June 1, 2006

Motion Sensing and iSight Hacks on the Mac

If you own a late model Powerbook, or a Macbook, your machine has a motion sensor inside to shut off the hard drive in case of a tumble. Two hacks taking advantage of of the sensor in inventive ways have recently made the rounds of the Macosphere. Light Saber, turns your mac into a light saber, and SmackMac which ties into the excellent Mac virtual desktop utility Desktop Manager to allow you to smack your way through desktops. Both hacks are based on the work of Amit Singh a writer/programmer, who was the first person to publicize methods of using the sudden motion sensor creatively. These hacks led me on a search for other hacks which use the mac motion sensor. As of yet there are only a couple but I assume more are in the pipeline... (onscreen dice anyone?, how about a 'jiggle your dock icons with a bump' hack?)

Amit Singh's original proof of concepts:
Rotate D triggers screen orientation rotation.
HID Device turns the movement of the screen into an input device. Singh put up a nice page describing how to use HID Device to control games.
Tracker simply prints out the movement data.
Visualizer shows the orientation of your mac in 3D.
Stable Window is a cool little hack that puts up a window that tries to compensate for the rotation.

Erling Ellison's Smackbook Hack is described here (look in the comments for complied versions) (and as a sidenote, Ellison's blog is only 2 entries long and already looks promising... I haven't seen a good Mac Hack blog in a long time).
Smack Exposé and Bump Tunes both riff off SmackBook and are self explanatory.

Smack Exposé and Bump Tunes both riff off SmackBook and are self explanatory.

Dash Level is a dashboard widget that turns your mac into a level.

iAlertU is perhaps the most useful use of the motion sensor, it basically gives you a car alarm for your portable... if someone tries to move it, it goes off. Multialarm and Theft Sensor basically do the same thing.

MacSaber (your mac as a light saber in case you haven't downloaded it yet) can be found here. When my wife saw me giggling and playing with this, she stopped dead in her tracks, sputtered "Oh my god, you are such a nerd" and quickly left the room.

To turn your motion sensor off follow this hack.

All the googling for mac motion sensing led me to isight based motion sensing (ie motion sensor triggered video) which led me to iSight hacks.

Evocam has been around for a while and is still my favorite motion sensor video app. It's relatively cheap. I've yet to find a free alternative. With it you can produce motion sensor triggered video like this.

Motiondetect allows you to add motion detection effects to iMovie.

Miracle sight uses motion triggers to turn your mac into a magic mirror.

And speaking of magic mirrors, there are a number of iSight connected quartz composer hacks. The video basically goes through a filter and is output into quartz composition file. You can read these qtz files in Safari or use them as screensavers (just put them in Library/Screensaver) If you have a newer mac, you've seen this kind of effect in Photobooth (if you have an isight camera connected to your mac, click here to see a demo). The best of these can be found here:

Tatsuo Unemi's Crazy Mirror
Matthew Turk's Gravity Lens
& Sam Kass' Hack Page

Apple puts out a cool quick and dirty capture utility called Whacked TV. MulleSight is a similar small capture app and duhsoft creates a simple photo capture widget for the Dashboard.

EvoBarCode turns your iSight into a bar code reader and intergalactic allows you to capture images from the command line.

Finally if you are tired of video chatting in iChat you can check out Adobe's Flash based conferencing product Breeze (iChat is leagues better). I found it worked quite well with iSight.

And last but certainly not least is iGlasses which tweaks iSight's video output. This is most useful if you use iSight in dark rooms as it allows you to brighten up the image, change the contrast, etc.

That's quite a few... did I miss anything great?

June 2, 2006

Te Voy a Comer

My friend Frederick once said his goal in life was not to be a parent, but a grandparent. Here's why:

Te voy a comer on Vimeo

June 3, 2006


I'll have a print or two in this installment of Jen Bekman's Hey Hot Shots show next week. The reception will be on the evening of Wednesday, June 7th from 6-8. Stop by please. Say hello.

