Tuesday, July 24, 2012

face without fishes

hanging valley at the top of Buckeye Canyon, Eastern Sierra

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

(cold) fish without faces

I guess this has been out for over a year now, but just the other day my mom hipped me to this study about botox, empathy, and "embodied cognition".

"people who have had Botox injections are physically unable to mimic emotions of others. This failure to mirror the faces of those they are watching or talking to robs them of the ability to understand what people are feeling, the study says.

The toxin might interfere with 'embodied cognition,' the way in which facial feedback helps people perceive emotion. According to the theory in the study, a listener unconsciously imitates another person’s expression. This mimicry then generates a signal from the person’s face to his or her brain. Finally, the signal enables the listener to understand the other person’s meaning or intention."

Here's a link to a pdf of the study itself.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Saturday, July 07, 2012

about tire sandals

The hardest thing about making your own sandals is having to look at all of those people’s feet. There are so many DIY videos on youtube, some way more helpful than others, each with its own pair of feet. Weird bony ones, chubby pale ones, knobby, hairy, bent and bandy, scaly, hammer-toed, fungoid, etc.

OK, let me back up. Six or seven years ago, Runners World ran an article about Tarahumara / RarĂ¡muri runners in the Copper Canyon region of northern Mexico, including how they did everything in huarache sandals made out of old tires. This also intrigued me because of some conversations I’d had with my first mission companion in Mexico (nearly 15 years ago) about sandal making. He was a Zapotec guy from a pretty remote area of Oaxaca, nowhere near Tarahumara country, but his dad was a sandal maker.

Since then, my favorite sandals of 12 summers, after many repairs and a resoling, have finally come to the end of their days. These are the sandals Kelly got me before we married, the ones that broke a strap once in Pariah Canyon, and I miraculously found an ancient pair of sand-filled canvas shoes (perfect fit!) sitting on the bank within the hour. So if I’m going to try making a new pair, this would be the time, right?

It turns out the internets have a lot to say about making their own sandals, what kind of cordage or webbing to use, what material makes a good sole—shoe insoles (gross), car mats (seriously?), crushed water bottles (for real), and then there are kits.

After sifting through a lot of this, and some experimenting, I settled on tire sidewalls as soles, and nylon paracord (left over from our laundry line). Everyone out there advises you against using steel belted tread for a sole because it’s pretty impossible to work with for this kind of thing. I even went out and bought an angle/disc grinder to see if that would git ‘er done, as it were. I can’t recommend this either. I did end up with a ragged, sole-shaped mass, but it’s nasty, unpleasant work. The other problem with using the tread is that very few tires, at least from what I could find in several trips to Ray’s Tires, are simply bias-ply (without radial steel belting).

Now, you might expect, as I did, that the sidewall wouldn’t provide enough traction, or that the shape would be too deeply contoured to fit well. But the traction’s fine, they’re actually thinner , lighter material than the tread, they’re still plenty reinforced by the nylon plies/cords, and, if you position the cuts right around the tire bead, the contours actually fit the arch of your foot surprisingly well.

Anyway, here’s what I came up with. I’ve taken them out running a few times now—the longest one so far was 10 miles—and I have to say I’m pleased.

If you’re interested in giving something like this a try, here are a couple of the videos I found helpful. This guy (in Israel, I think?) demonstrates how to do the sidewall thing. It’s also got a nice sort of campy Survivorman/Bear Grylls quality to it, like he’s sneaking up on a dead tire and field butchering it for the camera.

And this Steven Sashen guy pretty much walks you through the whole process, whether you’re buying one of his “Invisible Shoe” kits or not. (And I have to say, of all the youtubes I waded through for this, his were easily the nicest feet of the whole mess.) If you like his "sh*t barefoot runners say," you might also enjoy this little xtranormal video too.

If you see yourself getting interested in this—human evolution, distance running, biomechanics, and alternatives to running shoes—check out Harvard’s barefoot running page.

Finally, aside from all of this, one of my favorite things about cutting footwear out of old spent tires is the arc of human transportation it implies. Like, “Alright folks, end of the road / oil / free ride, etc. Here’s where we start walking.” On that note, here’s one final video that seems appropriate here, about where all our tires go to die.

related: losing contact, barefoot?, jaywalking bigfoot, beating the vultures, tires, turkey timers, edward burtynsky

Monday, July 02, 2012

civil dusk

A couple years ago we were out visiting my dad in Bakersfield over the July 4th weekend. Around dusk, just as people were starting to light off their fireworks, I went out for a run. After a few blocks of gated neighborhoods and a big church barbeque, the asphalt ran out and I was on a dry dirt road, surrounded by oil well pumpjacks as far as I could see in the fading light.

I went another mile or so and then turned around to look back toward the city. The long, flat line of glowing red, fading, and broken here and there by the mechanical rise and fall of pumpjack silhouettes. Just above that, the distant silent explosions of fireworks.

This is the kind of industrial-sublime terror that came back when I saw Edward Burtynsky’s Oil photos, here at the Nevada Museum of Art through September. Last month, when he was in town talking about his photography, Burtynsky said that when he sees skyscrapers (for example) and other vast human-made structures and systems, he is interested in seeing and showing “the hole that skyscraper [/tanker ship / suburban neighborhood / supply chain / auto fleet, &c.] came from.”

He did a lot of this pretty directly with his earlier mines and quarries projects. But how do you show the “holes” where petroleum comes from? Or the ones it leaves in people and places as it makes its way through a global economy?

Like, for example, oil sands extraction in Canada’s boreal forest, which involves, first, clear-cutting and then the stripping and removal of topsoil and earth to a depth of around 20 feet, over hundreds of square miles. Or a massive tire dump in California that catches fire and burns for two years, with flames reaching a half-mile into the air.

How can we hope to represent the tremendous scale, speed, and meaning of these transformations and phenomena? Burtynsky’s Oil series goes about this by dividing things up as Extraction, Detroit, Transportation, and The End of Oil.

Also, if you’re interested, The Atlantic ran a fine interview a couple weeks ago that gets into a lot of this, and there’s a great little article over on this design magazine/blog too.

related: Edward Burtynsky, Chris Jordan, Shopping for Independence Day, Yann Arthus-Bertrand, archived americana, roadside explosives