Monday, January 31, 2011

Solar Death Ray Less Awesome Than It Sounds

Posted By on Mon, Jan 31, 2011 at 2:00 PM

With hundreds of thousands of videos chronicling how to make everything from engines to walking tables to cardboard T-shirt folders, Youtube has become the new place where people can show off or even market "scientific" and mechanical innovations.

A comically bizarre—though somewhat unsettling video—posted by Indiana teenager Eric Jacqmain shows him demonstrating his innovation: a "solar death ray."

The death ray is 5,800 small mirrors glued to a satellite dish theoretically focusing the heat of the sun to a single point. Total cost: $90.

The video of Jacqmain using his death ray to burn things to a crisp is so bizarre and so corny, it's hard to believe it's real. Soothing new-age music plays as he wheels it out of a shed and into his back yard, where he proceeds to ignite wood, steel, and more. It gets especially hard to swallow as Jacqmain's hand drifts— unharmed—into the ray from time to time. In response to a comment left on his video asking if he can stand in front of his death ray, he replies, "I could stand in front of it all day, just as´╗┐ long as I didn't get within the exact focal distance."

Overall, the video falls somewhere between a late-night infomercial for gardening equipment and the sort of informational video you'd see depicted in futuristic dystopian literature. This video actually manages to make solar death rays seem lame. And yet it is a portent of things to come.

Jacqmain says his death ray was destroyed in a fire—wonder how that happened?—but that he is hard at work on a newer, bigger one.

Makes you wonder what would have happened had Oppenheimer been working in the era of Youtube.

[ Video is no longer available. ]

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Ice Sculptures at the McCall Winter Carnival

Posted By on Mon, Jan 31, 2011 at 2:00 PM

For 77 years, the city of McCall has celebrated winter with a creative homage to snow called the Winter Carnival.

It all started in 1924 when a train carrying around 250 passengers, one of whom was Idaho’s governor Charles Moore, arrived in McCall for three days of snowy fun, including dog sled races and snow shoveling contests. The main attraction of the Winter Carnival, however, has become the intricately built and whimsical ice sculptures that can be viewed at various businesses around town. This year marks the 100th anniversary of McCall, and the ice is bigger and better than ever: Sculptures range from huge birthday cakes to outhouses to chainsaws. The best ones this year, however, are the interactive sculptures that invite folks to climb, slide or sit inside.

Browns Old Mill at Ridleys Family Market
  • "Brown's Old Mill" at Ridley's Family Market

The Tale of Sharlie at Krahns Home Furnishings and McCall Jewelry
  • "The Tale of Sharlie" at Krahn's Home Furnishings and McCall Jewelry

Logging Locomotive at Pauls Market
  • "Logging Locomotive" at Paul's Market


The McCall Winter Carnival runs this year from through Sunday, Feb. 6.

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Fleet Foxes Announce New Album and Tour

Posted By on Mon, Jan 31, 2011 at 2:00 PM

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After a year in the recording studio with Phil Ek (Band of Horses, The Shins), Seattle’s folky fivesome Fleet Foxes just announced the release date of their second album, Helplessness Blues. The album isn’t set to drop until Tuesday, May 3, but you can download the record’s title track for free now at fleetfoxes.com.

Though Fleet Foxes sadly won’t be swinging through Boise on their spring tour—like they did at the magical Woodriver Cellars Wilco show in 2008—they do have some upcoming dates in Portland, Ore., and Seattle that will be well worth the drive.

Fleet Foxes pre-sale tickets go on sale tomorrow, Tuesday, Feb. 1, at 10 a.m. at fleetfoxes.com. General admission tickets go on sale on Thursday, Feb 4, at 9 a.m. local time.

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GM Alfalfa Creeps Back into the News

Posted By on Mon, Jan 31, 2011 at 1:25 PM

Roundup being sprayed on Idaho alfalfa field
This from Barry Estabrook, former contributing editor at Gourmet magazine and now a regular contributor to the the New York Times, the Washington Post, and theatlantic.com:

"On Thursday, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that the United States Department of Agriculture had approved the unrestricted planting of genetically modified alfalfa sold by Monsanto Co. and Forge Genetics, despite protests from organic groups and public health advocates and comments from nearly 250,000 citizens asking the department to keep this GMO genie in its bottle. With this announcement, the Obama administration showed whose side it is on in the battle between proponents of sustainable, organic agriculture and the big businesses that profit from conventional, chemical agriculture. Big Ag won. It wasn't even close."

Idaho is at the center of this issue. Here is an Edible Idaho interview I did back in 2007 with writer Matt Jenkins, who had recently written a story on the controversy over genetically modified alfalfa for High Country News. As you'll see, genetically modified crops are as contentious today as they were back then.

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Marcus Eaton and Steve Meyers at Knitting Factory on Saturday, Feb. 5

Posted By on Mon, Jan 31, 2011 at 12:02 PM

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Marcus Eaton and Steve Meyers, two of the region's finest musicians, are getting together Saturday, Feb. 5, at the Knitting Factory for a rad show.

