Monthly Archives: April 2006

The clip show episode

The little problem I had with this site a while back prompted me to make some MATLAB tools to parse Apache web server log files. They were very useful then, but I never got back to them.

This morning, I took another look at the logs, specifically the 700-or-so queries from the last nine months. My name shows up a lot, as does MATLAB. No surprises yet. There’s a lot of “Mather Sex” !?! The New York Times‘ David Brooks is slightly more popular here, though; I guess a lot of people want to read what he says for free.

Here are some of the other interesting search terms:

  • “Are Sikhs Hindu?” — It depends on who you ask.
  • Camoflauge and “wedding announcement”
  • Exploration of British North America
  • Churchill Hotel Ecru — Lots of people want to know about the paint we used on our walls.
  • how much airlines spending money on advertising in india???
  • names of furniture stores in dehli india
  • stereotypes of people in new orleans after huricane katrina
  • you dropped the bomb on me
  • “while policies of assimilation tried to keep them static” — Uh oh! Somebody got busted plagiarizing! I can’t believe I wrote that line…
  • Minnesotan accents
  • Nirmala’s wedding with Home Minister
  • Pakistani Englad cricket series 2005 pictures
  • Top 10 most beatiful faces in bollywood in the last century
  • begging and its social impact on the begger
  • can doxycycline cause diziness — Mefloquine certainly can! And night paralysis, too.
  • crazy train images from india
  • funny hindi celebrity answering machine
  • how to tie a rajastani turban
  • i am having difficulty booking online with deccan airways — Bummer!
  • i can’t load my velvet fine art paper in my epson 2200 printer — Total bummer! Hint, use the thick paper lever and load from the back.
  • i golfed across mongolia
  • jack-up platform helipad scrap
  • mather’s image processing system
  • pictures of pepsi(oye bubbly with shahrukh khan) — Everyone sing along with the anthropomorphic chapatti: “Oye bubbly! Accha bubbly! Be my lover bubbly!”
  • postmodern perspective of Huricane Katrina
  • the article about hopitality [sic] in Thailand — You know . . . the one.
  • what is the reason for dryness in rajasthan — Hint, it’s a desert.
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Buckshot of links

Maps: religion by county (sort of via) and by language. (via)

Culture blogs: Space and Culture blog: “a cross-disciplinary journal of cultural studies that fosters the publication of reflections on a wide range of socio-spatial arenas.” And TheBoxTank blog: “A collaborative focused on retail and urbanism.” And BLDGBLOG: “architectural conjecture :: urban speculation :: landscape futures” And Pruned: “On landscape architecture and related fields”

So I’m a few years late: PDN @ 20

Will the real Nancy Drew please stand up?Girl Power! Laurie Long” at the San Jose Museum of Art

Smart reporting on photography: The View from the Edge of the Universe

Grass: The American Lawn. “North America now has more than 32 million acres of lawn under cultivation, occupying more land than any single crop, including wheat, corn, or tobacco. Americans spend $750 million a year on grass seed alone and more than $25 billion on do-it-yourself lawn and garden care, making the lawn and landscape industry a booming sector of the economy. These statistics attest to the North American obsession with the lawn. As Michael Pollan noted: ‘Like the interstate highway system,’ like fast food chains, like telephone, television and cable, “the lawn has served to unify the American landscape.”

Suburbia and Ethnoburbia: Revising The Suburbs: “A new wave of scholars challenges common assumptions about sprawl and urban growth.” And Suburbia’s not so bad: “You can love the burbs or leave them, but they can’t be ignored, as this show cleverly makes clear.” And Ethnoburb versus Chinatown: Two Types of Urban Ethnic Communities in Los Angeles

Kaboom: “You seriously wanted to build nuclear bombs in college?” – AH. CONELRAD: All Things Atomic | The Golden Age of Homeland Security

1918: Mamas don’t let your babies grow up to be Red Sox

Self-segregation? Redefining Property Values: By Design, Status Seekers and Tree-Huggers Don’t Have to Commune

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Presentation Images

I probably should wait until after the presentation tomorrow to post the contact sheets for the presentation, but there’s no time like the present, really. I hope to see you there tomorrow!

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Part 3: Art for Art’s Sake

This was the hardest section to organize and the farthest ranging (in terms of subject matter).

