Prayer Antenna

I've always been fascinated with the tefillin. For the uninitiate, the tefillin are scroll-filled leather boxes (and accompanying straps) that some Jewish men use during prayer. They're really used for remembrance; I mistakenly believed they were, like the monk's crown, for amplification.

I loved that mistaken idea and now it's resurrected by Paul Davies. An omnipotent God, it could be argued, should be able to hear you wherever you are. But what if you're in a lead-lined room? What if you want your prayers heard over your neighbors? Perhaps then a device to get at the blimping Godear. Perhaps a prayer antenna.

It also reminds me of a Matthew Vescovo painting I saw where all the prayers of the world's children, the world's businessmen, the world's presidents', and the worlds' religious figures' are blocked out by baseball players thanking God for homeruns. It's brilliant and, like much good stuff, not online. You'll have to imagine it.


Hey Education

Earlier in the year Harvard extended its financial aid to cover the middle class.  Now Princeton has announced plans to send 10% of its 2009 freshman class to a year of (supported) service before they attend the university.  I am smitten with the idea of America's leading schools using their endowments to make education more inclusive (or less burdensome to the already included) and to broaden the scope of their 'teaching'.  I hope these ideas trickle down to other schools with less-impressive endowments and that these schools can somehow make things work, moneywise.  

Taking a year off is clever in general. The difference in a man between a 19 and an 18 is much more than a year and, who knows, if enough students get a taste of helping others before going Pre-dental, we might just get somewhere [Note: at the expense of oral hygiene].  


Green Houses

One of the Times' blogs has a post on green architecture that covers some of the quite quantifiable advantages to building with both sustainability and community in mind. While I disagree with making any standards mandatory (government being useless at imposing them at any meaningful level, and people being clever enough to get around them), I do believe that we are beginning to see how environmental friendliness and efficiency is cheaper in the long-term and long-term is is how we should think about homes. Sadly, but thankfully, self-interest might prevail, especially if tax breaks for too-large homes come under scrutiny.

Also, consider this National Geographic article on how Disney and Orlando came together to form a new kind of exurban landscape. There is an interesting connection, but the article makes not one mention of Celebration, FL, another Disney project, that was designed with community, technology, and environmentalism from the outset.

Update: This post by Alex Steffen at World Changing sums up everything I said above, and so much more that I wish I had, neater and in-depther. It looks at the suburbs through automobile use, but the conclusions are the same: It takes a lot of space and CO2 to end up less happy than citied folks.


An Arcade in Your Basement

Yes this is painfully dorky, but life would be worse if you restrained yourself to coolness (I, try as I may, can't).  I love this clip. Here you have a man build an entire world in his basement, make his childhood dreams real and then invite people over because it's not a real arcade without others.  What if Jay Gatz had fallen in love with videogames?  Would Robert Redford fight to play our Peter below?

I love it when filmmakers let their subjects speak for themselves.  


Make Your Own Mind Up on Modern Architecture

A perfect definition for nonsense in art: A friend of mine had a (post)modernist composer come to perform for his class and take questions. The artist mic'd a piano, distorted this sound with a computer, and then further distorted the sound by pounding the keys willy nilly, plucking the strings, and behaving avant-gardely. He had a goatee. When the Q&A session came, perhaps not soon enough, my friend remembers a particularly clever question up at the front: "If this is good music, according to your tastes, what then is bad?"

Earlier in the month I wrote a small piece hopefully queering the pitch of nonsense modern architecture. I've not changed my mind, but I do need to remind myself that this blog should be used for positive ideas and not just criticism. To make amends, I've created a list of some spectacular and interesting buildings built in the last hundred years. I've attached the smallest amount of information to the pictures and there's no order. Please make your own minds up. Sample Q's for the Q&A session: What would it be like to live here? Would this be beautiful if it weren't in the country? If this is good, what then is bad?

Toyo Ito's Tod's Building. Perhaps a new kind of eco-architecture. It could also probably stand without the Tod's logo. Is that a logo?
This is Brazil, Salvador I believe.
Gaudi here in Barcelona. One of many great Gaudi buildings, who was one of many great Catalan architects (Puig y Cadafalch being another).
Brazil. More tropical architecture and a great example of buildings using wood in novel ways.