On Saturday July 8th from 9-10AM I'll be at the great WFMU hosting the Listener Hour. If you miss the live show it will be archived on the net.

And on September 15th a one man show of my photography will be open at the Nelson Hancock Gallery in Dumbo. It will run for a little over a month.

Mark your calendars!

June 3, 2006


This funny little comic book titled "REAL HEAT" published by Chick arrived through my mail slot today (I was actually standing in the stairwell and watched a man in a hat quickly push it through and scurry off)... and it was something I haven't seen since I was growing up in Texas--a fire and brimstone anti-Catholic comic about burning in Hell. Reminds me of the good old days of Brookhollow Elementary School.

Coach Savoy: You son are going to hell."

Me: "What?"

Coach Savoy: "I can help you open up your heart and let me show you the way. Unless you and your people stop worshiping Mary and accept Jesus Christ as your personal savior you are doomed son. Doomed to eternal damnation. You will not pass go, you will not get out of jail free, you will rot forever in hell."

Me: "Um. I'm nine years old."

The other reason I hated Coach Savoy was that he had a thing against foursquare. We always had to play in secret. My favorite part was at the beginning when the person in control would lay down the rules, "No bobbles, no babys, no slams, no moonshots..."

June 3, 2006

Bulat Makaev and other discoveries

A random walk around the web led me this page of Chechen videos. The videos, if you can get a connection (I had quite a bit of trouble), are amazing. The site is rich and deep with pictures of everything from the crowds at a visiting circus to the contestants of the recent Miss Chechnya contest (the BBC noted "there was no swimsuit round"). The site features a a diary/blog noting things such as the opening of a movie theater in Achxoi-Martan ( "orphans will be admitted free") and a newspaper specifically for Chechen bailiffs. Look around, there is so much information to keep you occupied (Apparently clowns (zhukhargs) are no longer used in Chechen wedding ceremonies), so stop reading this and click over.

June 5, 2006

Snow Miser

My hatred of the heat is a well known and everybody hates heat plus humidity so why even mention it. By now I should have adapted. I was born in a hot place (although admittedly on the the coldest of days), I grew up in a miserably hot and humid place (although I constantly dreamt of snow), and I now reside in a place where heat and humidity are the norm from May to September and where apartments are often poorly cooled ovens.

My friends and family say hot months make me gloomy, that I act as if nature itself has betrayed me. I admit it, can't help it, and I can't fathom how life goes on in the truly sweltering places like Dehli or Baton Rouge. I visited Dehli once in August and each day in that broiling liquid soup they call air took years off my life. I would sleep covered with wet cloth under a fan and even so the only effect was that instead of being hot and sweaty I was now hot and wet, with sticky air being dragging round and around the room. Even the mosquitoes were too hot too fly, they would cling limply to the walls eventually sliding down to the ground.

Once when working on a movie scout I found myself backstage at Disneyworld. Why build an amusement park in a muggy swamp? Did Walt secretly hate kids? On the scout I would escape to an heavily air conditioned room used by the characters in what they called "breathing breaks". Inside those character suits, they are literally drenched in sweat. "Bad enough on a normal day, but when the temperature outside hits 103°F, it's murder. You could suffocate in there!" I practically screamed, "I would drop dead. Dead, dead dead." I announced this to a room to populated with several dwarves carrying their heads, a pig, Minnnie Mouse, Goofy, and a morose Tweedle-Dee . The room had gone silent. Minny helped Goofy push his head back to reveal a dripping red faced man, "We lost a Pluto last year in the dance routine; he fell backward and people thought it was part of the act.... but of course it wasn't..." he whispered. All the characters looked at each other. I thought I heard someone crying underneath the pig suit. I realized he an the others weren't getting all choked up so much because of Pluto, they were getting choked up because they were flirting death every day and they knew it.

