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#FoossaFinds – 22 October 2014

The Thinking Body

Did you know that Einstein’s insights for the theory of relativity came to him in the form of kinesthetic sensations in his muscles?

In a Wisdom Hackers ebook published this week, Foossa’s Lee-Sean Huang explores issues of embodied cognition and “the thinking body.” You can read a free excerpt of the ebook on Medium, and subscribe to the full series on The Pigeonhole. We also welcome you to join us in discussing these ideas on DebateHub.


@leesean – A Fitness Tracker for Online Communities? Collective Intelligence Meets Wisdom Hackers

@TechReview – Isaac Asimov Mulls “How Do People Get New Ideas?”


Join Purpose and the #GivingTuesday team for a panel on how to maximize donations to your organization
Wednesday, 29 October 2014
Purpose, 115 Fifth Avenue, 6th Floor (Bet. 18th & 19th St.) New York NY 10003


@Dodo/@Melissa_Cronin – Triple Rescue: Baby Ostriches Comfort Baby Elephant As He’s Airlifted

@leesean – Happy Autumn Survivalist Squirrel

Reposted from

Design Foossa New York News

#FoossaFinds – 11 July 2014

#FoossaFinds curates insightful readings, awesome events, #SpiritAnimals, and other inspiration. Look for it on Fridays.  Reposted from


4 Things Leaders Get Wrong About Creativity 
Design theory and branding professor Natalie Nixon says the reason we don’t see more creativity in business is that most leaders don’t have any idea what it is.

How to Thrive in a World Where Change is Constant
From shark feeding to deprogramming yourself, activist, entrepreneur, venture capitalist and MIT Media Lab Director Joi Ito explains how.

This Company’s Business Plan Includes Trespassing
Fast Company profiles our friends Nathan and Ida of Wanderlust Projects, a design agency for Transgressive Placemaking.


Saturday, 19 July 2014, 2-10 PM
Mister Rogers, 231 Rogers Avenue, Brooklyn, New York 11238

2000 LED-Filled Balloons. 1 room. UNLIMITED JOY. Learn more and RSVP.

Crack Your Emotion Code: An Immersive Art Experience
Thursday, 24 July 2014, 6:30 PM – 8:30 PM
Dev Bootcamp NYC, 48 Wall St (15th Floor), New York, NY 10005

TAPIN partners with Dev Bootcamp to bring you an interactive experience designed to jolt your senses and emotions and tap into what makes you unique. Through an immersive journey, TAPIN creates a multi-sensory experience that deeply explores our humanness and ability to feel, showing us how cracking our own emotion code can ignite us and the work we create. Learn more and RSVP.

Subway Sets is back! 
Saturday, 2 August 2014, 7:30 PM
Subway Sets is bringing New York’s best underground music to the largest rooftop farm in the world for an epic night underneath the stars. Come experience what TimeOut NYC called one of “the coolest things to do on an NYC rooftop”. Get tickets now.


6 Reasons Wombats Are Exceptionally Cool Creatures [The Dodo]

Lessons Learned: Rethink Your Elephants [NYU Entrepreneur]


Animals Art Audio ITP Music Those In Between Video VisualMusic

Ruby’s Song

My latest project for Animals, People and Those in Between @ ITP:

The Animal Subject

You will take your “Animal Object” character, and flip the script by investigating the subjective point of view of the animal you chose.

What is it like being inside this animal? What is its view point? How does it see– or experience –its environment? What – or how – is he/she reacting to the events surrounding him/her? How do those events appear, in terms of scale, form, size, sharpness, color, time?

Drawing on the writings of Ãœexkull (the idea of umwelt), and the readings on research into animal minds, and / or projected first-person narration (Haskell’s short story, Coe’s “Pitt’s Letter”), you may chose to be anthropomorphic, or you may NOT be, as you see fit.

The purpose of this assignment, coupled with the last one, is to explore how character is made from different points of view, and how your crafting of that character expresses your point of view.

Ruby’s Song from lee-sean on Vimeo.

Music and editing by Lee-Sean Huang.  Paintings by Ruby the Elephant.  Elephant sounds by Kris Hartley.

During our in-class crit, some people thought that the piece was two opaque, that I needed to move the titles to the front of the video, or in someway make it more explicit that the piece is about an elephant.  I’m still not sure how I feel about that.  I would definitely consider moving the “Ruby’s Song” titles to the beginning of the video, but I would also have to restructure the audio portion so everything still synchs up correctly.  My goal was to really get into Ruby’s head and create something based on established elephantine means of expression.  Even if wild elephants don’t paint and make music, they are ways in which elephants in captivity can “express themselves,” whatever that means, I still don’t know, so I’ll leave it up to interpretation.

See also:

Ruby’s Song on

Ruby’s Song on Vimeo

An Audio Portrait of the Life and Death of Ruby

Sketches of Ruby

Ruby Research Links

Animals Art Audio ITP Music NYU Podcasting Podcasts Those In Between

An Audio Portrait of the Life and Death of Ruby

Update: After getting some critique in class today, I remixed the audio to make the improve the balance in levels between the narration and musical elements and to bring out some important keywords in the narration. The MP3  player and download links below now feature the new, improved version of my experimental audio documentary.

