Here today, gone tomorrow

All gifs/videos by Wells Baum

Standing in Grand Central Station reminds us of the temporariness of life, that what’s here now can be gone in a flash.

We should be dubious of ephemerality, especially in the internet world where things get consumed and promptly forgotten. Good feelings are equally fleeting.

Instead, the overall wager should be on long-term serotonin rather than one-off surges of dopamine.

Here now, gone in an instant

Better to find our feet in the urban wilderness rather than orbit around a flock of sheep. In the hierarchy of happiness, stillness plays the long game by persisting through noisy places.

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Temporary foliage

All photos by Wells Baum

Constant and changing, the Fall comes around and whips durable trees into seasonal characters, reminding us that everything is temporary.

The form is ephemeral, the roots are permanent. The colorful autumn foliage tree jettisons its leaves, falling without regret.

The ‘e’ in leaf stands for effortless; its intuition accepts the will of the wind. Those that remain appear vivid under the flash of light. The season’s cycle into GIF loops.

Photo by Wells Baum

The round jumpman

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Photo by Wells Baum

The original Jumpman wasn’t Michael Jordan; it was Mario! But the name didn’t stick because it wasn’t marketable enough according to Minoru Arakawa, Nintendo’s American boss in the early 1980s. Luckily, he got some outside inspiration.

From the Economist:

“His name was an afterthought. Top billing on the game was always going to go to the gorilla. (“Kong”, in the context, was more or less a given; “Donkey” was found by consulting a Japanese-English dictionary for a word meaning silly or stupid.) The protagonist was simply called “Jumpman” for the one thing he was good at. But Minoru Arakawa, the boss of Nintendo in America, wanted a more marketable name. Around that time, writes David Sheff in “Game Over”, an authoritative account of Nintendo’s rise, Mr Arakawa was visited at Nintendo’s warehouse outside Seattle by an irate landlord demanding prompt payment. He was called Mario Segale, and he had a moustache. Thus does destiny call.”

By 1990, the pudgy plumber who gained energy from mushroom fluff became more recognizable than Mickey Mouse. And if the lost hat from a Halloween costume I found on the street yesterday morning is any proof, Mario is still king!

Photo by Wells Baum

Japan’s lonely vending machines by Eiji Ohashi

Photographer Eiji Ohashi spent nine years capturing images of Japan’s vending machines on his late-night commutes home from work.

“At the time, I was living in a town in the north of Japan that would get hit by terrible blizzards during the winter months. I’d drive my car in (these) conditions and use the light of the vending machines to guide me.”

Well-maintained even in harsh winter conditions, the machines stand out in Japan’s remote towns like ‘roadside lights’, the eponymous title of Ohashi’s photography book.

For a country that produces “300-plus flavors of KitKat,” the vending machines not only look the same, they all sell the same items. Said Ohashi: “I wanted to capture the standardized form of the vending machines. I thought you could see the differences between the regions through the scenery around them.”

All photos via Eiji Ohashi 

 

 

Making dream states visible 📱

Photo by Wells Baum

It was surreal. Standing in the face of General Colin Powell at Madame Tussaud’s in DC had a dream-like quality too it.

A window stood between us, the reflective glare merging our bodies. See my arms?

Powell’s face seems to conceal my iPhone; the stage-lighting effect of portrait mode paints a dark outline. Yet, everything was unintended. There were no tricks, just a play on consciousness at the magic wand of technology.

Wrote Teju Cole in his piece Strangely Enough: “But the surreal image — which, at its most resonant, breaks through consciousness instantaneously and surprisingly — is an elusive thing.”

Strangeness is hard to pin down, so to speak.

Basking in the train glow

All photos by Wells Baum

The only source of light is a mellow glow on a metro head. Whether bald, strawberry blonde or redhead, the light shines through on top of the dome.

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But there’s also a type of soft glow of that keeps you awake. It’s the strange glow of stoic pride that screams with confidence ‘I got this.’

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Stay the course, sitting among the living glow of neighbors, tethered to the sterile glow of handheld devices, all the way underground into the train’s magnetic flashlight.

The glow of independence, the weird-colored glow of elegant ideas, all arrive trademarked by the fluorescent glow of the train’s exit. The powerful glow ends. Doors open.

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Google Photos uses facial recognition to identify your dogs and cats

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Photo by Wells Baum

If you’re looking for the best photo-backup service, look no further than Google Photos. Not only does it free up phone space, it creates gifs, adds filters, and stitches images together for you using the magic of artificial intelligence. In the age of image surfeit, Google Photos has been a blessing in disguise, helping people decide what to post or share with friends and family. But today’s news is by far my favorite.

Using its human face identification technology, Google can now detect individual cats and dogs instead of bunching all the animals together. It can even narrow results down to a specific breed. You can also search by or  emojis.

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It’s about time pets got some recognition. See what I did there 😉

Scales aquatic 🐟

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All photos by Wells Baum

The logic of aquariums, as with zoos, is the logic of conservation: individual animals must sacrifice their freedom so that the species as a whole can be protected.

Plenty of its creatures seem delighted to be there, as far as one can tell, and others seem perfectly unaware of where they are. No doubt many of these animals live longer and healthier lives than they would in the ocean.

Excerpts from What Is It Like To Be An Octopus?

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‘It doesn’t scale’

Photo by Wells Baum

If everything was mass-producible, there wouldn’t be any reason to march to the beat of a different drum.

It’s hard to stand small in the urge of mainstream’s BIG success.

Given a choice, people would prefer to be liked by everybody. Like a magnet, fame attracts money.

But most of the time we don’t have any other option but to scale to a micro market.

Just because it doesn’t scale — whatever ‘it’ is (a business, an idea, etc.) doesn’t mean it’s not special. Size can ruin things.

Remember the tenet: What matters isn’t always popular.

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gif by Wells Baum

Look, imagine, and remember

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“In order to think we must speculate with images.” — Aristotle

It’s impossible to remember anything without seeing the image in our head first. With a little effort, we can activate our brains to become conscious recorders.

But the banality of everyday life tends to dull the senses. Blind to routines which automate thinking, we float by the external world without acknowledging its subtleties. Mobile phones further exacerbate attention; some people admit that the addictiveness of the rectangular glow makes walking harder.

We must force ourselves to look for distinctiveness. No one ever forgets a purple cow or rainbow zebra, even if it’s a figment of our imagination.

Teju Cole on the flood of images in a mobile-first world

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Photo by Wells Baum

There is a photograph coming at you every few seconds, and hype is the lingua franca. It has become hard to stand still, wrapped in the glory of a single image, as the original viewers of old paintings used to do. The flood of images has increased our access to wonders and at the same time lessened our sense of wonder. We live in inescapable surfeit.

— Teju Cole, from ‘Finders Keepers’ in Known and Strange Things