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Current Topic: Arts

Magnum, P.I.
Topic: Arts 7:25 am EDT, Jul 27, 2007

On one level, Magnum became the personification of an American society that had yet to deal effectively with the fallout from the Vietnam War. By the end of the 1980s, the struggle to deal with the unresolved issues of the war erupted full force into American popular culture. Before Magnum began to deal with his psychological scars in the context of the 1980s, network programmers apparently believed that any discussion of the war in a series would prompt viewers to tune it out. With the exception of Norman Lear's All in the Family in the early 1970s, entertainment network programming acted, for the most part, as if the war had never occurred. However, Magnum, P.I.'s success proved programmers wrong. Certainly, the series' success opened the door for other dramatic series which were able to examine the Vietnam War in its historical setting. Series such as Tour of Duty and China Beach, though not as popular, did point out that room existed in mainstream broadcasting for discussions of the emotional and political wounds that had yet to heal. As Thomas Magnum began to deal with his past, so too did the American public.

Magnum, P.I.

Tufte and the Triumph of Good Design
Topic: Arts 6:10 am EDT, Jun 13, 2007

Edward Tufte is most likely the world’s only graphic designer with roadies.

... on the road, selling steadily, a few gigs a month, year after year ... six-and-a-half-hour presentations, the audience starts cheering when he hits the floor ... "500 people want to talk afterwards, and I’ve exhausted myself ... I have to go hide out. Otherwise it takes hours."

If you are making a presentation, you can probably say everything you need to on a single folded sheet of eleven-by-seventeen copy paper, and you ought to.

Beautiful Evidence is all that and more. Here's Business Week:

"Edward Tufte's Beautiful Evidence is a masterpiece from a pioneer in the field of data visualization. His book is brilliant. The Galileo of graphics has done it again. It's not often an iconoclast comes along, trashes the old ways, and replaces them with an irresistible new interpretation. By teasing out the sublime from the seemingly mundane world of charts, graphs, and tables, Tufte has proven to a generation of graphic designers that great thinking begets great presentation. In Beautiful Evidence, his fourth work on analytical design, Tufte digs more deeply into art and science to reveal very old connections between truth and beauty -- all the way from Galileo to Google."

Tufte and the Triumph of Good Design

Above Namibia - A Slideshow by Clive Crook
Topic: Arts 7:10 am EDT, May 25, 2007

I think you'll enjoy this narrated slideshow from Clive Crook's recently completed "safari by air over Namibia’s haunting sands", coastline, and rugged mountains.

Can you imagine a more pitiable fate? Your ship reels broken in the storm. Implacable winds and currents run you aground, but by a miracle, you do not drown. You overcome and drag yourself exhausted onto the sand—and then realize that drowning is not the worst way to go. You cheated death, only to find yourself cast upon one of the harshest places on Earth. You can choose to stay where you are and die of exposure or thirst. Or else you can trek hopelessly into the endless desert, to perish there instead.

Above Namibia - A Slideshow by Clive Crook

The Politics of Eurovision
Topic: Arts 8:55 am EDT, May 22, 2007

This pointed rejection of Western Europe might even be seen as a poignant metaphor for contemporary Europe as a whole. The large, industrialized nations magnanimously invite their poorer but more numerous eastern cousins to join their party, and offer to pay the bill, only to discover themselves locked out in the garden while their new friends complain about the quality of the liquor and the arrogance of the hosts.

The Politics of Eurovision

Garry Winogrand: Central Park Zoo, New York City
Topic: Arts 11:22 pm EDT, Apr 15, 2007

I'd love to embed the photo, but ... you'll just have to click through.

I think part of the aim was to unsettle people's ideas, whether his own or other people's. To move people out of an unquestioning space and to some less settled space in which the authority of rules and structures was broken up a bit.

-Eileen Hale, Garry Winogrand's widow

Garry Winogrand confronted tough issues like racism with a sense of humor, as he did here by photographing this black man and white woman holding apes. The chimpanzees are dressed like children and resemble the human child standing behind the couple. The photographer's close vantage point, the crowd, the dramatic winter light-all add a sense of spectacle.

