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Current Topic: Arts

For Sale
Topic: Arts 3:53 pm EST, Nov 24, 2012

Barbara Kruger op-art in Friday's NYT.

Barbara Kruger is an artist who works with pictures and words.

Previously, on MemeStreams:

Usually declarative or accusatory in tone, these phrases posit an opposition between the pronouns "you" and "we," which satirically refer to "men" and "women." These humorous works suspend the viewer between the fascination of the image and the indictment of the text while reminding us that language and its use within culture to construct and maintina proverbs, jobs, jokes, myths, and history reinforce the interests and perspective of those who control it.

For Sale

Compressed 02 on Vimeo
Topic: Arts 5:51 am EDT, Sep 13, 2011

Kim Pimmel:

I combined everyday soap bubbles with exotic ferrofluid liquid to create an eerie tale, using macro lenses and time lapse techniques. Black ferrofluid and dye race through bubble structures, drawn through by the invisible forces of capillary action and magnetism.

Compressed 02 on Vimeo

My Life with Science, Art and Food | Caren Alpert Fine Art
Topic: Arts 8:28 am EDT, Jul 22, 2011

Caren Alpert:

What's in our food?

What's the difference between a bird's-eye view of a remote vegetable crop and a microscopic swath from a pineapple leaf? How distinct is a pile of table salt from miles and miles of icebergs?

As a food lover and a photographer I answer these questions visually. Using scientific laboratory photo equipment, I journey over the surfaces of both organic and processed foods: my own favorites and America's over-indulgences. The closer the lens got, the more I saw food and consumers of food (all of us!) as part of a larger eco-system than mere sustenance.

From the archive, Benoit Mandelbrot on Felice Frankel's Envisioning Science: The Design and Craft of the Science Image:

In the beginning were the image and the eye. Then man-the-scientist became enamored of the word and neglectful of the image. Now the small group of those who fight back welcomes Felice Frankel as a marvelous addition, both as skillful performer and as experienced and patient teacher. Her book is priceless.

My Life with Science, Art and Food | Caren Alpert Fine Art

Avatar and the Flight from Reality
Topic: Arts 7:07 am EDT, Mar 22, 2010

James Bowman:

Of course the cartoon is a fake! But it's a genuine fake.

John Lanchester:

If I had to name one high-cultural notion that had died in my adult lifetime, it would be the idea that difficulty is artistically desirable.


While on planet Earth half of the 6,500 languages spoken by actual people are expected to die out before the end of the century, our popular culture triumphs in inventing an artificial language for a people who have never existed.

Avatar is really not a simulacrum in the way that we are used to seeing movies, like other works of art, as being. Pandora is a new and improved creation unlike anything in the world -- though it may be, in a desultory fashion, like lots of things in the world -- and therefore, at its most fundamental level, a denial of the tradition of mimesis, the imitation of reality, in Western art.


I've gotten old enough that I now understand why adults seek to escape reality. Paradoxically, I think I was better at escaping reality when I was younger.

An exchange:

Someone once accused Craig Venter of playing God.

His reply was, "We're not playing."


Pandora equals Earth, but with the addition of magic -- Earth re-imagined by a superior creator as a habitation much to be preferred to the tired old original by the vast throngs who have bought tickets in order to experience it. In that case, what is to be made, politically speaking, of the film's representation of Earthlings as we know them in the role of corporate exploiters of the alien world?

Paul Graham:

It will always suck to work for large organizations, and the larger the organization, the more it will suck.

Louis Menand:

Television was the Cold War intellectuals' nightmare, a machine for bringing kitsch and commercialism directly into the home. But by exposing people to an endless stream of advertising, television taught them to take nothing at face value, to read everything ironically. We read the horror comics today and smile complacently at the sheer over-the-top campiness of the effects. In fact, that is the only way we can read them. We have lost our innocence.


Audiences expect no imitation but allusion to reality and to other "art" or artifice indiscriminately and would regard as irrelevant any complaint that it doesn't look like the real world. The world of the movies and television and the other visual media is probably more real to them anyway.

