Philadelphia Bike-a-Log: Brompton on the Schuylkill River Trail

I brought my Brompton to Philadelphia so I wouldn’t need to get in a car between the station and my hotel (in fact I made it all the way to Philly without getting in a car at all, by riding the Brompton 80 miles to the train station). But I also wanted to ride the Schuylkill River Trail, and Friday that’s what I did. It did not disappoint! I would have taken more photos, but I was enjoying myself too much to dismount every time I saw another scenic opportunity. I recommend riding it yourself if you can; it is very pretty.

My route, according to Strava. The only badpart was getting to and from the train through congested downtown Philadelphia.

My route, according to Strava. The only bad part was getting to and from the train through congested downtown Philadelphia.

I entered the trail here, where it's a concrete "boardwalk."

I entered the trail downtown, where it’s a concrete “boardwalk.”

Continue reading Philadelphia Bike-a-Log: Brompton on the Schuylkill River Trail

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Urbana IL to Crawfordsville IN on a Folding Bike

Last week I took a break from pushing pixels to have a life, and that life included a trip to Philadelphia. My departure station was Crawfordsville, IN. Since it was a nice day and winds were favorable, I rode the whole 80 miles on my Brompton folding bike, which I’d planned to take to Philly with me anyway. I’d really been neglecting the Brompton this Summer, as my back prefers recumbents. But it’s still a sweet bike, and with frequent breaks for back stretches, I made it without damaging myself.

My route, according to Strava (which used up all my high speed bandwidth for this billing cycle).

My route, according to Strava (which used up all my high speed bandwidth for this billing cycle).

First back-stretch stop, just north-east of Urbana IL.

First back-stretch stop, just north-east of Urbana IL.

Continue reading Urbana IL to Crawfordsville IN on a Folding Bike

My account of the Total Eclipse of August 21, 2017

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It was very hot. We found a country cemetery (Ingram Hill Cemetery, outside Harrisburg IL) on a hill at the last minute. It had shade trees as well as open spaces, and a beautiful view. The great hills of Shawnee National Forest rose in the distance. A huge storm cloud hovered in the east. We’d been anxious that morning about clouds; the radar showed scattered rainstorms. There were other clouds around the horizon, but over our cemetery was all clear.

The eclipse was in progress by the time we got there. We wouldn’t have guessed; it was bright and hot. My weather app said “feels like 104F.” Just sitting in ____’s non-air-conditioned car was exhausting enough for me to break open my emergency electrolyte drink. We sat under a tree and walked out from time to time to gaze at the eclipse-in-progress with our Schnuck’s mylar-and-cardboard glasses. I pressed mine over my sunglasses and saw a fat crescent gradually get slimmer.

After a while everything looked the same, except I could take off my sunglasses. There was a puzzling, “is it getting dimmer? I can’t tell” period. Then we could tell: it was getting dimmer. Soon the quality of light was similar to late in the day, except it was coming from directly overhead. The shadows weren’t long, as you’d expect. The crescent was very slim now. We marveled at how bright the sun still was in spite of being mostly covered.

My eyes felt confused, like my irises were twitching open and closed trying to find the right level. The light was from overhead, but got dimmer and dimmer. ____ said it was like moonlight, only warmer and brighter.

Then, suddenly, it got dark. Not “very” dark, not night-time dark; just-after-sunset dark. The clouds on the horizon glowed pink and orange. Overhead was dark blue. We couldn’t see any stars or planets, whether because our eyes hadn’t adjusted, or because a mid-day eclipse with the sun at its zenith doesn’t darken the sky enough, we still don’t know. The corona was exactly like the pictures, except brighter. It was white-hot bright. The moon was a black disc. It looked like an eye in the sky.

Per other accounts, I kept saying “oh my god” as I looked around the
darkened landscape with a sunset directly overhead. Listening to myself I sounded like I was having sex for the first time.

