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The Uncommon Life, Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge: How do Flip Books, Films, and Kinegrams Move?

December 12, 2016
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Our beating heart clock combines elements of art and science in a kinegram, a manipulation of still images to convey a sense of repetitive motion.

 

Remember the simple flip books you made as a kid? A few drawings stacked in sequence, bound, and when flipped, a cartoon hero seemed to run across the page. What was this wizardry that brought crude line drawings to life? It was thanks to an optical phenomenon called the persistence of vision, where the breaks between ‘frames’ go unnoticed because of the inherent lag in how fast our eyes update visual information. On a more grown-up level, the same principle makes the magic of television and movies possible. In fact, films are sometimes called flicks because of the flickering nature of how they work: at least 24 frames per second race before our eyes to make the illusion of continuous motion.

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Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge: Has the Loch Ness Monster Been Found?

July 13, 2016

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In case you haven’t been keeping tabs on the news of the weird lately, the body of the Loch Ness monster has been found. Well, sort of. Researchers surveying the depths of the Scottish loch with sonar imaging technology have rediscovered a 30-foot prop Nessie used in the 1970 film “The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes.” Sunk during filming in 1969, the model monster has been hanging out 180 meters deep on the loch bed ever since. The researchers with the Loch Ness Project didn’t expect to encounter any mysterious creatures—real or artificial—so finding the film artifact was a quirky coincidence to their scientific search for Nessie’s lair. “We have found a monster, but not the one many people might have expected,” commented Loch Ness expert Adrian Shine. In a bit of mythical monster synchronicity, a drone has captured what may be footage of a Bigfoot scampering through the Idaho landscape.

Sea Serpent Garden Sculpture | $180

Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge: Who Made Jaws’ Jaws?

May 31, 2016

22179_SharkSlippersThe blockbuster’s iconic poster image owes as much to a museum as it does to pulp fiction illustration. The monstrous Great White shark surging from the bottom of the frame toward a hapless swimmer was designed by Roger Kastel for the paperback edition of Peter Benchley’s 1974 novel. From that, you might expect that Kastel spent weeks in a wetsuit and a shark cage, studying the ocean’s uber-predators firsthand. Nope. He just took the C train uptown to the American Museum of Natural History to study their shark exhibits, dry and threatened only by mobs of tourists. Kastel’s museum inspirations might have included the fearsome, disembodied reconstruction of a Carcharodon megalodon’s jaws, a shark ancestor that terrorized the seas some 10 million years ago. The bathing beauty at the top of Kastel’s image was actually a model that he had been sketching for a Good Housekeeping ad. He asked her to stay a little longer and had her pose for the image by lying on a stool and pretending to swim.

Handmade Shark Slippers | $42

Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge: Where Was Hollywood Before Hollywood?

April 11, 2016

41266_4.4.16Although the movie industry has gone global in the 21st century, Hollywood remains synonymous with movie making. But that wasn’t always the case. For almost a decade between 1912 and 1920, idyllic Ithaca, NY was the cinematic capital of the US. Movie moguls of the silent era Theodore and Leopold Wharton came to the Finger Lakes community (initially to shoot scenes for a Western), fell in love with the area’s many charms, and set up a studio near the Cayuga Lake shore. This brought superstars of the day like Oliver Hardy, Lionel Barrymore (great uncle of Drew), and Harry Houdini to town, and also attracted other filmmakers to Tompkins County. With the advent of “talkies,” the industry soon shifted to the West Coast, and Ithaca today is known for the intellectual enclave of Cornell University and for its bounty of farm-to-table culture. But for a few years around the First World War, the town hosted the early heyday of movie magic.

DIY Cinema Lightbox | $15-60

Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge: Can Machines Love?