Bart Prince's Gradow residence in Aspen.
LinkThe River House in New York. The FDR has since cut off the private docks (boat to elevator to apartment in minutes), but the building still stands majestic. Bottomly, Wagner, and White were the architects, outgranding Candela.

Arcosanti: an experimental town built around ecology, community, and a blatant disregard for getting the thing built.
India. The civic building is a unique opportunity.
Plans by Paolo Soleri, Arcosanti's planner/inventor/architect.
Japan. I'm not 100% certain but I think this is Shigeru Ban.
The International Library of Children's books by Tadao Ando. What a wonderful thing to build.
Tbilisi, Georgia. Soviet Constructivist center for marriage events, a 'Palace of the Marriage'. If you destroy the religious institution you have to repurpose its ceremonies and buildings. Does this look religious?
Shigeru Ban's Pompidou Metz. I love the use of wood.
Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater. There are vents in the house that allow the habitants to cool their home with the wind over the stream.

Shigeru Ban's Pompidou Metz.
Zaha Hadid designed this platform for ski jumping.
Erich Mendelsohn's Einstein tower. Walk through it here. What would it be like to live here? Would it change your life?


Brooks On Education

I can think of no greater waste of a blog than reprinting NY Times OpEds (especially Friedman and his flat planet). That out of the way, allow me to waste my blog on David Brooks' tempered judgment and his wise advice on American education. Quick question: What about Brooks is specifically conservative? His glasses? (Yes). I think this is quite forward looking and, if his ideas were put into practice, would probably create the kind of large government organization Republicans, ye of Homeland Security, were supposed to hate. Quick bone to pick: There is nothing wrong with "being France" and the sooner people and countries learn to live together in comfort without madly competing for resources and smartness, the sooner we can band together and create a starship to fly us around the galaxy in search of spices.

The Inflated Cost of the Obese

Consider Daniel Engber's well-argued argument that the heavy are not the drain on society and the workplace that past scientists and present politicians claim them to be. If you want to be cold about the thing, remember that the obese do die younger (from chronic illness) and thus are less of a drain on healthcare than their skinny peers. If you want to get angry about the thing, consider that if we start staring down the obese, like we do our remaining smokers, we will increase unhealthiness at large as weight becomes an even greater thing to be unhappy about.


Tin Pan Alley: Now and Now

More music and New York (but what better city for music).  Lost City has a post on Tin Pan Alley up.  Tin Pan Alley was a street in midtown Manhattan where, in the bleak days before recorded music, sheet music was written and sold by the million.  You used to walk down the street and have people in every window to plug you with a reason to buy their hit song.  Now, in the bleak 00s where ringtones are sometimes more popular than albums, it's a Nextel store away from erasing every trace of its past.  If you have any interest in remembering the place where Irving Berlin's 'God Bless America' and 'Take Me Out to the Ballgame' first hit, click here.  

New York in the 80s and Crackpot Ideas in Urban Homesteading

Ah bless the St. Marks Bookstore where I recently stumbled on a picture book called New York Noise. I'd heard two New York Noise albums and reading without words is a pleasant way to waste time on my way home from work. By way of background: NYN, the albums, are a collection of New Wave/No Wave/whatever you call it tunes from the last American music of note to have a time (76-85), place (downtown New York), and feeling that extended to all the surrounding arts. Disagree? Name me three bands from Seattle? Name me one play inspired by the backwards-looking NY garage-bands of the early-2000s? Find me a garage in NYC!

