Blair Pfander

Blair is a Brooklyn-based writer, eBay scavenger and apple pie baker who'd rather be on two wheels in stilettos than stuck in a taxi - unless the cabbie's listening to Prince.

Olaf Brzeski's solid plume of smoke

Article: Olaf Brzeski's solid plume of smoke

Poland got a pretty bunk deal as far as the 20th century is concerned: reconstituted as an official country only after the First World War, citizens suffered through Nazi invasions before being jammed behind the Iron Curtain for decades. This summer, an exhibit at Brussels’ Palas des Beaux-Arts showcased work exclusively by Polish artists who grew up under Communism, but only began working after the fall of the Iron Curtain. Entitled “The Power of Fantasy: Modern and Contemporary art from Poland,” the exhibit tried to engage with Poland’s painful history in a new way.

The world of David Byrne, squished beneath the Highline

Article: The world of David Byrne, squished beneath the Highline

Yesterday afternoon I went to check out David Byrne’s latest installation, “Tight Spot,” at the Pace Gallery’s new lot beneath the Highline. Having seen preview photos of Byne’s “squished” planet Earth floating around the Internet, I assumed I’d be able to wander through Chelsea guided by the sight of a massive blue orb that would be my final destination. Alas, the work is not so immediately apparent, tucked away in a relatively small space that’s invisible to surrounding streets, and so I wandered aimlessly for twenty minutes. The take away: be ye not so stupid.

A thousand naked people floating in the Dead Sea

Article: A thousand naked people floating in the Dead Sea

Many things in life are best enjoyed in small doses: a glass of red wine at dinner, or a twenty-minute power nap. When it comes to full-frontal nudity, however, artist Spencer Tunick is guided by a “more is more” philosophy. Honestly, who cares about one clammy pale butt when you could feast your eyes on thousands?

So last week, Tunick convinced over a thousand people to strip down and float buck-nakey in the Dead Sea, creating one of the most bizarre, un-Photoshopped images I’ve encountered in awhile. Apparently, the project was meant to draw attention to Israel’s efforts to have the salt-saturated sea – which geologists predict will dry up by 2050 – recognized as a natural wonder of the world.

EARonic cases turn your iPhone into an awesome gag

Article: EARonic cases turn your iPhone into an awesome gag

In my opinion, the mobile tech market could really use a few more gag accessories. Forget all that “elegant design” stuff – we use these things all day long, so surely there’s an opportunity for a little humor. Isn’t that, like, the whole premise of “Seinfeld?” Finding comedy in the mundane? Which is why I so appreciate these fairly ridiculous new iPhone cases by Daniela Gilsanz. Printed with images of various ears – some studded with piercings, others sprouting long gray hairs or growing into beards – the “EARonic” cases blend into a user’s face to create the illusion of phone-lessness. According to her website, Gilsanz came up with the concept while working on her art school portfolio. The initial EARonic product mock-up came into being while sketching ears – a prompt specified in one of the applications.

New transformable home is like LEGOs for grown-ups

Article: New transformable home is like LEGOs for grown-ups

Architect Michael Jantzen is known for creating “transformable” structures: buildings that an inhabitant can change or interact with on a physical level. Think of them as the high-art equivalent to a snail shell. After all, why keep your house in one place when you can hit the road and bring it with you? His latest project, the “M” series, features relocatable buildings that can be slapped together in infinite combinations to a matrix of modular support frames, creating totally customizable spaces. If you were a Lego freak as a child, you should probably stop reading and splash cold water on your face, ’cause yeah, this is totally big kid LEGOs.

The UK's Liver Building as digital canvas

Article: The UK's Liver Building as digital canvas

Luminous Flux from the macula on Vimeo.

“Video projection mapping” is a relatively new technique that has been gaining momentum in the art and advertising worlds for the past five years (did anyone else catch Ralph Lauren’s crazy “4D” demonstration on Madison Ave last year?). In essence, the method uses specialized software to turn any possible surface into a video display, warping and masking the images to fit perfectly on anything you can think of. One of the main advantages of the technique is scale: with minimal resources, video mappers can turn anything into a giant, digital canvas.