"Leonard Nimoy":

It's all lies. But they're entertaining lies. And in the end, isn't that the real truth?

The answer ... is No.

Peter Munro:

Why bother the brain with dross when technology can pick up the slack? But deeper thought, too, seems to be skipping away in a ready stream of information.

Neil Postman once asked if we had known the impact the motor vehicle would have on life, would we have embraced it so thoroughly. Robert Fitzgerald says it's time we asked the same question of computers.

Avatar and the Flight from Reality

The Third & The Seventh
Topic: Arts 6:46 am EST, Jan  8, 2010

Alex Roman:

Architecture through the cinematographic lens. The visual fusion between the third and the seventh arts.

Louis Kahn:

I like English history. I have volumes of it, but I never read anything but the first volume. Even at that, I only read the first three or four chapters. My purpose is to read Volume Zero, which has not been written.

Steve Bellovin et al:

Architecture matters a lot, and in subtle ways.

Christopher Alexander:

A building or town will only be alive to the extent that it is governed by the timeless way.

The search which we make for this quality, in our own lives, is the central search of any person ... It is the search for those moments and situations when we are most alive.

Have you seen My Architect?

The Third & The Seventh

Dark Stores
Topic: Arts 8:03 am EDT, Aug 13, 2009

Brian Ulrich:

Not if, but when.

Over the past 7 years I have been engaged with a long-term photographic examination of the peculiarities and complexities of the consumer-dominated culture in which we live.

Thom Andersen:

Perhaps "Blade Runner" expresses a nostalgia for a dystopian vision of the future that has become outdated. This vision offered some consolation, because it was at least sublime. Now the future looks brighter, hotter and blander. Buffalo will become Miami, and Los Angeles will become Death Valley at least until the rising ocean tides wipe it away. Computers will get faster, and we will get slower. There will be plenty of progress, but few of us will be any better off or happier for it. Robots won't be sexy or dangerous, they'll be dull and efficient and they'll take our jobs.

Gregory Clark:

The economic problems of the future will not be about growth but about something more nettlesome: the ineluctable increase in the number of people with no marketable skills, and technology's role not as the antidote to social conflict, but as its instigator.

Niall Ferguson:

Barack Obama reminds me of Felix the Cat. One of the best-loved cartoon characters of the 1920s, Felix was not only black. He was also very, very lucky.

Even Felix the Cat's luck ran out during the Depression.

Jared Diamond:

When you have a large society that consumes lots of resources, that society is likely to collapse once it hits its peak.

David Piling, at lunch with Jared Diamond:

I am famished, and opt for a bit of everything.

Ginia Bellafante:

There used to be a time if you didn't have money to buy something, you just didn't buy it.

Rebecca Brock:

People say to me, "Whatever it takes." I tell them, It's going to take everything.

Dark Stores

Why are you working so hard?
Topic: Arts 7:59 am EDT, Jun 22, 2009

Alain de Botton, on a roadside diner:

Anyone nursing a disappointment with domestic life would find relief in this tiled, brightly lit cafeteria with its smells of fries and petrol, for it has the reassuring feel of a place where everyone is just passing through -- and which therefore has none of the close-knit or convivial atmosphere which could cast a humiliating light on one's own alienation. It suggests itself as an ideal location for Christmas lunch for those let down by their families.

Alain de Botton, on a life's work:

Our exertions generally find no enduring physical correlatives. We are diluted in gigantic intangible collective projects, which leave us wondering what we did last year and, more profoundly, where we have gone and quite what we have amounted to. We confront our lost energies in the pathos of the retirement party.

Edith and Sherman Collins:

This world is not my home I'm just a passing through
My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue
The angels beckon me from heaven's open door
And I can't feel at home in this world anymore

Joel Garreau:

The most effective way to find and destroy a land mine is to step on it.

Why are you working so hard?

