|| 8:18 am EST, Jan 26, 2010
Dana Goodyear on Neil Gaiman:
He wears black: black socks, black jeans, black T-shirts, black boots, and black jackets whose pockets are loaded with small black notebooks and pots of fountain-pen ink in shades like raven.
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.
One young fish to another:
What the hell is water?
The building blocks were either true or fictional lies, which feel like they're true. I thought, I'm going to tell it in my voice and use actual things that happened and talk about what it is to be three and be a child who has no power. It's a children's book for adults.
It's all lies. But they're entertaining lies. And in the end, isn't that the real truth?
The answer ... is No.
Writing comics afforded Gaiman his great opportunity to invent a cosmology.
Oh! I feel it. I feel the cosmos!
Gaiman, at a "sushi party" with teenagers:
"Do you lot have names?" he said brightly.
"Nooooooo!" they called, in unison.
Bush, at a birthday party:
"You can't talk sense to them," he said, referring to terrorists.
"Nooooo!" the audience roared.
|| 8:01 am EST, Jan 21, 2010
Audiences are at once fragmenting into niches and consolidating around blockbusters. The stuff that people used to watch or listen to largely because there was little else on is increasingly being ignored.
What people love, it turns out, are hits.
A lot of the people who read a bestselling novel, for example, do not read much other fiction. By contrast, the audience for an obscure novel is largely composed of people who read a lot. That means the least popular books are judged by people who have the highest standards, while the most popular are judged by people who literally do not know any better.
Jonathan Franzen, on Shanghai:
It was as if the gods of world history had asked, 'Does somebody want to get into some really unprecedentedly deep shit?' and this place had raised its hands and said 'Yeah!'"
Nobody is born to lose, and yet failure embodies our worst fears. The Loser is our national bogeyman, and his history over the past two hundred years reveals the dark side of success, how economic striving reshaped the self and soul of America.
John Maynard Keynes:
We have reached the third degree, where we devote our intelligences to anticipating what average opinion expects the average opinion to be. And there are some, I believe, who practice the fourth, fifth and higher degrees.
The business of popular music, today, is now, in some peculiarly new way, entirely about promotion.
Guitar Hero and Rock Band involve musicianship in the same sense that chess involves military service. Rocking, like rooking, is the thematic action; but the content is the form, the rules.
When an entirely new and untried political project is sprung upon the people, they are startled, anxious, timid, and for a time they are mute, reserved, noncommittal. The great majority of them are not studying the new doctrine and making up their minds about it, they are waiting to see which is going to be the popular side.
One joke that never gets old is saying "I see you" to people, a la Avatar. It is the greatest, especially when they're mad at you. Like at the deli, when they're tired of waiting for you to find change. "I SEE YOU."
It couldn't last, and now it's running out. I don't particularly care that it is and like the way things are going. The record age was just a blip. It was a bit like if you had a source of whale blubber in the 1840s and it could be used as fuel. Before gas came along, if you traded in whale blubber, you were the richest man on Earth. Then gas came along and you'd be stuck with your whale blubber. Sorry mate -- history's moving along. Recorded music equals whale blubber.
Real anxiety comes not with influence, but with the imperative to transcend it.
It's not where you take things from -- it's where you take them to.
A world of hits
||Twenty Pieces of Music That Changed the World
|| 8:14 am EST, Jan 13, 2010
One of the most popular features on The Sunday Edition this past year and a half has been 20 Pieces of Music that Changed the World.
The Sunday Edition's very own musical guru, Robert Harris, took us on a cultural journey -- discussing the importance of music from Beethoven to Disco, and from Depression-era classics to rap.
Chad the Nanny:
Tonight, I'm gonna teach Ray about jazz.
Twenty Pieces of Music That Changed the World
|| 7:43 am EST, Dec 14, 2009
Landscaping overgrows, walls develop mildew, ceilings cave in -- a building can be shut down, but that doesn't make it go away. Brian Ulrich's photographs of closed-down malls and big-box retail stores reveal the potential ghost towns lying inside successful shopping complexes all across America.
Much of the land will be given back to nature. People will enjoy living near a forest or meadow.
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.
The short-term needs are the opposite of what is needed in the long term.
Architecture matters a lot, and in subtle ways.
When a place gets boring, even the rich people leave.