One spectacular recent example is “Luminous Flux,” projected last week on England’s Liver Building for the opening of the New Museum of Liverpool.

A UFO "Welcome Center" in South Carolina

Article: A UFO "Welcome Center" in South Carolina

Hopeful cloud-gazers will love the strange new documentary by Michael and Morgan Livingston, WELCOME TO PLANET EARTH. The film, which clocks in just under ten minutes, tells the peculiar tale of Jody Pendarvis, a self-proclaimed “alien ambassador” who maintains an enormous UFO Welcome Center on his front lawn in Bowman, South Carolina. Pendarvis clarifies his mission to the crew during the film’s opening shots, in case they’d somehow missed the giant, wooden spaceship behind them. “I welcome people from other planets – not this one, k?”

The rest of the film follows Pendarvis through a tour of his spaceship, from the Command Center – an amalgam of plastic lawn chairs, christmas lights and old TV monitors – to the Lookout, a circular room on the top level with a porthole window in the ceiling. “This used to be a bedroom, where the aliens could come and stay and sleep,” Pendarvis explains. “This is an air bed so they can just blow it up and be comfortable.”

Quiet Ensemble turns your fish tank into a concert hall

Article: Quiet Ensemble turns your fish tank into a concert hall

Quintetto promo from Quiet ensemble on Vimeo.

A new installation by Italian art collective Quiet Ensemble will have you looking at your goldfish bowl in a whole new way. Called “Quintetto,” the collective took five enormous water tanks, each harboring a cheery little fishy, and videotaped their movements. A custom software program then interpreted their (generally pretty erratic) motion to produce subtle electronic sounds that change depending on the position, orientation or direction of the fish. The resulting songs are surprisingly beautiful, even kind of soothing. The sort of thing you would listen to in the bathtub, contemplating buying a goldfish.

CONTAGION billboard grown from bacteria

Article: CONTAGION billboard grown from bacteria

You’ve heard of viral campaigns, but you probably haven’t encountered bacterial marketing – or, more specifically, a billboard crawling with live bacteria cultures. But that’s exactly what marketers from Warner Bros. Canada put together last week: not one, but two enormous, mounted petri dishes inoculated with cultures of penicillin, mold and pigmented bacteria. Over the course of the week, the cultures eventually grew to spell out CONTAGION, the title of the star-studded flick (Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Marion Cotillard, Kate Winslet, Jude Law) that hit theatres last week.

Animated edibles by Alexandre Dubosc

Article: Animated edibles by Alexandre Dubosc

Alimation from Alexandre DUBOSC on Vimeo.

My interest in baked goods was already pretty keen without there being a cultural incentive to drool in their direction. For his new short film, “Alimation,” French visual artist Alexandre Dubosc crafted a series of edible “zoetropes,” or moving illusions for this year’s Annency International Animated Film Festival. With everything from fresh crepes to elaborate, multi-tier cakes, the film is as mesmerizing as it is mouth-watering.

A shopper's guide to crappy 9/11 products

Article: A shopper's guide to crappy 9/11 products

The 10th anniversary of September 11th is a time for reflection, family, and apparently, shopping. From commemorative iPhone speakers to decorative dinner napkins, it seems consumerism will truly triumph over all – including good taste and common sense. Here, a list of the best (worst) crap available to gear up for the big day.

A glowing army in Hamburg, Germany

Article: A glowing army in Hamburg, Germany

In the wake of the Japan’s tsunami and subsequent nuclear meltdown disasters, people were extra skittish about the threat of radioactive poisoning (especially Lindsay Lohan, who promptly evacuated herself from Los Angeles even though her hair already looks like a victim of toxic fallout). To poke fun at our paranoia, art collective Luzinterruptus installed 100 “radioactive” figures in a field outside Hamburg’s Dockville Festival. The effect is surprisingly eerie, each figure outfitted in protective white clothing and lit from within. With their heads pointed at the ground, it appears to be a giant alien army advancing from the forest.

