Category Archives: Documentary

Distillation: What goes on in those refineries?

Big tankers tie up offshore and disgorge their contents into brightly lit and mostly inscrutable refineries.   This sixty year old film by Shell Oil neatly explains the chemistry, chemical engineering, and physics of distillation that takes gives us our gasoline, diesel, oils, and waxes. In a different setting, it also gives us many different kinds of beverages.

 

Adriaen and Hadrian: Lost Wax bronzes

I had the great fortune of looking out my grad school office window into a sculpture garden of Rodin bronzes.    The lost wax process used to make these marvels keeps eluding me.  Every time I think about it, I forget steps and/or get them mixed up.   These two videos from the Israel Museum and The Getty go a long way to shoring up a sagging memory.

The Juggling Man by Adriaen de Vries:

Hadrian: An Emperor Cast in Bronze

(Found via Khan Academy and Hyperallergic)

Back to the garden: So, did we chemists appreciate what we had in front of our eyes? Yes, quite a bit. The program was stressful and we’d wonder darkly whether we were on the wrong side of the Gates of Hell while having lunch in front of it. The fate of an adjacent parking lot stirred a lot of debate between a supportive faction of chemistry faculty, staff, and students and the late Prof. Albert Elsen of the Art History Department, eminent Rodin scholar, and advisor to the Cantor Foundation that donated the works. The Loma Prieta earthquake intervened and gave us all other things to worry about. The statues don’t look any worse for wear decades later despite fears that they’d dissolve into nothing. Careful stewardship and loving cleaning, enabled by a little chemistry, have served them well.

Stanford conservators work to preserve Rodin Sculpture Garden

Watch this video on YouTube.

“Stuff Happened Anyway”: Paula Scher on design

Gary Hustwit’s Helvetica subtly did more than examine the ubiquitous font. Most of us would like to be designers in the same way we’d like to be athletes or musicians and we’re interested in those who do it well. Hustwit tapped into that need and let several prominent figures from that world have free rein to discuss what they see and how they see it. Elegant Paula Scher and twitchy Erik Spiekermann come off well, others sound like prats best avoided.

Scher has looked at information design and presentation with the artist’s eye, quite different from, say, an Edward Tufte. Her perspective, driven by artistic and marketing concerns, are at once intriguing and disturbing. She stretches and distorts to make larger points such as claiming that Helvetica was the font of the Vietnam and Iraq wars. It’s not a literal accusation, only that it is the kind of calming gloss that corporations and governments use to disguise their little murders. But, she also cops to fabricating the data she’s (re)presenting to make her point. I admire a lot of her work; it is bold, brash, and political. I don’t know whether I would enjoy living, working, or studying in something so shouty. Nevertheless, I’ve got my autosearches configured to let me know if she’s ever speaking within a couple of hours of LA.

Several of her other lectures are on the web and worth a look. Scher sounds like the canonical good seatmate on a long flight. I doubt she travels coach, though.

Hustwit’s films Helvetica, Objectified, and Urbanized. are available for affordable digital download from his website, $5.99/ea.

Paula Scher y la tipografía

Watch this video on YouTube.

Paula Scher: Do What You've Never Done Before

Watch this video on YouTube.

Paula Scher – New York Design

Watch this video on YouTube.

ARTIST SERIES: Paula Scher from Hillman Curtis on Vimeo.

Illuminated Manuscripts: SFSO explains ‘Eroica’

The San Francisco Symphony set a high standard for musical education with ‘Keeping Score,’ an interactive immersion into great music and composers. Each episode features  performance excerpts, scrolling score with annotations, and a wealth of historical context. There’s also a lot of MTT.  All done with the technology and bandwidth available in 2006 and still unequaled.   Click the image and dive headlong into the Eroica.

Ludwig_van_Beethoven__Eroica___San_Francisco_Symphony_Keeping_Score

Image (c) 2006 San Francisco Symphony

Then try Mahler, Berlioz, Ives, Shostakovich, Stravinsky, Copland, and Tchaikovsky.

Backyard Treasures: Western Museum of Flight’s speaker series

Who knew that The Western Museum of Flight has a speaker series and that the Peninsula Seniors have made many of these talks available for all to see? I routinely search for things like this and last night stumbled across these by accident. Aircraft buffs owe both organizations a big vote of thanks. And, there are plenty more gems where these came from.

A-12 Spy Plane

Watch this video on YouTube.

SR-71 Pilot Maury Rosenberg

Watch this video on YouTube.