Tokihiro Sato
Christopher Bucklow
Adam Fuss
Robert and Shana ParkeHarrison
Michal Macku
Wang Qingsong
Yasumasa Morimura
Cindy Sherman
Loretta Lux
Atta Kim
Sandy Skoglund
Arno Rafael Minkkinen
Miwa Yanagi
Vik Muniz
David Hockney
Hiroshi Sugimoto
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Part 2: The Physical Landscape

Artists in my presentation making images of the world around us without much reference to social interactions (i.e., landscape):

Joel Sternfeld
Stephen Shore
William Eggleston
Catherine Opie
Joe Deal
Robert Adams
Bernd and Hilla Becher
Jeff Bruows
Thomas Struth
Jem Southam
Richard Misrach
Clifford Ross
Youngsuk Suh
Robert Glenn Ketchum
Thomas Mangelson
Jim Brandenburg
John Shaw
Lynn Geesaman
Ernestine Ruben
Sally Mann
Ray Carofano
Michael Kenna
Joel Meyerowitz
Jan Staller
Alex MacLean
David Maisel
James Balog
John Paul Caponigro
Rolfe Horn
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Part 1: Social landscape

A quick update on the contemporary photography presentation before going to bed. I finished prepping the first of the three parts on the social landscape. (I folded fashion into this section.) And I got a good idea of how I want to approach the “natural” landscape.

The first part goes something like this:

Parental advisory notice
Griffin 2005 Juried Competition winners montage
Alec Soth
Diane Arbus
Paul Shambroom
Alessandra Petlin
Julie Melton
Chang Chien-Chi
Gregory Crewdson
Philip-Lorca diCorcia
Guy Bourdin
David Hilliard
Nan Goldin
Donna Ferrato
Elinor Carucci
Sally Mann
Jock Sturges
Lucinda Devlin
Deborah Luster
Sebastiao Salgado
Lorna Simpson
Sage Sohier
Sheng Qi
Tseng Kwong Chi
Shirin Neshat
Laurie Simmons
Gary Schneider
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Time to start creating my presentation

It’s not easy to sum up the entire contemporary photography scene. I’m positive I’m going to leave something really important out. I know for certain I will — Cindy Sherman isn’t in my presentation, after all. (But seriously, her newest pieces are really hard to look at. Sheesh.)

But I’ve proclaimed a moratorium on downloading or scanning new images for Monday’s presentation. Photoshop helped me turn the 200-or-so images into 11 contact sheets, which I’ve been looking at over the last couple of nights to create my notes. The contact sheets — I will post them soon — are luscious, but the notes are still very spare. Obviously, not all of the images will make the final cut.

I have had a bit of success imposing order on the collection. The four loose categories are (1) the social landscape including portraiture, beginning with Alec Soth, traveling through Nan Goldin, and ending up somewhere near Thomas Struth; which leads naturally to (2) the reaction to Ansel Adams in the (mostly American) landscape, which involves a lot of conceptual and serial work. (3) There are number of photographers who are currently collected in my notes under the heading “constructed and unusual”: Christopher Bucklow, David Hockney, Vik Muniz, Hiroshi Sugimoto, and a host of Japanese artists. Finally, (4) I have a wee bit of fashion photography. There are recurring threads of commerce, photographic truth, the limitations of the camera, and the individual. Somehow I also need to deal with gender, race, cultural identity.

Putting Nan Goldin, Sally Mann, and Laurie Simmons into the social landscape context gives me a chance to introduce some of these issues — gender and cultural, for example — while sneaking the human form into the presentation. I agonized for a while about how to include nudity, which is a significant part of contemporary photography (artistic and otherwise). I’m going to start with a humorous disclaimer and then treat everyone like adults, even the septagenarians.

More later.

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An Open Invitation

I will be presenting the lecture An Overview of Contemporary Art Photography this coming Monday, the 24th to the Newton Camera Club. The hour-long overview should start a little after 7:30 PM. All are welcome. (Directions to the Nonantum Branch of the Newton Public Library)

Please come.

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Alien abductions

Americans love conspiracy theories, frequently involving the government and/or aliens.