Every day I unconsciously (and occasionally consciously) orient myself to the rays of the sun. It’s like sensing gravity: gravity is always “down,” whether you’re consciously paying attention or not. Sunlight is always coming from the sun, its qualities – strength, color, direction – always indicating where the sun is. The eclipse gave every indication the sun was setting, but it was directly overhead. It was wonderfully disorienting, as if gravity itself shifted and we were floating.

Then the shadow passed and it was suddenly brighter again, though very dim for mid-day. We put our eclipse glasses on again and saw the thinnest crescent, but that was enough to change everything back to day. The shadows returned, and soon the regular mid-day chorus of birds and insects did too. We marveled, stunned and delighted and moved, at what we had just seen.

Gradually we felt the temperature rise. We’d barely noticed the oppressive heat subside, until it came back. We chatted with some of the local people who had taken in the eclipse at the cemetery near us. Fortunately no one blared music, and although we weren’t completely alone, we had a lot of space to ourselves.

Then we drove home.

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Bicycling from Urbana Il to Indianapolis IN

I have done it, and it is paved. Some parts are terrifying, but at least there’s no gravel. Let’s begin:

1. This is the way cyclists from Urbana get to Kickapoo State Park. County Rd 1700 N is quiet and pleasant and even scenic in places.

01 Urbana to Ogden

2. Continuing to Kickapoo. There’s a bridge here that’s closed to cars, but you can walk your bike over it. You can also walk your velomobile over it, though it’s a bit trickier.

02 Ogden to Kickapoo

IMG_6891 Continue reading Bicycling from Urbana Il to Indianapolis IN

The Skin of the Earth

Flying to New York last week I had this amazing view of Central Illinois farmland. It was early in the season and nothing was growing in the fields yet, but they were no longer frozen. The land was unobscured by snow, ice, or crops. I noticed the naked fields were mottled, and it dawned on me I was seeing underground rivers – not unlike veins you can see under the skin – along with the obvious surface rivers. Humans parcel the land along even grid lines, and when I ride my bike through the countryside I tend to think of the land that way too. But seeing these complex, chaotic patterns underneath reminded me just how puny, idiotic, and clueless about nature modern humans really are.

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Click to embiggen

I also got this nice shot of downtown Manhattan from the plane, because the lady in the window seat was asleep:

click to embiggen

click to embiggen

Manhattan had grown a new tower since I’d seen it last. Or maybe it was just happy to see me.

Dear Iceland

Dear Iceland,

I really want to visit your country in early to mid October. A festival in Sweden has invited me to speak around October 14-16, and would like to make a stopover before or after or both. I am greatly intrigued by Iceland’s Modern Media Initiative*. Might there be some way I could speak at a university there, or at least meet Icelanders involved with media reform and free speech issues?

Love,

–Nina

*P.S. OK, not just the Modern Media Initiative. I’m also intrigued by your giant thermal pools.

The Blue Lagoon Geothermal Spa Close to Reykjavik, Iceland

Anyone need me in Berlin late June/early July?

Looks like I will be in Berlin for the Open Knowledge Conference June 30-July 1. If anyone wants me to speak/workshop/do a presentation in Berlin around that time, please contact me ASAP so I can plan my dates while plane tickets are still on sale I will be available July 2nd, going home July 3rd. Super speaking discount if you don’t have to pay for travel! (My usual exorbitant rates are here.)

The Betty Boop Festival

Boy have I been remiss in posting news. First item: I spent last weekend in Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin, attending the Betty Boop Festival.

There I learned about the fascinating subculture of Betty Boop collectors. Betty was big in Japan in the 1930’s – I had no idea. I wish there were pictures of Japanese Betty collectibles online I could share with you, but there aren’t; maybe Betty collectors are all cagey due to the intense licensing restrictions that surround the character.

I also learned more about animation legend Grim Natwick, who grew up in Wisconsin Rapids before moving to LA and changing cultural history.

I met a lot of people including Madison filmmaker Robert Lughai, who blogged this Boop Festival report with photos. I also met the venerable Maggie Thompson of the venerable Comic Buyer’s Guide, who shares her Boop Festival report.

