Blowgun Tutorial

Freddy Boyotai is demonstrating how to load and shoot a blowgun.

The Waoraini and the Quechua people use similar blowguns, with Quechua blowguns being a bit more rounded.  In both cases, a blowgun is a really long pipe (about 8 feet long).  The dart itself is a wooden stick that looks like a 15-20-inch-long thin skewer. Hunters take a bit of palm fluff that looks a bit like cotton and wrap a little bit of it around the rear end (the dull end) of the dart to create a seal when the dart is inserted into the pipe.  The container that holds the “fluff” is made from a seed pod of a tree in the Rubiaceae family. The “cotton” material is kapok, fluff from a kapok tree seed pod.  Darts are made from the stem of a palm leaf.

The next step involves a small necklace made of piranha teeth that many men wear around their necks. The neckless is basically a set of two piranha jaws – hunters use the space between the sharp teeth to cut a small grove in the dart so that when the dart hits its target, the tip would break off.  Once the dart is notched, the tip is dipped in poison, usually made from curare vine.  Curare vine poison is a paralytic agent – when it enters the bloodstream, it paralyzes an animal, so that even a small wound would render the animal incapable of escaping.

A Walk Through Pittsburgh’s Hill District

When I moved to Pittsburgh in April of 2000, I immediately fell in love with the city. One of the things that I tend to do whenever I end up in a new city, I like to wander around, get lost in an unfamiliar neighborhood, photograph my way out, and talk to anyone I meet along the way. Over the years I have amassed quite an archive of photographs of Pittsburgh’s neighborhoods, the good, the bad, and the ugly. Last week I walked through Pittsburgh’s Hill District neighborhood. Some parts of it have been gentrified and rebuilt into a series of cookie-cutter townhouses and apartment complexes, some retained their original look, and some have fallen into disrepair. Every time I walk through this neighborhood, I find these once-loved buildings crumbling and falling apart, and that makes me incredibly sad.

Polaroid Land Camera

Over the last few months, I have been working on a virtual exhibit project with the University of Colorado Boulder Media Archaeology Lab. My colleague Dr. Jessica FitzPatrick and I have been putting together an augmented reality popup book to tell stories of some fascinating technology artifacts.

One of these artifacts, a Polaroid Land camera, has quite a bit of personal interest to me. The story goes that Dr. Edwin Land, the founder of Polaroid, came up with the idea for instant photography during a conversation with his 8-year-old daughter. Supposedly, she wondered why she could not immediately see the results of a photograph and that prompted Land to begin work on an instant camera.

Polaroid has a fascinating history, full of invention, innovation, stubbornness, and failure to foresee the future. There are stories associated with the Apartheid regime in South Africa, pornography in post-Soviet Russia, Andy Warhol, and many others. I would highly recommend checking out “Polaroid Now: The History and Future of Polaroid Photography” by Steve Crist and Oskar Smolokowski.

I am hoping to post some AR content shortly, but in the meantime, here are a few detailed shots of the Polaroid Land camera that we are using in the virtual exhibit and the virtual pop-up book.