It's not a matter of waiting for two or three years to absorb the overproduction. It's a matter of drastically reducing real estate prices to well below replacement cost. And when you sell something for below replacement cost -- that might sound like, well, "Somebody takes a hit but life goes on as usual." No, life doesn't go on. For the owners of that retail or housing space, every dollar that they invest will be money they don't get back. That is another definition of a slum. There's no incentive to invest in a slum. So here you are.
Ghosts of Shopping Past
|| 9:39 pm EST, Nov 29, 2009
Have you seen "The Messenger"?
When 2009 is over, this is one of the movies we'll remember the year by.
It becomes a wake-up call to those of us for whom the Iraq war has, too often, seemed a numbing series of television images, with death relegated to a background statistic.
All particular stories are universal, inviting us to look in instead of pandering to us. This one looks at the faces of war. Only a few, but they represent so many.
That's why The Messenger hits so hard. Its truths are personal. It means to shake you. And does.
This is a fully felt, morally alert, marvellously acted piece of work.
"The Messenger" joins the group of strong Iraq-war movies that, like rejected suitors, stand hat in hand, waiting for an audience to notice their virtues.
It serves as a powerful companion piece to The Hurt Locker, the most powerful movie about the Iraq War and one of the year's best.
David Foster Wallace:
If you've never wept and want to, have a child.
Mom, we killed women on the street today. We killed kids on bikes. We had no choice.
It didn't take long to understand why so many soldiers were taking antidepressants.
||An Essay Is An Act Of Imagination
|| 7:05 pm EST, Nov 29, 2009
For David Shields it is exactly what is tentative, unmade and unpolished in the essay form that is important. He finds the crafted novel, with its neat design and completist attitude, to be a dull and generic thing, too artificial to deal effectively with what is already an "unbearably artificial world". He recommends instead that artists break "ever larger chunks of 'reality' into their work", via quotation, appropriation, prose poems, the collage novel ... in short, the revenge of the real, by any means necessary. And conventional structure be damned.
The world exists. Why recreate it?
So many things these days are made to look at later. Why not just have the experience and remember it?
We have a population explosion of ideas, but not enough brains to cover them.
In the first place, "well-made novel" seems to me to be a kind of Platonic bogeyman, existing everywhere in an ideal realm but in few spots on this earth. I think it's the limits of the essay, and of the real, that truly attract fiction writers. In the confined space of an essay you have the possibility of being wise, of making your case, of appearing to see deeply into things - although the thing you're generally looking into is the self. For a writer, composing an essay instead of a novel is like turning from staring into a filthy, unfathomable puddle to looking through a clear glass windowpane. That's fiction for you: it taunts you with the spectre of what you cannot do yourself. Meanwhile, the essay teases you with the possibility of perfection, of a known and comprehensible task that can be contained and polished till it shines.
An eclectic essayist is necessarily a dilettante, which is not in itself a bad thing. But Malcolm Gladwell frequently holds forth about statistics and psychology, and his lack of technical grounding in these subjects can be jarring. When a writer's education on a topic consists in interviewing an expert, he is apt to offer generalizations that are banal, obtuse or flat wrong. The banalities come from a gimmick that can be called the Straw We. First Gladwell disarmingly includes himself and the reader in a dubious consensus. He then knocks it down with an ambiguous observation, such as that "risks are not easily manageable, accidents are not easily preventable." As a generic statement, this is true but trite. But as a more substantive claim ... it is demonstrably false.
An Essay Is An Act Of Imagination
||Burtynsky: Oil | Corcoran Gallery of Art
|| 7:05 pm EST, Nov 29, 2009
Have you seen "Manufactured Landscapes"?
This exhibition surveys a decade of photographic imagery exploring the subject of oil by Edward Burtynsky. In addition to revealing the rarely-seen mechanics of its manufacture, Burtynksy photographs the effects of oil on our lives, depicting landscapes altered by its extraction from the earth and by the cities and suburban sprawl generated around its use. He also addresses the coming "end of oil," as we confront its rising cost and dwindling availability.
Burtynsky's photographs, printed at large scale, render his subjects with transfixing clarity of detail. His extensive exploration is organized thematically: aerial views of oil fields, the architecture of massive refineries, highway interchanges ribboning across the landscape, and motorculture aficionados at automotive events.
Consisting of approximately 55 color landscapes, Edward Burtynsky: Oil will encompass a kind of modern-day "lifecycle" of the energy source that has shaped the modern world.
