March, 2012 Archives

The Hirshhorn Museum has scored a coup by commissioning artist Doug Aitken to install a large-scale video projection around the Smithsonian’s doughnut-shaped building. The result is “Song 1,” a 35-minute, 360-degree movie shown continuously from sunset to midnight. The soundtrack consists of nothing but variations on “I Only Have Eyes for You,” sung by a variety of performers. The effect is indeed hypnotic and enchanting.

The Hirshhorn has taken the lead in bringing life to the Mall at night. They had already brought art lovers and hipsters to gather at the museum for the Hirshhorn After Hours parties. After Hours happens only 3 times year (or so), but we have Song 1 for a full 8 weeks. It is a must-see.

Video is an immature art form with several pitfalls that sink less rigorous efforts. Song 1’s sheer scale (it uses 11 projectors to encircle the building) lets it escape my typical complaint, that I hate being trapped watching something stupid, unsure of when it begins, or ends, or if it’s worth waiting to see if it ever gets interesting. The Hirshhorn’s new piece is instantly captivating, and the never-ending curves of the screen’s edges invite you to explore not just the video, but all the sculptures silently joining you on the plaza. The video’s changing light illuminates works by Calder, Koons, Oldenburg, and Lichtenstein. And you’ll also be joined by others taking in the spectacle, some, no doubt, stumbling upon it unexpectedly, which is probably the best way to discover this piece.

Night Gallery

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Night at the Museum

Billed as “a national gathering of nonreligious Americans to celebrate secular values,” this weekend’s “Reason Rally” was held on the National Mall. The day was dampened with periodic showers, but it was refreshing to not hear any nonsence about God controlling the weather. On my way to the Mall I had stopped at the Trayvon Martin rally at Freedom Plaza, where a speaker claimed God had caused the rain to stop, begging the question why had God caused it to start moments before? Or were God and Satan wrestling over control of the weather, struggling to ruin or save a rally? The Reason Rally had great speakers, including Richard Dawkins. Eddie Izzard performed a hilarious set of stand-up comedy.

Blue Rainjacket

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2012 Reason Rally

It’s great when companies like Capital Bikeshare make their data available. On their Trip History Data page they have stats for each quarter. I downloaded the most recent one, for 4th Quarter 2011, and created an interactive bubble map, trips4q2011.html, to illustrate the statistics.

The map is based on the one I created for Metro data (see Showing Metro Trips with a Bubble Map), but with expanded functionality. The CaBi data lets you specify registered users or casual users. A control at the bottom let you magnify the size of the circles used. At 1x magnification, a single trip is represented with a circle with a radius of 25 meters (an area of just under 2,000 square meters). Select stations with the drop-down menu or by hovering over it.

The list button will present a textual list of the data, sorting the station in descending order. The compare checkbox lets you compare two sets of values. In overlap mode you can manipulate a second set of bubbles, blue rather than red. The sum and difference modes compare the two sets, displaying the results in a single color.

The program was developed using JavaScript and the Google Maps JavaScript API v3.

Wednesday night offered a chance to “rub wheels with internet royalty.” Bicycle Space organized a tour of Washington, DC, to welcome the blogger behind Bike Snob NYC. The tour hit all the highlights: from Mount Vernon Square to the White House, to the Lincoln Memorial, to the baseball stadium, and more. A large group enjoyed the warm spring evening, and we were treated to popsicles atop the Nationals parking garage.

Set to Tour
Gathering at the convention center

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An Evening with BikeSnobNYC

“This is my first scandal.” That was the opening statement of monologist Mike Daisey’s talk at Georgetown University, sponsored by the Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor. One night after his hit show, “The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs,” closed in New York, and only three days after This American Life issued a retraction of Daisey’s appearance back in January, he came to Washington, DC to tell his story. Or, more precisely, to retell his story. (The audio is now on his site: Georgetown Talk.)

His appearance was titled “A Hammer With Which To Shape It: Art and the Human Voice in the Global Labor Struggle,” but no subject could be more exigent than his own story, his fall from grace after the details of his story were fact-checked. Foreign correspondent Rob Schmitz was skeptical of Daisey’s claims, and went so far as to interview the translator Daisey used during his trip to China. American Life‘s host Ira Glass played snippets of the translator’s counter-claims on the same show where Daisey bravely returned to respond to Glass’s charges of having been lied to. It was a brutal program, but fascinating. » Continue Reading…

Mike Daisey Comes Clean

The Rock ‘n’ Roll USA Marathon came through Dupont Circle this weekend, with thousands of runners, and a new name (last year it was branded as the SunTrust Marathon). I stood by the Connecticut Ave overpass to take a few shots of the athletes as they ran past. It was a warm morning in Washington, DC. A few runners wore green to celebrate St Patrick’s Day, and a few other costumes, such as the Flash, below.

Super Speed » Continue Reading…

Cyclists converged in Arlington, Virginia this weekend for the Crystal City Diamond Derby. An underground parking garage was transformed into a race course, with cyclists of all levels taking the challenge to get in as many laps as they could in 20-minute races. An outdoor lot was used for exhibition DC Bike Polo games. Dandies & Quaintrelles brought hundreds of bike riders from Washington to the event via their “River Ride.” The garage had food booths that filled the space with the welcome smell of barbeque, around an artsy “Diamond Lounge” curated by Corehaus DC.

This was a great event, and a smart promotion for the Crystal City Business Improvement District. I was impressed to see a parking garage transformed into such a creative space, a space that would otherwise sit vacant on a weekend. This event will surely get better each year. As a favor to everyone with a camera, I hope they add more lighting to the race course. Surely some Dan Flavin-inspired colored fluorescent light bulbs would add a festive touch as well.

Battle of the Blurs » Continue Reading…

I love the snow storm after the title shot; it was inspired by the opening credits of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (by Rankin/Bass). Keep in mind each snowflake was drawn (and its movement tracked) by hand, which made for a laborious opening sequence.

I have got to figure out a way to show emotions other than having characters wave their arms up and down.

Snow Day

Metro’s “passenger information displays” (PIDs) are the digital signs in the stations that announce upcoming train arrivals. I wrote my own “Web PIDs” app using the Metro Transparent Data Sets API to show the same information on the web. The initial view of the application presents a menu of station names. Selecting one or more stations embeds their codes in the URL, which you can bookmark to return to the same view. You’ll see the station codes in the URL, like below:,C02,E01

The above link shows arrival times at Farragut North, McPherson Square, and Mount Vernon Square. WMATA uses 3-character RTU (remote terminal unit) codes. » Continue Reading…

The Bike Shops and Beyond map was created just over 4 weeks ago, but was already due for an update. Bicycle Space has moved to a new location, 8 Capital Bikeshare stations have been added, and I added a bunch of shops that had been missing. Though the map purports to represent only Washington, D.C. and Arlington, Virginia, I added more places around the region’s perimeter. (See Mapping Bike Shops, and Beyond.)

To support the map’s bike-friendly theme, I used a bike-oriented map. This was done by using the Layers feature of the Google Maps JavaScript API. The Bicycling Layer is drawn on top of the traditional Google map types (including the satellite view), and displays bike lanes and suggested bike routes. I do not have a bike layer for the OpenStreetMaps view. » Continue Reading…