Category Archives: film/video

Six-man pile driver

This has been going around for a while, but I think it’s a clever use of combined manpower. The video was apparently shot in Pakistan, though some commenters suggest the workers may be Thai – I don’t recognize the script on the header. Here’s a comment that was forwarded to me with the video link:

Now, let’s analyze the Engineering here:

6 men x 180 lbs = 1080 lbs static force. Jumping up and down will create a 3 times dynamic effect = 3240 lbs/jump = 1.6 ton thumps if the pile is tapered to 2 in x 2 in, cross section at the tip = 4 sq. in. So, dynamic pressure/thump at pile tip = 3240/4 = 800 psi.

“Add a man” feature will increase to 950 psi, so buy the option!

Increase the chant and dynamic force goes up to 5 times to bring max. pressure / thump to 1600 psi for a 7 man team.

Quite good, and will penetrate hard clay and sandy soil (but not hard or rocky ground!) Pretty ingenious.

Oh, the foreman is the guy on the tambourine.

This reminds me of the “gandy dancers” of American railroads, who, in the days before track-straightening machines, used songs or chants to coordinate the mens’ efforts:


Namibian Nights – a timelapse film

This has been out for a few years but isn’t as well known as it should be, judging by its paltry 71,000 YouTube views. (“Paltry” is a relative term here. Think of that pop star you don’t like and compare the numbers from their latest video.) Filmmaker Marsel van Oosten spent two years creating this magical minute-and-ten-seconds, shooting thirty photographs for each second of video. The result is a stunning look at the night sky in the one of the world’s exotic places.

While the land that frames the view differs from place to place, in theory that amazing night sky is available anywhere, with specific star content varying based on your latitude. But in reality, we city-dwellers live under an impoverished sky lit by hundreds (and maybe only dozens) of stars. To truly experience the night sky the way our ancestors did, you have to go someplace without much “light pollution.”

I remember the first time I saw the night sky in its full glory, many years ago in a remote part of western South Dakota. It was a crisp night in March, with a bit of breeze in the juniper trees and an occasional lowing of cattle. Before the moon came out the sky was inky black between the stars and for the first time I understood the aptness of the name “Milky Way,” which had always seemed like a bit of poetic license.

A video is no substitute for the real thing, but it’s something, and if it spurs you to go out in search of dark sky, it will have served a good purpose.

(I learned of this video from the always-wonderful Open Culture.)

My life in typefaces

Are you geek enough to watch a TED about typefaces? I am. (Granted, I’m an editor privileged to work with talented graphic designers.) Type designer Matthew Carter (you’ve seen his work) talks about design and the constraints of technology. His words are helpful, I think, whatever your creative endeavor.

“Does a constraint force a compromise?” he asks. “By accepting a constraint are you working to a lower standard?” During Carter’s career, constraints have been imposed by the limitations of printing, screen display, and information technology. But every form of creativity faces constraints of one kind or another. The question is, how do you respond? And can overcoming a particular technical challenge lead to aesthetic discoveries?

Why you must read John Green’s “The Fault in Our Stars”

TFIAS jacketYou must read this book. I realize it’s been out for a while and is already being made into a movie, and as usual I’m late to the party. But if you haven’t read it…

OK, this is a book about teenagers with cancer. Terminal cancer. This could have been a depressing book, but I didn’t find it so — though it certainly has its share of sadness. Even the dust jacket warns you:

“Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel’s story is about to be completely rewritten.”

You’ve probably heard it said, “Young people think they’re immortal, and that they’ll never grow old.” (The last part is true enough in Hazel’s case.) And today’s generation of young people, just like every recent generation before it, is often dismissed as spoiled, narcissistic, shallow, and lazy. If that’s true, why is this smart, unflinching story so wildly popular with said young people? Why does a book for teenagers deal with the issues of mortality more seriously and more intelligently than most of what you find in the adult world? And this isn’t an anomaly. Both the Harry Potter books and The Hunger Games trilogy face death pretty squarely. (I can’t comment on Twilight — I haven’t read those.) Continue reading

A History of Our World in 18 Minutes

…And he doesn’t even talk especially fast.

One of the helpful things about history is the way it gives us perspective on our own lives. Issues that we think are new or unique to our day have usually appeared before in some form or other. History helps us see the large trends rather than getting lost in the day-to-day details of current events.

“Big History” takes this even further. As David Christian’s talk demonstrates, the idea of Big History is to step way back and look at the broad scope of events in terms of various time scales… including the largest time scale of all. Not only is it a great way to induce awe, but it will also change and deepen the way you look at not only current events, but history itself. Continue reading

“Mt. Head”: 10 minutes of darkly hilarious Japanese weirdness

Atama Yama stillAtama Yama (Mt. Head) is a highly strange but thoroughly engrossing short film (10 minutes) from 2002. I’m not able to embed it, but you can watch it here.

Directed by Japanese animator Kōji Yamamura, it is a modern interpretation of a traditional story from a type of comic storytelling called rakugo.  Yamamura’s surreal animation mixes hand drawn images with CGI. The story is narrated by Takeharu Kunimoto, a musician and storyteller who speaks and sings the narration while accompanying himself on the shamisen, a traditional three-stringed instrument. The effect, at least for this American viewer reading the English subtitles, is to heighten the strangeness and wonder of the tale. I can’t understand a word Takharu is saying, but I can hear the humor and exaggerated theatrics in his voice. Continue reading

Which is better, “Asturias (Leyenda)” on guitar or piano?

John Williams plays “Asturias (Leyenda)” by Isaac Albeniz

It’s fun to take something you think you know, change it up a little, and hear what happens.

Like “Asturias (Leyenda)” by Isaac Albeniz. I’ve heard it a number of times before and thought I knew it fairly well (for a non-musician). More about that below. First, the video above. What I like about it (aside from the music itself and the virtuoso performance of it) is that you can watch Williams’s hands and fingers – you see up close the music being made. A rock concert, even a symphony, is larger than life. Nothing wrong with that. But this is intimate, music that invites you to come close, music at your fingertips. Continue reading