New York Noise, the book, sketches an interesting line between the scene's different players in brilliant black-and-white photos. Did these people know they would be famous? Was there this feeling that everything they did was important? How did they all play in each others' bands? Why are these pictures so professional? Some of the NYN players, without order:
  • The Talking Heads, then band
  • Steve Buscemi, now actor
  • Eric Bogosian, playwright, monologist, actor
  • Paul Zaloom, then puppeteerish monologist, now Beakman
  • Madonna, singer not the religious figure, perhaps also a figure of another kind, only tangentially related.
  • John Cage, musician we've previously mentioned
  • Keith Harring, artist
  • Micheal Stipe, lead singer of REM
  • Liquid Liquid
  • Willem Dafoe, performing with Richard Foreman's Wooster Group. See Foreman's new play.
  • David Byrne, always brilliant, see him here with Richard Thompson
  • Robert Longo, artist and filmmaker, forgive him Johnny Mneumonic, his prints and art is much more interesting
  • Kim Gordon
  • Richard Prince, artist, remember his advertising photos
  • Laurie Anderson
  • Jim Jarmusch, a truly talented filmmaker, one with faith in his audience's attention
  • John Lurie, musician/actor/now exhibited painter, once star of Fishing with John
  • Cindy Sherman, photographer
  • Richard Hell, proto-punk, poet(?)
  • and on...
It's a lot of names. It's also not that many people. Reading the book, I was under the impression that everybody in the East Village, the Lower East Side, and the crummier parts of SoHo was actually making something so infectious is the idea. It's really just 30 odd people (both meanings) yet it feels like a world.

This world is precisely why I, and I presume many others, came to New York. What is it like when the stars align and music, art, writing, theater, living all overlap in a specific time and place? I don't know. New York (2008) is not that place. Perhaps, they say, it's because living is too expensive to 'work' for money one day a week and work for yourself the rest. Perhaps, I've also heard, it's because even the service industry has gotten so professionalized that you need a degree to work tables. I disagree completely.

There are scenes of 30 that are making waves, just not with the same overall cultural impact. Why? Maybe there are too many scenes of 30; maybe they're not spread across as many disciplines as No Wave was; maybe, as with the abundance of channels, there is an abundance of scenes all fighting for your attention (I saw a concert the other week that was very Lifetime...I'll spare you); maybe we'll hear about them in 20 years time and misremember ourselves being there; maybe we were...

I think the real issue is simple: we are so easily and constantly entertained that we don't and forget how to make our own entertainment. Or, when we do, the ratio is off. I was going to say I have a tremendous respect for those who post videos on YouTube or play at open mics, but I think respect is the wrong word. Thousands of people post videos on YouTube that are not really respect-able. But making your own fun is important, it entertains your friends, get good friends, invest it with intelligence, and it can entertain the World.

I meant to include this all as background bias for my urban homesteading plan. I believe it would be a good idea if the government gave people 5 years to turn an abandoned building (Baltimore has 14,000 of them, eg.) into a home they would could own. I still believe that if you allow people with a genuine desire to build something, and if you give them ownership, new, crime-freer neighborhoods will grow out of a desire to make something permanent. I just no longer believe a new Homestead Act will create another urban artists community like in NY in the 80s (for the reasons listed above, the scene was remembered falsely, NY has little abandoned housing). Still, reinvigorating a city like Baltimore from within could, it might be argued, serve a greater good than O Superman. I know I've gotten here naively and pettily, but surely that's worth the eminent domain squabbles, disenfranchising the slumlord, and the stack of paperwork.


Yet More Kissinger

Nick has kindly brought to this article by Kissinger to my attention and reminded me of some things I neglected to mention.
  1. Dr. Kissinger is not actually a doctor.
  2. Mr. Kissinger is indeed wanted for questioning in a bunch of countries, some of which you may have heard of. These include France, Spain, presumably Chile, ...
  3. Henry went out with Marlo Thomas and Bond girl Jill St. John. If being a war criminal wasn't reason enough to hate somebody, surely this is too much.
  4. Hank is quite frightened of his past coming to light. He is quite libelous and, thanks Nick, has written in Foreign Affairs on limiting universal jurisdiction. He calls it a dangerous precedent, retroactive one assumes, where some old internationally appointed activist judge could accuse anybody of injustice with enough evidence.


The Trial of Henry Kissinger

I like Christopher Hitchens for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is he has given me this bit of wisdom: You do not have to like someone to like his work.  The strongest work and ideas should stand independent of their authors if they are to withstand any inquiry.  I think Hitchen's work will, by and by, withstand himself.  Even if I disagree with him on specifics, as in God is Not Great, I have concede to him the better argument [certainly regarding the religious institution, although I would fight to keep this separate from the spiritual individual: these might not be the same].  

