall, the Botanical Museum, Harvard University, 15 November 1994.” Ethnobotanical explorer in lab coat? Check. Blowgun, darts and quiver? Check. Little potted cactus ($100 says Lophophora williamsii)? Check. More interesting details that I’ll leave for you, the reader? Check. I’m curious as to what molecule is diagrammed on the chalkboard…

One last picture to end the post – from the book Beata Ruris Otia Fungis Danicis Impensa. Enjoy!

One for the Russophiles

Via HH’s blog, the Library of Congress’ Prokudin-Gorskii Photographic Record collection. I’ll let Hollister tell the tale:

on the eve of the first world war and the Russian Revolution, photographer Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii talked Nicholas into backing his plan to capture the Russian Empire on digichrome glass plates. Between 1909-1912, and again in 1915, he completed surveys of eleven regions, traveling in a specially equipped railroad car provided by the Ministry of Transportation.

Well worth searching/browsing for a while; it makes me want to pull out my copy of Arseniev.

I wonder what the graffiti says? Also, looks like a Turkman ak öý or gara öý  – the Central Asian version of the ger – to me.

“640K ought to be enough for anybody.”

I don’t think I’ve ever posted pictures of this little cutie from my trash treasure collection. It’s 8k of magnetic core memory from a GE-235 (I think) digital info processing unit – warning – 235 link is to a pdf, but a worthwhile one. If you open the pdf, check the disk drive in the upper right of page two. It’s footprint was roughly the size of a chest freezer and it had big@ss pneumatic hoses that actuated the arms carrying the heads. Also check the printer control panel on page four – I have just the panel itself in the basement, waiting for me to get inspired.

This is why core dumps are (or were) so named – little donuts, one per bit.


They weren’t exactly mass producing these back in 1966.


The nameplate:


And click here for a ‘did he really say it’ regarding the post’s title.

Art, animals and wunderkammer

A week or so ago, I heard through the grapevine that the Shark Girl had been free diving with a group of Spotted Dolphins when a pod of Bottlenose Dolphins swept in and sexually aggressed the hell out of the smaller Spotteds (I’m deliberately not using the word I heard when we were talking about it – rape). I was, initially, really disturbed by the story – Flipper? John Lilly’s buddies? Thanks for all the fish? Rapists? WTF? My emotional reaction remains, but intellectually the story made me reflect on anthropomorphism and how little of the interior lives of other animals we understand. I have little doubt that inter-species aggression is not a good thing for the victim and perceiving it as a good thing would be profoundly maladaptive – beyond that, I’m not sure what to think. It sure wouldn’t be the first time that interspecies sex was used to express dominance – that foo-foo dog humping your leg is not in love with your shoes – the message is something else entirely.

With all this percolating in my head, I came across the work of Isabel Samaras in Juxtapoz. Her latest exhibition is called “Into the Woodz”:

I guess the theme is “Woodland Fabulous”!  When I started with the paintings of Goldilocks and Baby Bear I wanted to put in some nice solid visual clues so you’d know who they were without having to be told — there’s a bowl a porridge, some “Just Right” brand oats, and I gave Baby a big gold dookie rope necklace with a gold nameplate that said “BABY” on it.

I had been doing all these animal drawings in my sketchbook and had given some of them necklaces made from gold foil chocolate wrappers.

It suited him so well that I added a gold tooth with a diamond chip and a bling ring and Goldy got some huge gold doorknocker earrings.  I started pulling out old records I had from the 80s – Rob Base & D.J. E-Z Rock, EPMD, Salt-n-Pepa, Derek B, Kool Moe Dee, Sweet Tee and RunDMC.  Next thing I knew I was painting a porcupine with gold “love/hate” rings and a bunch of mockingbirds having a rap war sitting on a big boom box.

Mocking Box (The Rap Wars)


[I chose this one because I’ve heard of some urban mockingbirds greeting the dawn by imitating car alarms – life = art.  Dr. H]


The next piece was set deep among the trees and I just never left.  I became one of the girls who didn’t come out of the woods!  And I started to wonder ‘who else might be in there’?  Forests are wonderfully mysterious places—if you go to an intensely old one with massive moss covered trees you really do half expect to see a party of dwarves marching along or odd things springing out at you. They’re magical places.

In this case the animals are a bit “urbanized”—they’ve come into contact with human culture and taken a few things back into the woods with them. *

Some wonderful grist for my “we see our reflection in everything” mill. I don’t think it was specifically her intent (that’s why art doesn’t come with an instruction sheet), but the image of a squirrel with a rope and a gold nut really makes concrete for me the way stories and myth make animals avatars of certain human characteristics – for dolphins, the intelligent and peaceful  older brother. On a slight tangent, the painting on Isabel’s book calls another favorite artist to mind.



For folks who want more, Ms. Samaras has a blog and – as noted – a book.


When my Netvibes feed from Bibliodyssey popped up a new post with the title “A Cabinet of Natural Curiosities“, I couldn’t click over to Peacay’s place fast enough. In amongst the monitors and birds of paradise was this fellow:


The birds look reasonable and I recognise the Flying Dragon, but I think Albertus Seba may have gotten a feejee mermaid style gaff as well – I’m not sure there are any Revelation lizards crawling/squirming/dragging around – but I could be wrong. That hasn’t stopped folks from rendering the Beast in Lego (h/t Tom B.).


Let’s see… From delphine rape to the Whore of Babylon in Lego. Yep, that about covers it.

Egg and Nest

Down to Cambridge yesterday, to take in Rosamond Purcell’s Egg and Nest (pdf link) show at the HMNH, kick around a bit and attend Janet Browne’s lecture on ‘Darwin at 200’. Egg and Nest is stunning – incredible photographs beautifully hung. If you’re in the area – GO!



After you’ve taken in the Purcell show, there’s all the rest of the HMNH to wander around in – the Sea Creatures in Glass will be on display until March 1 – time’s getting short.


I took along some party favors for the post-lecture get together – a big thank you to Leighton Jones at Floating Point Digital Images for getting said favors to me as quickly as he did.