Here in New York there is a small escape from the misery of summer: ice cream freezers. If you overheat while dragging yourself around the city, step into your nearest grocery store and find the ice cream freezer (the TV dinner section will do in a pinch). Open the door and bask in the cold. The cooling mist will envelope you and bring you down to near normal temperature. Even if you spend a very long time standing there with your eyes closed, most people will just ignore you. If a clerk asks you what you are doing, answer "thinking." This answer always throws them off, because it is irrefutably true and nobody want to interrupt a good thought... Anyway this is a long way of saying, if you see me this summer standing in front of freezer for a very long time, there's no need to worry, I'm just becoming human again.

June 7, 2006

ASCII days

There are different levels of geekdom. Back in the early 80's you were a geek if you spent all your free time logging onto BBSes, the precursor to the internet, you were geekier still if you ran a BBS, and an uber geek if you actually coded a BBS. Hardware geeks were in another class altogether. But the difference between geek society and the rest of the word is that the closer to code and machine you got, the cooler you were. So if you were someone like me, a low caste geek who simply hung out on BBSes you had the worst of both worlds because you were just normal enough for regular society to reject you but not nearly smart or obsessive enough to be a high llama geek.

Ironically these days, lots of people claim high school nerdiness. Partially this is because anyone with half a soul felt like an outcast in high school, partially it's because of nostalgia, but mainly it's because memories lie. Even the most popular people claim to have been outcasts. You want to know about geekiness circa 1981? Let me paint you a picture. You had an Apple ][ or a Vic Commodor and you would wait by the mailbox for the mailman to deliver a fresh copy of Byte or Nibble magazine. Once the magazine arrived, you would flip through it at high speed praying for some code. If you were like me you were always looking for an easy way to get that code into the machine as reading back and forth from the page would surely introduce mistakes. My brilliant idea, record the numbers and dictate to myself. I have tapes and tapes full of code. Here is one small fragment, a data table of numbers. Enjoy.

June 7, 2006

Testing Testing 1 2 3

Update: I forgot to include the link that was the point of this post, a cool little Mac program called ASCII Projektor which turns your quicktime movies into ASCII. Info page here. (Direct Download)

June 9, 2006

Aaron Ruell

I've noticed the photography of Aaron Ruell before but I never never noted the photgrapher's name. Today I discovered his website.

June 9, 2006

Brooklyn Botanic Gardens

June 11, 2006

On the Chinatown Bus

June 12, 2006

Thoughts on the Chinatown Bus

Immigrants given enough time away from the place they have forsaken will often return to find themselves a stranger in a strange place. This happens because either they have changed and return to find the place unchanged, or they will cling to the traditions of their youth and return to a place that has moved on. Either way they will end up feeling adrift-people without a home. I noticed our bus driver's pinky nails were both very long and etched with characters. While you still might find the long pinky nail amongst Chinese men, the tradition of character etching is pretty much dead. The driver said he had been in New York for almost 35 years. He returned to his village in Fujian province in 2004. "They destroy everything." he said, "I will never go back there."

Why are all the Jamacians on this bus wearing small cowboy hats?

Is it strange that every white person on this bus has a tattoo?

It is the common view in the west that Muslim women who are strict in their dress, the women who wear black flowing robes, and a hijab with only a tiny slit for the eyes) feel trapped by their clothing... is it possible wearing the hajib feels makes one feel the way I did when I wore a ninja costume... stealthy? A person with secrets. There is a woman on this bus with only the tiniest opening for her eyes, she is covered head to toe and yet I swear I can feel her smiling underneath there.

This is the primary Qur'anic verse used explain the Islamic custom women's modest dress btw, "And say to the faithful women to lower their gazes, and to guard their private parts, and not to display their beauty except what is apparent of it, and to extend their headcoverings (khimars) to cover their bosoms, and not to display their beauty except to their husbands, or their fathers, or their husband's fathers, or their sons, or their husband's sons, or their brothers, or their brothers' sons, or their sisters' sons, or their womenfolk, or what their right hands rule (slaves), or the followers from the men who do not feel sexual desire, or the small children to whom the nakedness of women is not apparent, and not to strike their feet (on the ground) so as to make known what they hide of their adornments." There is also another verse about drawing their jalābib (long coat) close when they go out...