Winogrand was not simply reacting to a strange moment, but probably also to racial tensions sweeping the country at the height of the Civil Rights movement. The year this picture was made, black actors won Academy Awards, and the U.S. Supreme Court overturned state laws banning interracial marriage. It is not clear whether this man and woman were actually a couple, but Winogrand must have known that their togetherness was as unsettling to some people as their circumstances were comical.

Garry Winogrand: Central Park Zoo, New York City

Vonnegut's rules for writing a short story
Topic: Arts 12:51 pm EDT, Apr 12, 2007

For your enjoyment, here are Vonnegut's rules for writing a short story.

1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.
2. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.
3. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.
4. Every sentence must do one of two things -- reveal character or advance the action.
5. Start as close to the end as possible.
6. Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them -- in order that the reader may see what they are made of.
7. Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.
8. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To heck with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.

Vonnegut's rules for writing a short story

Quentin Tarantino's 'Death Proof' on Rhapsody
Topic: Arts 12:09 am EDT, Apr  7, 2007

You can listen to this entire album with the Rhapsody Free 25.

Quentin Tarantino's soundtrack to his half of the movie works by itself as an amazing road-trip mix tape. Freaky cinematic works by the likes of Ennio Morricone, Pino Donaggio and Jack Nitzche highlight neglected gems by the Coasters, Smith, Joe Tex and April March.

You can also listen to the April March track on YouTube, but there is no video for this song.

Quentin Tarantino's 'Death Proof' on Rhapsody

2007 Los Angeles Times Festival of Books
Topic: Arts 11:44 am EDT, Mar 31, 2007

If you live in LA, take note. Even if you're not, a lot of this ends up online, too.

For one weekend in April, people who love books will gather with people who love to write, publish and sell books. And, there’s nothing like it anywhere.

Scheduled to speak, among many others: George Pelecanos, writer for The Wire; Lee Iacocca; for a panel session on terrorism: Jeffrey Goldberg, Terry McDermott, and Lawrence Wright; Kirk Douglas; Gore Vidal; Ray Bradbury; Michael Pollan; Mark Halperin and James Taranto on the Future of News; Kenneth Turan; a panel on the Middle East, with Mark Bowden; a panel on 'spin' with Michael Isikoff and Frank Luntz; interviews with Jared Diamond, Jim Lehrer; Walter Mosley; Ralph Nader; a panel with Bill McKibben; Arianna Huffington; Max Boot; a panel with Vikram Chandra; a panel on Iraq with William Langewiesche and Bob Scheer.

2007 Los Angeles Times Festival of Books

Nathaniel Kahn on Charlie Rose
Topic: Arts 3:43 pm EDT, Mar 18, 2007

In November 2003, around the release date of My Architect, Nathaniel Kahn appeared on the Charlie Rose show. The Kahn segment begins around 26:30.

Nathaniel Kahn on Charlie Rose

No Idea At All
Topic: Arts 11:40 pm EDT, Mar 16, 2007

A good idea that doesn't happen is no idea at all.
-- Louis Kahn

This quote is relayed by Richard Saul Wurman in My Architect [2]. I enjoyed the film and would recommend it to those with an interest, but some architects seemed to want less personal journey and more architectural analysis.

Wurman also mentions this quote in the April 2001 issue of design matters:

Louis Kahn said to me shortly before he died that an idea that does not happen is no idea at all. Late in his life, Mies van der Rohe told a student interviewing him about his work that the secret to his success was to "do good work."

Other mentions of this quote: 1, 2, 3, 4.

More photos at Google.

I also liked this exchange, from the film:

Nathaniel Kahn: I think you've built way more ... you've had way more success ... rate, in terms of your buildings that you --

I.M. Pei: [sighs] Oh, building doesn't mean success. Building ... three or four masterpieces [is] more important than fifty or sixty buildings. ... Quality, not quantity.

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