I've read five of his books.  I was quite aware of how forcefully Hitchens can rip something down when I got The Trial of Henry Kissinger.  This might have been why I picked it up.  I have always disliked Kissinger, perhaps at times for as small a reason as taste, and I thought I'd outsource my battle.  

Hitchen's claim: The US Government searches the world to bring justice to evil-doers and war criminals like Milosovec and Hussein.  Perhaps they're traveling too far.  Consider Henry Kissinger, snug in the nicest building in New York, as a war criminal yet untried.  The US set a precedent at the Nuremberg and Tokyo trials which strong discourages leaders (with death) from mass murder, genocide, plots to overthrow governments their nations are at peace with, and otherwise acting illegally.  Hitchens claims that Kissinger is guilty of all that and more, except where the Nazi might (falsely) argue he was just following orders, Kissinger was more often than not the one telling people what to do.  

War crimes and other unpleasantness aside, the book does a good job of dancing around a central paradox of the political and power aspirant: how does a fiercely intelligent man with first-hand knowledge of the horrors of unchecked power not get it -- that he is continuing a history of mass murder in the name of a bad idea (realpolitik)?  I don't believe there's a finite amount of good traits.  One can be smart and compassionate.  Perhaps ambition is the culprit.  Perhaps the skills it takes to get the job precludes a more reasonable candidate?  Perhaps you can't make generalizations about the rare unique individual in politics?

For those who hate reading, Eugene Jarecki adapted the thesis of Hitchens' argument in a more even-handed (a better thing), less-detailed (worse) documentary available here.  An impressive roster of politicos give their opinion on Kissinger, although the man, sadly, does not speak for himself.  Jarecki's other film is Why We Fight.  It's very good.  The trailer is below.  


I loved this Atlantic excerpt from Dana Milbank's book Homo Politicus: The Strange and Scary Tribes That Run Our Government.  Before your copy arrives, this brief might have to do if you've any chance of understanding the strange patois of the Washington insider.  

eg. I don't pay attention to the polls.
      My job-approval rating is 32 percent

      You are either with us or against us.
      You are against us

      The following statement is false.

Click here


Allow Me To Waste Your Time...

...with memories of how you used to waste your own.  Here's a mega-montage (1 of 9 - catch them all) of cartoons from your (pre-internet I hope) childhood.  


Seeing Sound

An introduction by way of an explanation:  One of my resolutions this year is to make me some good music.  This might not be a particularly challenging resolution were I Keith Richards but, as is, I am fundamentally not Keith Richards.  I missed the sixties, I missed the seventies, and I do not play any instruments.  Of the three, the latter -- and this is important -- does not worry me in the slightest.

Many of the best artists of the past sixty years have not been particularly musically talented, whatever that means to you.  Without debating the finer points of Milli-Vanilli-ism or singing Ashlee Simpson's praises, I'm thinking about Jonathan Richman, Brian Eno, the Clash, Autechre, Belle & Sebastian, the Cars, the Jesus and Mary Chain, the Magnetic Fields, Pulp, Suicide, the Talking Heads, and the Velvet Underground amongst thousands.  At one stage in their professional careers, the eclectic above had all been (contentedly) amateurish musicians.

Blessedly, music is not about instruments.  There are some highly proficient Progressive Rockers still touring the English countryside, singing about dwarves, playing 13th chords while dressed like (creepy) children's entertainers in jumpsuits and caterpillar masks.  These people don't get me too interested, whereas the preceding 'amateurs' shone on with nothing but their intelligence, energy, taste, and patience.

Music is personal (disagree with me here) and so here's a personal manifesto.  I believe I can make music because...
  1. I believe I am moderately tasteful. 
  2. I am patient enough to wade up the learning curve, the music store jargon, the software, the hardware, the endless knob twiddlings, all in the hopes of coming up with ...
  3. Moderately tasteful sounds to stick on top or next to the last one tasteful sound.
Is this it?  Well yes.  