I love the strangeness of the world, but is baby octopus ever good breakfast food?

One of my favorite things to do on a bus is to look down into the windows of the cars as they pass. People relax in their cars. Their walls are down. You know that opening scene of "Wings of Desire"? I imagine it like that.

Is it impolite to change seats if the person next to you is quietly breaking wind?

June 12, 2006

Tiina Itkonen

The portfolio of Finnish photographer Tiina Itkonen is a delight. Check it out. More photos here.

June 13, 2006

Best Friends

June 16, 2006

Muggy Day Holgaroid

June 16, 2006

5 Cabdrivers I've Met Recently

Gerardo Santiago Felix
(translated from Spanish) "I love her, man do I love her. Do you know every day I buy her roses and leave them at her door. She doesn't love me though. I am too old, more than twice her age. Maybe I am ugly. But every day I leave her roses and one day she will know my true love. I don't care how it takes. Do you know the constellation Orion. One day she told me this is what she looks for in the sky, so every night I pray to Orion. She has a boyfriend now, but I can wait, she's had other boyfriends. I don't interfere, and one day she will come to me. Wait a minute, that's her calling..."

Mohammed Islam
"People never talk to me, they think I am a terrorist because I look like Bin Laden so I am surprised when you talk to me. I hate Bin Laden. He says he is a prophet but look what he has done. Everyone in the world hates Muslims now. Maybe Bin Laden is an Israeli spy or maybe he is just a Saudi. Saudis hate Americans. In Pakistan many people love Americans. I love this country. I moved here 22 years ago, and my whole family lives here now, even my grandparents."

Bazyli Ochabski
"I love miniature trains. Not toy trains, but miniatures, you can ride them. On weekends I take the seats out of the cab and load it with my steam engine. All built by hand. I am a member of so many clubs and everybody wants to see my train so I drive to New Jersey or Maryland or Florida with my train to show it to club members. There is a really good club in Somerset Hills, New Jersey. We have miles of tracks. You should come. It would change your life."

S. Aungubolkul aka Mr. Bacon
"I hate this country because this country is weak. In my country we wouldn't have problem with these terrorists. Iraq is a joke. Every day America gets weaker and weaker. In my country I was Thai military and in Thai military we didn't play games. My nickname was Mr. Bacon because I would make them eat pork. [laughs] I made big mistake though, I fell in love with girl who wants to come to America. Now look at me. I am nothing."

Hitler Singh
"My mother wanted me to have famous name... all of us had famous names. My brothers are Chaplin, Churchhill, and Napoleon. Really. Some people get so angry you know but Hitler is my name so I am proud of it. The truth is my mother didn't know much about history."

June 16, 2006

The Cameramen

This week's New Yorker features a nice piece on Gregg Toland, the innovative and influential cinematographer who revolutionized the look of cinema (article is not online yet) shooting film monuments like Citizen Kane and Intermezzo. Visually his films are shockingly fresh. In the article Steve Soderbergh says of The Long Voyage Home "It looks like it was shot tomorrow."

Back when I was working at Paramount I became friends with Piotr Sobocinski the cinematographer behind Kieslowski's Red and the Decalogue. Our friendship came out of a mutual fascination with Toland. Piotr would have me dig up old production stills to try to figure out Toland's lighting setups. Usually they were startling in their simplicity, many big lights bunched together. This was similar to the technique Piotr often used. "Only one big light, like the sun, I do the same" he would say in his heavily accented English obviously pleased. My boss had helped bring Piotr over from Poland where he was making a fraction of his Hollywood salary, but Hollywood did not suit him. His missed his family in Poland and he hated the Hollywood system which didn't allow for artistic experimentation and flow. He would brood and when he was feeling particularly down he would watch Toland's films to cheer himself up. Through my job I helped him screen obscure copies films not available on video. He always wondered aloud what Toland would have done if he had lived a full life (Toland died unexpectedly at 44 in his sleep), because "great cinematographers do best work after 60". The deep irony of course is that Piotr would die at 43, and like Toland leave behind a wife and children and leaving us to wonder what might have been.