Digging, Or The Importance of Creative Throughput
Topic: Arts 7:25 am EDT, May 11, 2009

George Cochrane:

Most days from 9:30am to midnight or later, I’m working on *something*. Some days the work is really engaging, some days it can be boring and pedestrian, but it keeps the habit of always pushing out ideas, always thinking and creating and shaping, in motion.

There’s a section in Anne Lamont’s "Bird By Bird" that talks about the cruciality of writing "Shitty first drafts."

The difference between you, the “not-creative” and people who seem to always have something new springing forth from them? They do their thing. It might be painful, especially at first. It might be frustrating. You might throw out the first 20 things you make, hate them, hate yourself, and curse the day anybody encouraged you to try.

But at least you’re starting.

Regular creative throughput tips the scales in your advantage, keeps the bearings smooth, and quells fear, letting you, once again, surprise yourself.

Ira Glass:

Not enough gets said about the importance of abandoning crap."

If you're not failing all the time, you're not creating a situation where you can get super-lucky.

Digging, Or The Importance of Creative Throughput

Pastiche: A Collective Composition of New York City
Topic: Arts 7:42 pm EST, Mar  1, 2009

Christian Marc Schmidt:

The city is a composite of impressions. Beyond the built environment, it is a constantly changing pastiche of associations and experiences—not just of the people who inhabit it, but of the larger community. New York City, in particular, has two realities: the reality of the physical environment, and the reality of the idea—of what the city and its diverse neighborhoods signify. Inseparably intertwined, these two realities constantly continue to inform each other. Pastiche is a dynamic data visualization that maps keywords from blog articles to the New York neighborhoods they are written in reference to, geographically positioned in a navigable, spatial view. Keywords are assigned based on relevance and recency, surrounding their corresponding neighborhoods. The result is a dynamically changing description of the city, formed around individual experiences and perspectives.

From the archive:

Stefanie Posavec's maps capture something above and beyond that of the others. Rather than mapping physical geography, her maps capture regularities and patterns within a literary space.


The “Gospel Temperance Railroad Map” is an example of an allegorical map.

Transit Maps of the World is the first and only comprehensive collection of historic and current maps of every rapid-transit system on earth.

Pastiche: A Collective Composition of New York City

How to Procrastinate Like Leonardo da Vinci
Topic: Arts 8:55 am EST, Feb 25, 2009

W.A. Pannapacker:

Academe is full of potential geniuses who have never done a single thing they wanted to do because there were too many things that needed to be done first: the research projects, conference papers, books and articles — not one of them freely chosen: merely means to some practical end, a career rather than a calling. And so we complete research projects that no longer interest us and write books that no one will read; or we teach with indifference, dutifully boring our students, marking our time until retirement, and slowly forgetting why we entered the profession: because something excited us so much that we subordinated every other obligation to follow it.

If there is one conclusion to be drawn from the life of Leonardo, it is that procrastination reveals the things at which we are most gifted — the things we truly want to do. Procrastination is a calling away from something that we do against our desires toward something that we do for pleasure, in that joyful state of self-forgetful inspiration that we call genius.

From last year:

Is possibly noteworthy possibly a bot?

I always assumed he was a grad student.

Either the most prolific grad student ever, or possibly the single greatest purveyor of procrastination known to man.

Carolyn Johnson:

We are most human when we feel dull. Lolling around in a state of restlessness is one of life's greatest luxuries.

Paul Graham:

Distraction is not a static obstacle that you avoid like you might avoid a rock in the road. Distraction seeks you out.

John Perry:

I am working on this essay as a way of not doing all of those things. This is the essence of what I call structured procrastination, an amazing strategy I have discovered that converts procrastinators into effective human beings, respected and admired for all that they can accomplish and the good use they make of time.

Recently, from TED:

Elizabeth Gilbert muses on the impossible things we expect from artists and geniuses -- and shares the radical idea that, instead of the rare person "being" a genius, all of us "have" a genius. It's a funny, personal and surprisingly moving talk.

Finally, Richard Hamming:

If you do not work on an important problem, it's unlikely you'll do important work.

How to Procrastinate Like Leonardo da Vinci

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