February 10, 2016

Lil' Mib (Message in a Box) | UncommonGoodsThe question of whether robots and computers can love is at least as complex as defining love itself; poets and greeting card writers have been grappling with that one for ages. The question of digital love hinges on the effectiveness of artificial intelligence (A.I.) and the ability of A.I. to give rise to emotions. In the course of predicting true A.I. in the early 1950s, computer scientist Alan Turing developed the Turing Test, a tool to assess whether a machine’s intelligence is indistinguishable from a human being’s. A.I.s have come a long way since, making Turing’s test a blunt instrument, but not settling issues of whether they can feel. But if Hollywood is any indication, we can be sure of this at least: humans can love machines—sometimes tragically. In the Sci-Fi classic Blade Runner, Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) falls for the Replicant femme fatale Rachel (Sean Young), challenging his sworn duty to “retire” Replicants who try to pass for human. More recently, Her has Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix) becoming enamored of his sophisticated new OS, Samantha (seductively voiced by Scarlett Johanssen). Their affair is all the more surreal for the fact that “Samantha” is a disembodied A.I. with no physical form. Hollywood continues to be infatuated with the question of A.I. love, offering dark cautionary tales like Ex Machina (2015). We may be fated to fall in love with the computers that we interact with every day, but can they love us back? I tried this simple experiment: I asked Siri on my iPhone “do you love me?” With analytic coolness and a dash of irony, she replied, “you’re looking for love in all the wrong places.”

Lil’ Mib (Message in a Box) | $66

Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge: Are There Really Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon?

January 4, 2016

Film Reel Table | UncommonGoods

This post is about how Bacon brings everyone together. As a vegetarian company, we generally don’t talk about bacon…but in this case, it’s Kevin Bacon, center of the Hollywood universe—at least according to the popular theory / party game “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.” And now, rather than spending countless hours researching obscure movie cast lists, Google will give you the Bacon separation number in a millisecond. Simply type “Bacon number [name of other actor]” into the Google search field and boom! There it is.

But this got me curious: how well does this work with other people with the surname Bacon? How about British Painter Francis Bacon? Yep—just three degrees. Francis Bacon and William S. Burroughs appeared in Burroughs: The Movie. William S. Burroughs and Don Creech appeared in The Book of Life. Don Creech and Kevin Bacon appeared in X-Men: First Class. How about English philosopher and statesman Sir Francis Bacon? That one’s more of a challenge, but it does work if you combine Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon with Six Degrees of Francis Bacon. In the overlap of those two networks (plus some creative license), there are only four incredible degrees of separation between the two Bacons. Behold: Sir Francis Bacon knew William Shakespeare (in fact, some would say he was William Shakespeare), Joseph Fiennes played the Bard in Shakespeare in Love, Fiennes and Elisabeth Shue appeared together in Leo, and Shue and Kevin Bacon both appeared in Hollow Man.

And in case you’re wondering, there are only three degrees between this author and Kevin Bacon: I met and pitched a TV script to Gary Coleman, who appeared in The Great Buck Howard with Tom Hanks, and Hanks was part of the Apollo 13 crew with…Kevin Bacon.

Film Reel Table | $850

The Uncommon Life

Eat, Pray, Love, Wear

September 16, 2010

We wouldn’t want to imply that a fashion accessory can bring you the sort of answers that Julia Roberts seeks in her new film, Eat, Pray, Love, but we did want to point out the handmade, fair trade black floral belt that Julia Roberts wears as she explores Italy, India and Indonesia.

We just learned this morning from the belt’s designer, Jenny Krauss. Jenny works with artisans in Bolivia and Peru who handweave these belts from a curly wood thread.  She found meaning in her life by working to make sure these women had a market to sell their crafts. “It’s important to give and empower those less fortunate,” she says. “Most people don’t have a lot of opportunity to better their lives, so it feels good to be able to contribute something empowering and sustainable.”

You can support these fair trade artisans, get started on your own personal journey, and pick out your own belt at UncommonGoods.

From what I hear, Julia Roberts’ character eats a lot of pasta while she’s traveling through Italy. Luckily this black floral belt can be let out a few notches as needed.

The Uncommon Life

Iron Man Shops Here

May 21, 2010

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Open your eyes Iron Man – you’re on camera!

It’s official. Tony Stark loves UncommonGoods! Ok, that might be a bit of a stretch, but imagine my excitement when I saw Iron Man himself chugging chlorophyll from one of the water bottles we sell!

kor water bottle

While everyone else was entranced by Scarlett Johansson’s slinky performance or mesmerized by the creature that is Mickey Rourke, I was giddy the whole movie that I saw one of our products up on the big screen!

Yeeeea, I should probably get out more:)

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