Susan Clancy has a new book: Abducted : How People Come to Believe They Were Kidnapped by Aliens. Apparently, it’s just as inflamatory as her prior book about false memories in sexual abuse victims. (She says these alien memories are just as false as most repressed memories “found” in therapy sessions.) I remember her scholars’ convocation lecture at Grinnell being rather confrontational, though I found it fascinating.

Science is not so open-minded as it seems, she says, and is bowing out of repressed memory research.

You can watch Prof. Clancy talk about her book.

“These people were surprisingly normal and sane.”

“A lot of us, perhaps most of us, are looking for explanations for things that have happened to us in our lives and [account] for psychological distress or anomylous experiences. So what normally happens…Like, no one goes to bed and wakes up screaming, ‘Holy god, I’ve been abducted by aliens!’ It doesn’t happen that way. What happens is that people have some experiences or symptoms they’re trying to understand it, and they wonder, ‘I wonder, could this be aliens.’”

“Being abducted is a culturally available way to explain experiences you’ve had. . . . We know what aliens look like, and we know what they can do to us.” Most of us know more about alien abductions than we do about mental illness and psychological trauma.

About 10% of abductees have developed vivid memories. Almost all have undergone hypnosis or regression therapy involving suggestable states where false (but very powerful) memories are easily created.

The experiences were terrifying and awful, but they are transformative, cathartic, spiritual (almost religious) events, too. It’s just a new kind of belief system.

“Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.”

(Thanks to Alex Barnett.)

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Getting E-mail Done

Lately I’ve been thinking I need a secretary. Having somebody create digests of my e-mail, book planes/hotels/cars, call the oil burner repairman, drop off film at the lab, etc. — something like the remote assistant I wrote about a while ago. (In fact, paying other people to do all sorts of things for us in India — do the laundry, carry the bags, drive the car, and on and one — was eventually wonderfully convenient but initially extemely discomforting to someone raised by Calvinists.)

Alas, we live in a self-service world. So I’m just going to have to do all of that stuff myself. Fortunately, Merlin Mann has created 43Folders, a blog that (a) feeds the American/Calvinist belief in perfect (or at least “perfectable”) productivity and (b) promises to help me meet all those various demands on my time.

Keeping up with the ideas and actions contained in e-mail is my Achilles heel. Are we all overconnected and overcommitted? Or do we only feel that way because we have a fractured, “always on” mindset made worse by poor e-mail habits? To borrow Mann’s rephrasing of productivity guru David Allen, is our “cognitive dissonance epic?” Maybe . . . Probably . . .

At any rate, I’m trying a number of little experiments to feel better about having more demands on me at work (which really is a good thing). Let’s start with e-mail. First, empty my inbox (get to the zero message, as our friends at Toyota might say). Then, clean up the rather small backlog of mostly unimportant messages. Finally, update my processes to become an “e-mail ninja.”

The idea is simple:

  • spend time on tasks where it can do the most good (and that isn’t checking e-mail);
  • convert e-mails into actions or reference materials quickly;
  • get the processed mail out of sight and mind by deleting or filing it;
  • check e-mail no more than once every 1-2 hours;
  • use rules to automatically move “noncritical” messages to the appropriate place;
  • set aside small chunks of time (5-20 minutes) to delete, archive, and answer as much important mail as possible;
  • schedule time to read and/or clean up noncritical messages (from mailing lists, blogs, and other sources) at most 2-3 times per week;
  • write small, pithy e-mails that are easy for others to read and process.
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Tora! Tora! Tora!

Lisa and I have seen some films over the past month or so — V for Vendetta, Inside Man, Lucky Number Slevin, and Thank You for Smoking. They’re all good, and I recommend them all, especially the Spike Lee joint and the last one.

Before most of these, we saw the same interview with the director of United 93 and a few minutes later the trailer. After initially thinking that it was rather unseemly, I’m not sure how I feel about this film. It sounds less exploitative than I initially feared, though I question the need for and timing of this film. I still wonder “Why make the film?” 9/11 still makes many of us rather sad. Does it perpetuate a cult of victimhood that we have concerning the attacks of 2001?

How do you feel about this film? Will you see it?

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Tough Day at the Office

Man, what a day!

First the racoon. Jess also saw the capture from her office, which also overlooks the parking garage. Lately townie people have started making out there before heading home from work. “Stray racoons and stray couples,” she commented. Circle of life, really.

Then a few hours of honest-to-goodness work before walking to Natick Center to watch the marathon.