Morbid Medical Antiques at Musée Dupuytren

Article: Morbid Medical Antiques at Musée Dupuytren

Maybe I’ve been watching too many re-runs of “Oddities,” but there’s something really great about ogling gross, old medical samples and morbid doctoring equipment – if only for the spine-tingling “eeeew!” that they often illicit. Paris’ MusĂ©e Dupuytren is like mecca for connoisseurs of creepy curiosities and antiques. Established in 1835 by “the father of toxicology,” Mathieu Orfila, the collection of weird wax figures and diseased body parts was originally compiled in an unused wing of the old Cordeliers Convent, intended for use by medical students and faculty at the University of Paris. Accumulating most of their pieces between 1836 and 1842, the collection was reported to house over six thousand samples by the end of the 19th century. Tragically, financial strife closed its doors in the 1930s, and the collection sat rotting for thirty years.

Astrophysicist finds faster way to board planes

Article: Astrophysicist finds faster way to board planes

Whatever you do, don’t annoy an astrophysicist, because he will devote tremendous time, brainpower and vocabulary to making us all look like idiots. A few years ago, Jason Steffen got all agitated while waiting to take his airplane seat. Had it been a Ron Howard movie, this scene would have had an elaborate CGI montage with floating numbers and complex algorithms flying through the air as Steffen realizes that our current method – boarding in groups, back to front – is really dumb. I mean, hasn’t anyone heard of a Fermi-Dirac Distribution, for chrissakes? (I hadn’t, but apparently it is real and relevant to boarding an airplane).

Turn your LinkedIn profile into a groovy infographic

Article: Turn your LinkedIn profile into a groovy infographic

My annual resume update is a source of frustration, anxiety and quiet terror. “Should I include all these high school retail jobs?” I ask myself. “What will my potential employers think about Calibri?” “Is using two separate columns cool, or trying too hard?’” But fear no more, weary job seekers: a handy new web app makes the process of designing your resume a simple (and strangely addictive) process. By “syncing up” – for lack of a more technical phrase – with your LinkedIn profile, Visualize.Me converts your professional, educational and skill-specific experience into a super cool infographic. Suddenly, your complicated degree-seeking process is summed up in a handy pink timeline; The brevity of a misguided waitressing stint at Denny’s articulated by a tiny dot in the pie chart of your otherwise respectable professional life.

A German nuclear plant converted into a rollercoaster "Wonderland"

Article: A German nuclear plant converted into a rollercoaster "Wonderland"

In the mid ’70s, Germany was hell bent on limiting its energy import and began constructing giant, expensive reactors to maximize its limited resources. It was during this time that the “SNR-300,” Germany’s first fast-breeder nuclear reactor, came into being: a tremendous facility in Kalkar over 80 football fields in length designed to convert plutonium into usable energy. Alas, after the disaster at Chernobyl in ’86, Germans became (understandably) freaked about opening new power plants, and the project was officially canceled.

HAPPY, HAPPY: Crazy couple swapping on a snowy Norweigan hillside

Article: HAPPY, HAPPY: Crazy couple swapping on a snowy Norweigan hillside

Set on a snowy, Norwegian mountainside, HAPPY, HAPPY – a World Cinema Jury Prize winner at this year’s festival – tells the story of Kaja, a wife and mother who eagerly seeks friendship in Elisabeth and Sigve, the exciting (they adopted an Ethiopian boy!) and precariously tall couple coming to live in their guest house. Kaja’s obvious longing for affection is due in large part to the negligence of her husband, a latent homosexual whose “hunting excursions” and weird, outdoor Tee-Pee of Solitude – called a “lavoo” in Norwegian – ain’t fooling nobody. Soon, Kaja’s need to please bumps up (literally) against Sigve’s desire to be taken seriously by his wife, whose dalliances back in the city instigated their move to the mountain in the first place. A few sweaty rolls on the floor later and a couple-swap has taken place. Oh, and there’s some really messed up stuff going on with the kids, one of whom tries to “enslave” the other by beating him with a wet dish towel.