Eaton jams with the likes of Tim Reynolds from Dave Matthews Band, and Meyers opened for Blues Traveler last summer at the Kelly's Whitewater Park benefit concert in Donnelly.

The show is the official release party for Eaton's new album, As If You Had Wings. Eaton hasn't headlined at the Knitting Factory since it was the Big Easy, and according to his website he wants to "pack the place."

So, you can either purchase a ticket for $6 through Ticketfly or you can get in for free by e-mailing Eaton at marcus@marcuseaton.com with your full name and ticket request. The show starts at 8 p.m.

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Need Something to do Monday?

Posted By on Mon, Jan 31, 2011 at 12:00 PM

Yeah, yeah, the recession is "over." But it's the kind of over in which Yogi Berra's famous theory—about when things are really over—applies. And that's not the case. So until the Berra proof is satisfied, it's good to have a backup plan.

Grad school perhaps? It's probably a better idea than just implementing your existing crisis-plan of holing up in the basement with 200 cans of beans and a shotgun. Assuming grad school is the right choice for you and your career, anyhow.

So tonight, why not find out?

At 6 p.m., in the Hatch Ballroom, Boise State will be hosting a grad school resource fair where you can get information, as well as talk to students and faculty to determine if grad school is right for you.

But hey, let's be honest. Of course grad school is going to be right for you from their perspective. They're trying to sell you on it. What you need is to dip a toe into the water on your own.

Well, what a great day to take a dip, because immediately afterwards and in the same building, Dr. Steven Amstrup will discuss his 30-year long study of how climate change is affecting polar bear habitats. The lecture will start at 7 p.m. and be accompanied by a photo exhibit of arctic animals.

Between the polar bears and recruitment sharks, your Monday evening boredom is sure to be devoured with hopes of a brighter, sunnier global temperature and global economic future.

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Friday, January 28, 2011

Jump Jets House Show

Posted By on Fri, Jan 28, 2011 at 2:30 PM

Ayn Rand used art as a metaphor for political and economic philosophy, playing out situations in which the arrogant, bold and uncompromising artist suffers within a society unprepared to accept or understand the work's unparalleled brilliance. That total lack of compromise might be great for art, but not so great in terms of peacefully co-existing in a pluralistic society in which people have different opinions and access to resources.

Art, especially music, doesn't have to be singular and uncompromising. Kurt Vonnegut wrote of the importance of "the school," a community of like-minded individuals who inspire and challenge each other's work, building a movement larger and more powerful than anything they could produce individually.

These two opposing visions of art were what Jump Jets brought to mind in an uptown basement over the weekend.

It cannot be argued that the precision and furor they bring to their music is anything less than stellar. Bullet-sharp blasts of distortion are paired with rapid-fire percussion and snarling vocals that transition seamlessly to delicate atmospheric passages and velvet smooth arpeggios.

But it's also difficult to find anything instrumental, lyrical or thematic that clearly distinguishes them from other post-hardcore or screamo groups like From First to Last, Thrice or Hawthorne Heights. They play just as tight, scream just as loud and twinkle just as soft. Jump Jets would appear to be of the "school" philosophy of art.

Whether that's seen as a good or a bad thing would have far more to do with what value system a listener is packing upon going into the show.

But whether someone considers them a derisive, unoriginal rip-off or a single player in a larger movement or scene, what can't be denied is that they rock—hard and loud. Boise basements beware: Jump Jets may shake loose your foundations.

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Need Something To Do Today?

Posted By on Fri, Jan 28, 2011 at 2:06 PM

The pictures are startling, and the stories stir up uncomfortable feelings of pity and hope for the people who are the subjects of Fritz Liedtke's photos.

The series, on exhibit now at the Student Union Gallery at Boise State, gives viewers an up-close and personal view into the world of eating disorders—an affliction that touches the lives of more people than is probably really known.

The Portland, Ore., photographer's work will be on display through Tuesday, Feb. 22, and the gallery is open from 7 a.m. until 8 p.m. daily. Preview the photos and Liedtke's work here.

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Minutemen's Mike Watt Planning an April Stop in Boise

Posted By on Fri, Jan 28, 2011 at 2:00 PM

The rapid, jazzy punk of the Minutemen captivated discerning critics and college students all throughout the early '80s, until D. Boon's untimely death truncated the band's career.

The Minutemen released several albums and turned many heads in that short time. Bassist Mike Watt was a member of fIREHOSE in the following years, and eventually went on to continue to chart new territory during his long solo career, which continues today.

On Sunday, April 24, Watt will perform at the Neurolux with his band the Missingmen. His new album, Hyphenated-Man (Clenchedwrench), is his first release since 2004's The Secondman's Middle Stand.

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The Song Stuck In My Head Today: "Lovin' You"

Posted By on Fri, Jan 28, 2011 at 2:00 PM

One of the sweetest, sexiest songs of the '70s. And if it's stuck in my head, it might as well be stuck in yours, too.

In light of this song (and my newfound obsession with trivia), here's a trivia question for you:

Who is the late Minnie Riperton's famous daughter and what TV show was she on?

Answer after the jump:

Continue reading »

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