Patriots Day is my favorite holiday; it’s the most wonderful time of the year. It heralds the end of a long, drunken, New England winter and the beginning of spring. The trees are fresh with bloom along the quiet streets of Natick. Over in Concord, Colonial reenactors fight British reenactors after the Lexington reenactors predictably rollover to let history take its course. Runners descend upon Mass Bay — the land of my Puritan progenitors — for 26.2 miles of penance, and I go to glory in all of it: cheering fans, swishing hair, agony, and the yearly promise of (with a little extra practice) eternal vigor and youth.

As usual, a half dozen or so of my coworkers also made the 1.5-mile pilgramage there. We yakked alot until the wheelchair racers arrived, before the elite women came zooming through, while waiting for the elite men, and in the spaces between. The men start 30 minutes later than the women and chase them from Hopkinton to Boston; millenia of history repeating itself in the microcosm of cozy, subdued, suburban Natick. (No percussion bands or promises of “Free Beer” for laggards or “Whitley Rocks So Hard!” signs as in Newton’s Heartbreak Hill carnival atmosphere.) We cheered extra hard as the Hoyts passed (65-year-old father running and pushing his son with cerebral palsy in a wheelchair) heading generally downhill on their way to their 25th finish (in 3:45).

Then back to the café at the office to watch . . . the Red Sox game? It was tied in the eighth until I showed up when the Mariners retook the lead. The attempted mutiny to switch to the women’s finish left unspoken but short-lived ill-will between the die-hard Sox fans and most everyone else. The first two Red Sox batters struck out looking in the bottom of the ninth before Youkilis reached first and Loretta homered to bring him home and win the game on the next at bat. Jubilation and then a hasty departure.

The café man changed the channel to . . . CNN? Quickly remedied, we listened to a perpetually drunken-sounding Bob Lobel say that Robert Cheruiyot was too far out (Hereford Street) to beat the 2:07:15 course record. At 2:07:14, I cheered. The remaining Sox fans looked at the crazy man in the back. As more Americans crossed the line, I talked to the husband (and fellow coworker) of a former coworker (and current fashionista B-school student).

Okay. Back to my office, where I was immediately highjacked and dragged back outside to eat ice cream and generally revel in the intermittent sun that took off the early spring chill.

3:00. Finally. Let’s get through a day’s worth of e-mail at least. Success!

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The Natick police were in front of my building this morning when I arrived. No cops in the back where I usually park. So I walked through the building to the front, where a small group of construction workers and cafe staff watched along as the animal control officer cornered and lassoed a rather large raccoon.

I think the raccoon was high on meth.

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ARTFORUM – April 2006

I picked up a copy of ARTFORUM earlier today. Notable photographic items:

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Universal health coverage

I love my commonwealth. The economy is robust. Taxes are low (5% sales tax, 5.35% flat income tax, 12% capital gains tax). Anyone who wishes can marry without running into out-of-date legal impediments. And now we have universal health coverage.

BOSTON, April 12 — In a ceremony full of pomp and political backpatting, Gov. Mitt Romney signed Massachusetts’ landmark health care legislation Wednesday, setting the stage for the state to be the first to provide health coverage to virtually all of its citizens.

But the celebratory atmosphere was accompanied by some friction because Mr. Romney, a Republican, vetoed a provision some Democrats and health care advocates adamantly support: a requirement that employers who do not provide health insurance to their employees pay the state up to $295 per worker each year.

Leaders of the overwhelmingly Democratic legislature, which passed the bill last week, said they expected to override that veto in the next few weeks and were examining Mr. Romney’s vetoes of seven other less controversial provisions. . . .

The law is projected to provide coverage for about 515,000 of the state’s 550,000 uninsured people and leave less than 1 percent of the population uncovered. It goes further than those of any other state.

It requires residents to obtain health insurance by July 1, 2007. People who can afford insurance and do not buy it will be penalized on their state income taxes.

The law takes the $1 billion in the state’s free-care pool, which paid for medical care for patients without insurance, and uses it to subsidize insurance for people who cannot afford it. The legislation also makes it possible for more individuals and businesses to buy insurance with pre-tax dollars, saving them money. And it includes a system to encourage insurance companies to provide more affordable plans with fewer benefits or higher deductibles.

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