June 17, 2006

"Large" Animal Collection

The Staten Island Zoo website is a wee bit defensive about the zoo's animal collection.

"How big is our invertebrate collection? There are 10 zoos with larger collections, 2 zoos with same size collections, and 139 zoos with smaller collections. Thus, only 7% of zoos have larger invertebrate collections than us. Our invertebrate collection is larger than the following big zoos combined: Los Angeles, San Diego, Miami, Kansas City, Albuquerque, and Philadelphia. Because they all have none!"

June 18, 2006

Father's Day


June 19, 2006

Ville Lenkkeri

In searching for more work from photographer Tina Iltkonen (listed below), I ran across the work of fellow Finn Ville Lenkkeri which is also worth checking out. Images on Fotofinlandia and 30 by TaiK: the Helsinki School.

June 20, 2006


A word for the sense of nostalgia you have for a period of time you haven't experienced.

A word for the feeling that washes over you when you see something so embarrassing you feel embarrassed yourself.

A word for not recognizing yourself in the mirror.

A word for a person who always chooses bad fonts.

A word for the collective oohs and ahhs of a crowd watching fireworks.

A word for the limbo you enter when you are in a good dream and wake up halfway, but push yourself back, because you don't want the dream to end.

A word for the spaces between words when we talk.

A word for goodbyes for someone you know you will never see again.

A word for the dusty emptiness left by suicides and the murdered.

A word for a memory so powerful it smothers the other memories around it.

A word for time, when time goes all out of whack and moves either too slowly or with agonizing speed.

A word for the moment when you know everything that follows will be different.

A word for the lightest touch, when that touch means everything.

A word for the rush of warmth you feel when you hold the person you love the most.

June 24, 2006

I Hate Hotel Rooms

June 24, 2006

Greetings From Florida

June 25, 2006


Even a year and a half into fatherhood, it is sometimes easy to forget you are a dad. You will be driving through a mangrove swamp somewhere in Florida at night and just be a guy driving with the windows down keeping the radio spinning through stations on scan waiting for just the right music come up and enjoying the long periods of static... That invisible tether that connects you to wife and child is slack and you are momentarily unaware of it. Mosquitoes buzz around outside and are being killed on the windshield at an alarming rate but you figure at 85mph what are the odds of one making it into the car. And then one does and lands on your arm, puncturing your flesh discretely but leaving an immediate welt so itchy and painful you feel compelled, to roll up the windows, pull over and punish the beast for it’s transgression. The splatter of blood left on inside of the passenger’s side window, while impressive, leaves you less satisfied than you might think, so you roll on. But as your arm itches you remember you wife’s email about your son being attacked by mosquitoes, and the monster itchy welts they left all over his body and suddenly the tether goes taught and all you want in the world is to be back with your family, battling mosquitoes and doing the things that dad’s do.

June 25, 2006

11:30 on the Bridge

June 27, 2006

Day to forget

I drove all day to make it to the airport on time only to be bumped from my flight and stuck by the airline in a moldy hotel room where a friendly cockroaches skitter across the floor with a loud click click clicking sound the minute I shut out the lights. I should have camped out at the terminal. Oh the room also reeks of smoke ("Smokers welcome!" reads the sign outside) and of course the windows are plastered shut. When I arrived there was a long red hair in the sink.

June 29, 2006

Winging it to Brooklyn

I'm back at home and can finally start to tackle my server issues which have made posting very difficult. I've posted minimal text because each post must be entered by hand and paragraphs of text are a mess... I'll try to sort through the dross and get everything back to normal tomorrow. I have a backlog to put up.

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