Onwards to seeing sounds. 

But first an apology: I try not to equivocate.  Most of my most meaningless literary theory classes revolved around deliberately reinterpreting words ("See the band playing in the background? Perhaps they're a visual symbol for the wedding-band Carrie so desperately wants and Charlotte does not.  Maybe if the friends banded together...").  

That said, I'm aware that I use the verb to 'see' in a couple different ways but I think the connection between seeing (understanding) and seeing (visualizing) is a little richer than the above example.  Forgive me. 

Seeing sounds on the instruments:   That sounds easy.  But sounds, I've discovered, is hard.  Most of the stuff I got my guitar to do when I first held it was awful (this awful).  I needed to get to a basic understanding of pretty sounds.  

I see with pictures.  Not being a synaesthete by birth, sounds are quite distinct from sight in my mind.  I need a metaphor to make sense of the millions of frequencies that even the worst musician has at his or her disposal. 

Both the guitar fretboard and the piano keyboard visual metaphors (and mechanical inputs) for sound -- preferably melodic sound -- creation.  If tuned conventionally, they limit the potential sounds to the twelve notes that make an octave (do you see how words are getting useless here?).  

The piano is the simpler of the two: one key to one sound, plop your hands up to the right and the sounds increase in pitch.  I can't think of how to explain pitch with words, but consider the fun part of Come on Eileen and know that even the matinee actor gets that he should fake his hands right when the notes get higher.  

The guitar is more confusing as numerous 'keys' play the same note.  You can move your hands down the neck or across it to raise the pitch.  The fretboard is a matrix.  I prefer the guitar's honest complexity.  Unlike the piano's black-and-white keys, it doesn't have me prejudiced against flats and sharps (they're called accidentals; if I'm playing they certainly are).  The piano is also heavier and less likely to get you a girlfriend. 
There are other instruments -- I love the violin as an accent, the horns in Higher and Higher by Jackie Wilson -- and despite unfamiliarity, I'm sure they've got both their peccadilloes and twelve notes tuned to the same frequencies as the twelve on the piano or guitar.  It's what you do with those twelve notes that makes all the difference and it's here that seeing things becomes important.  

One note is one frequency and three or more notes is a chord.  Chords tend to have some grounding in melody and melody, while mathematical as all things, is best kept sacred and ill-understood.  Learning chords is a pain in the ass because the person who first tuned the guitar and first built the piano obviously never used them.  You could avoid chords (with computers this is easier) and just stack tones of single noted instruments on top of each other like a brass band.  For fear of retribution, I won't say anything negative about brass bands (loved them in Tusk), but they're a little impractical in a vegetarian cafĂ©.  

I have lumped it and am learning the chords.  One could do this with notation, but I'm doing this with little pictures that basically tell me where to put my hands (from an un-condescending book called Fretboard Logic SE).  The modern system of musical notation is mostly instrument independent and some very impressive eight-year-olds can read single notes, chords, and notes as they move forwards in time with great ease.  I am not a very impressive eight-year-old (was I ever?) and so I must make do with tablature, a guitar specific system which tells me where to press down on the guitar's neck and which looks a lot less professional.  

Generative music aside, there is some debate as to whether a music is legitimate if it can't have its sounds recorded in note form.  There is a real push for turntable transcription and there are some compelling models that tell the turntabulist (ugh) where to scratch, fade, and bring up the Phil Collins song in the bass.  This seems academic, but I'll take that as a cue to mention John Cage.  Cage is perhaps best known for his piece 4'33" -- 4 minutes and 33 seconds of silence.  This must be legitimate because there is sheet music for it, because Cage went to college, and because you can download it from the iTunes Music Store(!).  Much of his other stuff is un-listen-able, but I make the pitstop because it's worth noting that Cage actually drew some beautiful images and notation for his work and stands as a good example of using bogus externalities to see something that just isn't there.  

Seeing Sound in Time: Pitfalls and learning curves addressed, I still think that seeing sound is useful if one is going to think in sound -- especially if one is interested in making songs longer than a note.  Most means of recording music -- tape, record, CD -- have the sound information laid out chronologically (there are no great musical palindromes) and it is in songs and recording that Time begins to crop up.  4'33" might even be an argument that this is the most important value in music. 