Perhaps the only good thing about losing your job is that you no longer have to endure the drive to work.
I started to think: where is all this natural material going, where does it get formed into the products that we buy?
Burtynsky is not much interested in micro: his focus is on vastness, on the scale of the environmental scars and transformations brought forth by industry, energy production and transportation.
Nothing describes the scale and essence of today's globalized industry more tellingly than the opening scene: a seven-minutes tracking shot of the floor of a boundless Chinese factory, row after row after row of disciplined workers and efficient repetition that Stanley Kubrick could have filmed.
Burtynsky showed a large carbon transfer print of one of his ultra-high resolution photographs. The color and detail were perfect. Accelerated studies show that the print could hang in someone's living room for 500 years and show no loss of quality. Kept in the Clock's mountain in archival conditions it would remain unchanged for 10,000 years.
Burtynsky: Oil | Corcoran Gallery of Art
|| 8:23 am EST, Nov 6, 2009
In 2007, Andrew Zuckerman published Creature, "300 pages of arrestingly detailed photographs of wild animals."
Zuckerman's new book is Bird:
Turning his camera to the world of birds, Andrew Zuckerman has a created a new body of work showcasing more than 200 stunning photographs of nearly 75 different species. These winged creatures from exotic parrots to everyday sparrows, and endangered penguins to woody owls are captured with Zuckerman's painstaking perspective against a stark white background to reveal the vivid colors, textures, and personalities of each subject in extraordinary and exquisite detail. The ultimate art book for ornithologists and nature enthusiasts alike, Bird is a volume of sublime beauty.
See also Bird Videos on Vimeo.
Andrew Zuckerman: Bird
||Midway: Message from the Gyre
|| 7:56 am EDT, Oct 22, 2009
These photographs of albatross chicks were made just a few weeks ago on Midway Atoll, a tiny stretch of sand and coral near the middle of the North Pacific. The nesting babies are fed bellies-full of plastic by their parents, who soar out over the vast polluted ocean collecting what looks to them like food to bring back to their young. On this diet of human trash, every year tens of thousands of albatross chicks die on Midway from starvation, toxicity, and choking.
To document this phenomenon as faithfully as possible, not a single piece of plastic in any of these photographs was moved, placed, manipulated, arranged, or altered in any way. These images depict the actual stomach contents of baby birds in one of the world's most remote marine sanctuaries, more than 2000 miles from the nearest continent.
From the archive:
China is choking on its own success.
Much of the particulate pollution over Los Angeles originates in China.
Edward Burtynsky is internationally acclaimed for his large-scale photographs of nature transformed by industry. Manufactured Landscapes - a stunning documentary by award winning director Jennifer Baichwal - follows Burtynsky to China, as he captures the effects of the country's massive industrial revolution. This remarkable film leads us to meditate on human endeavour and its impact on the planet.
In some cultures you're supposed to be responsible out to the seventh generation -- that's about 200 years. But it goes right against self-interest.
One must assume that all garbage is monitored by the state. Anything less would be a pre-911 mentality.
Midway: Message from the Gyre
||Personas | Metropath(ologies)
|| 8:19 am EDT, Aug 20, 2009
Personas is a component of the Metropath(ologies) exhibit, currently on display at the MIT Museum by the Sociable Media Group from the MIT Media Lab. It uses sophisticated natural language processing and the Internet to create a data portrait of one's aggregated online identity. In short, Personas shows you how the Internet sees you.
Noooooo problem ... don't worry about privacy ... privacy is dead ... there's no privacy ... just more databases ... that's what you want ... that's what you NEED ... Buy my shit! Buy it -- give me money! Don't worry about the consequences ... there's no consequences. If you give me money, everything's going to be cool, okay? It's gonna be cool. Give me money. No consequences, no whammies, money. Money for me ... Money for me, databases for you.
Here's one thing that's definitely true: The software proved to be more sophisticated than the people who used it, and that has caused the whole world a lot of problems.
Jake DeSantis just wanted to know why the public perception ... was so different from the private perception ...
Anthony Lane on Peter O'Toole as T. E. Lawrence in David Lean's 1962 film:
He halts and shouts across the water, "Who are you?," and again, "Who are you?" We look at the face of the man from the desert. His eyes are even bluer than the canal, but he says nothing. Maybe his tongue is too dry for speech. Maybe he has no answer.
Personas | Metropath(ologies)