Coming soon to the Bay Area

Heads up, California peeps! July 20 I’m hosting a screening of Sita Sings the Blues to benefit the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Cartoon Art Museum.

Date:
Time: 7:00 PM – 9:00 PM

Address: Delancey Screening room
600 The Embarcadero
San Francisco, CA 94107


The next day, July 21, I’m returning to Santa Cruz for a screening of Sita at the Nickelodeon!

Special Screening and Q & A with Writer/Director Nina Paley
July 21st 7pm @ The Nickelodeon
210 Lincoln St.
Santa Cruz, CA (map)

Meanwhile the Cartoon Art Museum is having an exhibit of my work, Before Sita Sang the Blues: Spotlight on Nina Paley.

This retrospective will feature a selection of Paley’s syndicated comic strips,  illustrations, and a series of prints, paintings and behind-the-scenes materials from Sita.

See old gems like this:

I’ll be hanging around until early August. So if anyone in the Bay Area wants to hire me for speaking, now’s the time to save big!

A ‘Free’ Distribution Case Study: Sita Sings The Blues

Here’s me presenting the latest Sita Sings the Blues Free Distribution Report at Power to the Pixel‘s Cross-Media Film Forum in London, October 14. I was actually very sick, had a terrible sore throat, and had kept quiet all morning to save my voice for this. Apparently I did a good job compensating – hooray for performance adrenaline! But my throat hurts just looking at it.

Copying n’est pas Theft

Because I’m in France:

Merci, Daphne!

I’m outta here

I’ll be in Europe until October 17 (on which date I will be speaking at MoMA!) so I may be virtually non-existent online. Or not, depending on how many free wireless connections are available and how well my netbook holds up.

Again, I’m gonna be in:

France:
September 25 – NancyA l’ère Libre Festival de la culture Libre
September 26 – Pessac, near Bordeaux
Journée des Cultures Libres
Armenia:
October 3-6 – YerevanReAnimania Animation Festival
London:
Oct. 14-16 – Power to the Pixel Conference

Have fun while I’m away! Don’t burn the house down!

New Director Photos

Dang I’ve needed new “official” photos for a long time. Luckily my best friend Ian Akin is in town, and we were able to visit my friend Seema’s house in Long Beach Saturday, and Ian took some swell pictures.

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More here.

Back from Nerd Central

And crazy busy. Chicago and Urbana and Ebertfest were great, amazing, beyond my ability to emotionally comprehend, I’ve never had a week like that before. Then to top it off, Sita won Best Narrative Feature at the Indian Film festival of Los Angeles, and moved to #1 on Critical Consensus. That’s just nuts.

Anyway, it was great being back in Urbana, my hometown, where nerds are made as well as born. I was raised nerd, by nerds, and it’s only a fluke that I appear to be an artist; my heart belongs to nerd-dom. Want proof? Here I am visiting family friend, genius, and art-supporter Theo Gray at Wolfram Research:ninatheo.jpg
My Free Culture activism is nerdy too, inspired as it is by the Free Software movement. Theo doesn’t like it, and made fiercely pro-copyright arguments as only a proprietary software nerd can.

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For contrast, here’s a picture of me with Richard Stallman in New York:
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Whose side am I on, anyway? The side of NERDS!

Duke University tonight – January 26

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M Jan 26 Griffith ( 6pm-6:45pm) | Special Events — prelude to the 7pm screening!
‘Face to Face’ — A public dialogue about copyright, public domain, and filmmaking with public domain expert Jennifer Jenkins and independent filmmaker Nina Paley

M Jan 26  Griffith ( 7pm ) | FVD Showcase (screening & discussion)
Sita Sings the Blues
 (Nina Paley, 2008, 82 min, USA , in English, Color, 35mm)
Director Nina Paley takes an innovative approach to the typical break-up story with this whimsically animated film. Based on RAMAYANA, SITA SINGS THE BLUES follows two broken relationships: Nina’s.– followed by a discussion/Q&A with director Nina Paley + Prof. Srinivas Aravamudan (Dept. of English)!