I am recording our songs with Apple's Logic Express 8.  Logic is a Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) apparently and the basic visual metaphor is the same as the other front runners and Apple's free program, Garageband.  

Logic is well-titled.  A little time spent in the program will let even the clueless (me) understand how songs are structured, the different components that go into making a song, and the logic or thinking behind things.  

Logic lets you record sound in two ways.  When you record real sound, perhaps with a microphone, you see your sounds scrunched up as waves.  When you record your sound with your MIDI keyboard, you aren't seeing any sound per se;  what you see are the notes played, how hard and how long they were hit, all lit up in bright colors like player piano roll on its side.  Logic's built-in synthesizers make the sounds simultaneously with the 'roll' of information.  
There are other DAWs.  One that I've had recommended to me by a drummer is Ableton Live.  Live is another way of conceiving (creating) music visually as a series of small sound loops (eg. add some bottom, baseline, then drums, lead, etc).  Here's their ad which (unfortunately) only gives an example of a narrow and annoying spectrum of musical genres.  But -- hey -- German muzicians.   

The language used to describe these things is jargony and bulky.  The visual metaphors are actually quite simple (a lot of the stuff looks like retro synthesizers) and, if they were designed by designers (Tufte!) instead of engineers, they would be simpler still.  

We've just finished our first song and now we're mastering it.  This involves spending some time at the equalizer which, this being the end of my music-making knowledge, might make a nice transition to the next section.

Seeing Sound Elsewhere:  I remember the equalizer on my father's stereo as a child and how you could see each kick of the bass drum.  A more grown-up version of the EQ -- well, teenagerish -- is the mp3 visualizer.  Click here if you can forgive the sound.  These are post hoc and the only real reason they exist (given that the truly stoned are just as entertained by lava lights, lights) is because one is listening to music on a thing with a screen that needs to be doing something.  

I do remember the Museum of Science's Pink Floyd Laser Light Show.  Perhaps that's evidence to suggest that I wasn't really there.  I do not remember Andy Warhol's Exploding Plastic Inevitable but I wish I could have experienced the Velvet Underground under the melting lights.  
I also remember a large neon light and sound thing at the San Francisco airport.  Here's a better take in the Detroit metro of all places.  And here, beautiful in every aspect except sound, another at the V&A Museum.  Why do these installations use ambient electronic music?  Perhaps robot music appeals to the engineer, or perhaps there's a cleaner amount of data (no fuzzy recordings, no words to detract) that can be transferred from sound program to light program.  This is also the reason why the most effective 3D movies are 3D animated -- they're already got the depth-value written -- the 3rd D.

I have yet to remember Guitar Hero as I can't get my hand on it.  This game, like its counterparts RockBand and Dance Dance Revolution, has bars of sound trickle down from the top of the screen to the bottom when you're supposed to strum your guitar.  It's not really music, but I think it has some of the fun of playing with someone else.  

A game that does make music is Elektroplankton.  The video below should give you a sense of one of the easiest to understand modes Electroplankton has for composing.  This trailer should give you a sense of more of the modes, and this song is kind of pretty.  I've not played/played the game, but I am impressed with some of the stuff I've heard and that the game has found musicians and they have found an audience.   

Some of the different modes are very similar to a step computer or drum machine.  Below is a video of a basic drum machine to show you just how easily percussion (and the kind of music you hear blasted out of Nissans by men with waxed eyebrows) is to make. 

As the internet snakes around, Electroplankton has lead me to a nearly forgotten visual/musical language called Pure Data.  Pure Data (nice name) is actually more of an instrument that can create sound and sights simultaneously.  It all seems too complex though.

In summation, Michel Gondry's video for the Chemical Brother's song Star Guitar.  This is how I would like the visual world and music to work together. 