The original post below:

For my audio portrait of Ruby the Elephant, I sought to “paint” a portrait through sound in the same way Ruby painted her paintings with a brush and paint–using bold brushstrokes and vivid colors; abstract, yet struggling to communicate something deeper that cannot be easily expressed.  I cut up the narrative structure of Ruby’s backstory, interspersed it the Ruby Baby track, along with my interpretation of what it would have sounded like when Ruby played the xylophone.  Thus, cutting, pasting, and rearranging are my parallel techniques to Ruby’s paint splatters.  I wanted to honor Ruby by making my portrait of her to sound like how her paintings look.

The picture above is an image of a Ruby painting.


Ruby Baby by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, performed by Björk Guðmundsdóttir & Tríó Guðmundar Ingólfssonar.

See also: Sketches of Ruby and Ruby Research Links.

Animals Art ITP NYU

Sketches of Ruby the Painting Pachyderm of the Phoenix Zoo

Part 2 of my assignment for my Animals studies class:

4. Animal Object
Due date: Mar 3
Format: pdf or other form (paper, film, web site) AND character model sheet (pdf)

This assignment is a combination of research, character development and implmentation of a documentary form.
You are going to make a piece about an animal as an object, depicted in the 3rd person.
The assignment is a combination of research and storytelling, with the goal of making a portrait.

You will:
a. Research a real animal
b. Do character studies (a character model sheet) and write backstory
c. create a storyboard or a short piece about the character

Ruby the Elephant (1973-1998)

Ruby was an Asian elephant who lived at the Phoenix Zoo.  When her trainers observed her making marks in the dirt with sticks (“drawing,” if you will), they decided to give her paint and brushes and teach her how to paint.  And paint she did.  Her canvas were shown around the world.  She was called “the biggest figure in Southwest art” by an Arizona art critic.  Ruby was probably the biggest name to come out of my hometown–Phoenix, a place with little culture and virtually no history–since Stevie Nicks.  The money from Ruby’s artwork helped to pay for elephant conservation and breeding work.  Her trainers also used Ruby’s painting as a way of doing research to find out whether or not elephants can see in color.

I remember Ruby from my visits to the Phoenix Zoo as a kid.  I also remember that my parents had a print of a Ruby painting on the wall in their office.  I loved going to the zoo because it was an exotic world apart from the homogeneous suburban sameness of Phoenix.  The zoo is located in a sparsely-populated part of town with weird rocky outcroppings that looked otherworldly.  Although in retropect, that “otherworldliness” was actually the more-or-less natural environment of the Arizona desert.  What was “unnatural” was intensively-irrigated green lawns carpeting the suburban landscape, more appropriate for Florida than a desert.

Not much is known about Ruby’s origins.  She was born in a logging camp in Thailand in 1973.  Her mother was probably a trained elephant that worked for people, her father was probably a wild elephant who lived in the jungle.  She was delivered in a crate to the Phoenix Zoo in 1974.  The only documentation of her origins was a paper receipt for her delivery.

It wasn’t that easy finding information about Ruby.  She lived and died before the Age of the Internets was in full swing.  I found a few pictures and scans of Ruby’s canvases.  I did get a hold of a children’s book about Ruby by Dick George, which had the most comprehensive story of her life.  I also found a few old news articles and some other stuff about other painting elephants.  Even my own memory is sketchy after all this time.  Yet somehow this process of research has triggered something in me, some sort of (latent) emotional affinity towards her?  Or just an invented nostalgia for my childhood in a hometown that becomes more and more unrecognizable due to rampant sprawl and development every time I go back to visit.

Ruby never seemed to fit in her surroundings.  (I didn’t really fit in in Arizona either, so maybe that’s why I feel a connection with her) She grew up in the company of humans.  She had a few elephant friends that came and went, but she never had the chance to fully bond with any of them.  Maybe painting was a way for her to express herself.  Maybe it made her more human?  Or less elephant?  What was Ruby trying to express?  Was she just documenting her surroundings?  Or was she trying to express a deep sadness that came from captivity and loneliness.  Was Ruby another tortured artist who died too young?  Despite the bold brushstrokes and vibrant colors of Ruby’s paintings, I can’t help but to see the melancholy in Ruby’s paintings.  The desire to communicate, yet a certain futility.  An inability to fully communicate and to be understood.

Some called Ruby “an ambassador for her species.”  But elephants don’t paint in the wild.  I doubt they aspire to be stars in the art world.  If anything, painting made Ruby more un-elephant-like.

In 1997, Ruby was sent to Tulsa to mate with a male elephant named Sneezy.  She came back to Phoenix with a big bun in the oven.  But there were complications towards the end of her pregnancy.  The zoo vets discovered that her fetal calf had died inside her womb.  They tried to remove the fetus via C-section, but they had to cut through 4-5 feet of skin and tissue to reach her uterus, which was the size of a small Volkswagen.  They discovered that the fetal calf weighed 320 pounds, twice the size of a normal elephant calf.  Ruby’s uterus had ripped open, and an infection had spread throughout her abdominal cavity.  The vets had no choice but to euthanize her immediately.  But is that what really killed her?  Or was it the captivity, the celebrity and the breeding that led to her early death?

At the time of her death, Ruby weighed 9,000 pounds.  One newspaper described the outpouring of grief in Arizona as “if Princess Diana had died again.”  (The Princess of Wales had passed away the year before) Ruby was buried on the grounds of the Phoenix Zoo.  Over 43,000 attended a free-admission day at the Zoo in Ruby’s memory.

Here are some sketches I drew of Ruby:

Download high resolution PDF of sketches.

See also: Ruby the Elephant Research Links