Alternate Histories by Matthew Buccholz

Article: Alternate Histories by Matthew Buccholz

My high school history class wouldn’t have been nearly so dull had Pittsburgh artist Matthew Buchholz been teaching it. After all, few but Buchholz can recall the tale of Rosie, the East River sea monster who claimed the life of New York architect Rohn Roebling in the making of the Brooklyn Bridge; or the grossly misunderstood story of the Boston Tea Party, when citizens, exhausted from daily harassment by a great, scaly dragon known as “Beast,” determined that the bitterness of the tea leaves would drive the great creature from their harbors. Fortunately, these lost legends and more are on display in Buccholz’ Etsy shop, Alternate Histories, where he peddles old-timey engravings of historical sites and scenes “improved” by the rampaging monsters, evil serpents and grizzly ghouls plaguing his imagination.

An illustrated Kindle for Charles Dickens

Article: An illustrated Kindle for Charles Dickens

It’s hard to imagine functioning without the assistance of modern technology. Just last week, for example, I was forced to endure a grueling six days without a cellphone (an excellent glass of New Zealand shiraz is what finally did in the ol’ Blackberry), rendering me more or less dead to my coworkers, family and friends.

Speaking of dead people and mobile devices, illustration student Rachel Walsh was recently asked to “explain a modern piece of technology to someone who lived and died before 1900″ for a project at the Cardiff School of Art and Design. Ingeniously, Walsh decided to fashion a handmade Kindle for her favorite (and very dead) author, Charles Dickens.

Ulric Collette's "Genetic Portraits" fuse family members' faces

Article: Ulric Collette's "Genetic Portraits" fuse family members' faces

Genetics are some kind of crazy, aren’t they? Somehow, filtered through infinite chains of protein codons, I wound up with my mom’s eyes and my dad’s stubbornly straight hair, a strong resemblance to either parent obscured by vague similarities to both. In his new photo series, “Genetic Portraits”, Quebecois photographer, Ulric Collette, elucidates the jumbled likenesses – both obvious and subtle – between family members by splitting their faces and digitally fusing them together. Occasionally, it seems as if he’s fashioned entirely new relatives, Frankenstein-style, in the process.

Scandybars satisfies an electronic sweet tooth

Article: Scandybars satisfies an electronic sweet tooth

While enjoying my ritual Green & Black’s dark cherry chocolate bar, it never occurred to me to stop mid-chew, turn on the scanner (that I don’t actually have), slap my tasty treat on the glass and reveal its delicious innards to the blogosphere. Thankfully, it did occur to the author of the fascinating new Tumblr, Scandybars, who – in the tradition of its predecessor, Scanwiches – makes delicate slices in familiar sweets to expose the artistic compositions contained in their cross-sections.

Key Cruise Moments: Before Oprah’s Couch

Article: Key Cruise Moments: Before Oprah’s Couch

Before he freaked everyone out by jumping all over Oprah’s couch and went off the deep-end with the scientology shenanigans, Tom Cruise was a legit Hollywood legend, the charmingly big-nosed leading man whose steely blue eyes and surprisingly funky dance moves made him magnetic on the silver screen.

Watch typical Brooklyn scenes in super slow-mo

Article: Watch typical Brooklyn scenes in super slow-mo

8 Hours in Brooklyn from Next Level Pictures on Vimeo.

Ever wonder what getting tattooed looks like in ultra slow motion? Me neither. But thanks to some clever Brooklyn-based filmmakers, you can now watch it at 2,500 frames-per-second. Next Level Pictures‘ Jonathan Bregel took a Phantom Flex camera (familiar to TV-addicts as the camera that gets all that crazy slow-motion footage of the world’s fastest animals on the National Geographic channel) for a Sunday skateboard ride around Brooklyn. “I was DP-ing a commercial on a Saturday, but we technically had it for two days,” Bregel told me. “Clearly I couldn’t just let it sit there. My buddy, Mike Sutton from Rule Boston Camera, let us take it out the second day and we had some fun.”

Artist Amy Twigger Holroyd made an entire BMW engine out of yarn

Article: Artist Amy Twigger Holroyd made an entire BMW engine out of yarn

Amy Twigger Holroyd is nothing if not a knit wit. No, seriously – she’s getting her PhD in knitting, specifically “Enabling Fashion Ownership through Material Intervention in Knitted Garments.” But if her degree doesn’t persuade you of her wits and knits, I’m betting this will: at this summer’s Lichfield Festival, Holroyd used her knitting know-how to create an entire BMW engine with the help of a few crafty kids.