Stanley Fish Hates Hating Hillary

I would love to write a larger piece on Stanley Fish.  I think he has a seductive intelligence which, more often than not, comes to the commonest conclusion in a roundabout (enough) way which makes the obvious appear to be real thought.  I would love to write something about how easy it is for a man who made his money in the humanities to write about how worthless they are, even if it makes him look like a fraud or an opportunist, because it ultimately makes him look like a loner and a cultured free-thinker.  I would try to understand his admonishing the independent voter who still holds true to their own judgement (vs. two very similar parties) in spite of their disenfranchisement in many primaries.  I might also like to write a piece about how subjective his literary criticism is (how is Stanley Fish's mood when reading The Tempest of any interest to anyone but Stanley Fish).  I'd like to seem even-handed by saying I agree with some of his thoughts on the New Museum.  He's an interesting man and he probably deserves a larger piece but I can't and I won't write it as even I don't have quite enough free time. 

What I will write about, briefly, is All You Need is Hate, his recent piece on Hillary-hatred in the Times.   His central argument:  as people do hate Hillary for, example, being both a feminist and not a feminist, then this hatred is illogical like -- in an aside designed to place discussion almost off-limits -- anti-Semitism.  

My bones to pick with Fish:  I refuse to believe that a man of letters could forget that people is a plural noun.  It is quite reasonable for one person to dislike Hillary for her feminism (it's casual, crops up when convenient, etc.) and for another to dislike her own perception that her gender is a liability (signing the US into Iraq to avoid seeming weak).  A good working definition for hatred is 'a strong, emotional dislike outside of logic'.  In Think Again, Fish makes his points emotionally so that any shaky logic is placed outside the realm of thought: the only (re-)thinking Fish wants done is reading.  As falsely and easy as Hillary cried, or as easily as some Obama supporters cry racism when none is intended, Fish uses loaded language -- specifically conflating anti-Hillaryism with anti-Semitism -- in an attempt to spin, deceive and get under one's skin.  It does. 

Again, don't let others do your thinking for you no matter how well they write. 

Update:  I've been reading the comments on the Times' website.  Allow me to save you (a lot) of time and sketch a recurring theme beyond the spelling errors:  They hate her.  They being a stand-in for conservatives, Barack supporters, Republicans, the wrong kind of Democrats, independents, the same people who hate Barbara Streisand, and on it goes.  If you believe the thrust of Fish's essay, which I don't, then certainly we have an anti-anti-Hillary hatred essay coming out next Monday (sadly, not as well timed) on how irrational that concept is, ¿no?

Thanks to Turner for slugging through the piece before I'd proof read it and for telling me to do so.


Ticker Tape

The Giants' win against the Patriots is one of those wins worth celebrating.  Scrappy underdog makes it to the Superbowl to upset a rough team of all-stars who were never really dignified or well-liked even before news of their cheating came to light.  

I still have a lot of questions (how, how did Tyree catch that? where could I see that again?) and one that's puzzling me is 'what exactly is a ticker-tape parade'?

Well, it turns out that ticker-tape was a long spool of paper used to print telegraphed up-to-the-minute stock information on.  Used ticker-tape was cut into confetti and that is what was thrown from the windows in the downtown Manhattan of yesterday and ten minutes ago.  All told, today's parade should use 50 tons of (shredded, standard) paper and 317 sanitation workers to have the whole thing come and go.  And it's worth it.  


Some Modern Buildings

2 Things on my 2nd last post.  
  1. There are some major exceptions to the rule described.  The Einstein tower (more Expressionist than Modernist), the Bank of China Building and Hong Kong Bank (high-tech hits from architects who have otherwise made some questionable buildings), Le Corbusier had a great sense of proportion, more.
  2. I meant that Modern architecture is neither modern (2008) nor modern (every building built in the last 10 years).  Modern is a lingering aesthetic, early 20th century ideology made in steel and glass and now remembered as attractive despite having nothing particularly attractive about it beyond tall interiors.  There are some lowercase modern buildings that do take the environment into their aesthetic and are stunning.  Consider this case: Diller Scofidio + Renfro's Phantom House
Some pictures.  Gehry, Pei, the Whitney (an art museum should know better), a building in Tokyo (not uninteresting), Koolhaas. 


I mention Tati's film Playtime in the last post on nonsense architecture.  It is much bigger than that and wanted to show you the trailer by way of apology.  I have small hopes that the new Pixar film Wall-e is silent the way through as we don't watch enough silent movies these days and the laugh without a 'joke' is much different.  For this, I recommend Tati more than anyone (although this Chaplin fellow isn't bad either).  

Ah Modern Architecture

We've not really had a particularly good word for modern since, well, Modern.  Post-modern is not really descriptive (even with the modifier) and is probably just used to sell books.  Perhaps this we're stuck with Modernism because, as aesthetics are concerned, we haven't had a great shift away from what just was -- Modernism.  Or perhaps they just took the best word first because they were alive and working first.  

This initially-promising, ultimately-too-short-as-with-most-Slate-articles article article has gotten me remembering the worst of Modern architecture.  My grandfather designed his own home in Cuba (allow me to describe it gently: concrete square on rectangle) and his Bauhaus 'aesthetic' was rooted in the same dialectic philosophy that drove him off his island.  It seems like men and women of that era didn't do anything without a manifesto or theory (getting the groceries must have been a chore).  

Amazingly -- an accident of unlucky history -- almost all of those theories were similar in this respect: rich white men kindly telling worker's that they should want to live in buildings that look an awful lot like the factories they kill themselves in.  As time past, the rich white men forgot why the buildings looked the way they did (why is forgotten first) and wanted them for themselves because they looked different, were in nice parts of town, and were vaguely European and Americans have had inferiority complexes about vague Europeans since before Edith Wharton's day.  

4 thoughts: 
  1. Isn't Frank Lloyd Wright impressive by comparison?  His main interest wasn't theory but how people should live their lives in their spaces, his main aesthetic was a decorative integration with nature and the need to limit choice (furniture stuck to the floors; no basements for no clutter). 
  2. Shouldn't we allow the environment and environmentalism to function as our governing aesthetic?  If we align our houses with the sun, keep them a reasonable size, have our windows let in the most natural light, use renewable materials, etc. doesn't a sense of well-being come from the home that's greater that just looking nice?  
  3. Isn't Frank Gehry's stuff really, really ugly? What about Liebskind?  Rem Koolhaas?  Could 1,000 monkeys given 1,000 years come up with something as disgusting as that Venice Beach House?  I know it's Venice Beach, but come on.  What if these ideas trickle down into the mainstream?  What if we forget that these are ugly buildings, have nostalgia cloud our taste, and then go on living in cities filled with these things (like Tati's nightmare, Playtime)? 
  4. Do we find these building attractive because they were built?  Isn't this a case of the emperor's new clothes?  While not horrible on a Clement Greenberg scale, doesn't the architecture critic function as a salesman with an interest in conflating shit and shinola?  Is the businessman lucky enough to build a building really so easily deceived by namebrand architects and so confused by aesthetics? Perhaps his isn't an aesthetic decision?  Consider Ratner's Atlantic Yards: after much community opposition (it will be a terrible drain on the area), he hired Gehry to redesign the project as if his minimal changes and maximal name would make all the difference in the public's eye.  All Gehry did was plopp out a skyscraper, call it Lady Brooklyn, and hope that by confusing a beloved statue with a reviled project some goodwill might rub off.  Beware the professional expert. 



More music nonsense from this larger piece and interest in music.  This is Sina Makosa by the band Les Wanyika.  It's soukous: bright, thin guitar sounds, usually from the thin strings of a Fender Stratocaster.  I think it's beautiful, perhaps the one of the sounds of happiness.    
If Les W have your interest piqued, try visiting bennloxo.com for a much more knowledgeable source on African music. If you want to make some of this stuff for yourself, see if you can keep up with this chap below:


Son of Rambow

I've been excited about this one for quite some time and, now, a trailer.  It's like all the movies we made as children with a much, much bigger budget. 

Airplane and a Treadmill

Dear friends and recent enemies,

This here is liveblogging proof (via Kottke) that a plane will indeed takeoff on a treadmill of proportionate speed in the opposing direction.  If you don't believe words, perhaps video will suffice.