Jasper, Cleveland, Vidor — they're all East Texas towns you drive through on the way from somewhere to somewhere. They're towns of mobile homes, wood framed houses, small churches, and barber shops. They're not places you notice. But now each of these places is synonymous with the horrible things that happened there. I grew up in this part of the country and the news about the rape Cleveland was particularly unsettling because I felt as if I was reading about people I might have known in school. The last names, the scenery, the house where bad things happen, all are familiar archetypes from an East Texas childhood. In my town there was a building called The Front. Everyone knew bad things happened there. Nobody talked about it. I imagine this was something similar. The details of this case are shocking. 19 men ages 14-29. An 11 year old girl. Rapes over three months. The inclination in the community will be "take care" of this situation and forget about it, to blame the devil, and to protect themselves from the darkness around the case. You can already see this happening in the news coverage. My hope is that the case will force people to ask questions... just maybe, the right questions will help shine light into this community and ask how this could happen. There will be no easy answers.
Perhaps because of all this, I've been thinking about a show at the International Center for Photography titled Jasper, Texas: The Community Photographs of Alonzo Jordan. It's a loving portrait of people in Jasper but it could easily be a portrait of folks in Cleveland or Livingston, or Woodville, or any of the other small communities in East Texas. If you are in New York, it's worth visiting and it's worth asking yourself when you look at the images how these communities get from where they were then to where they are now.
p.s. Speaking of the IFC they have another show up on rural baptism rituals that looks pretty amazing. It's titled Take Me to the Water. I hope to see it soon.
Charlotte Bronte's diary
The city was full of art over the last few days with competing fairs and scores of gallery exhibits, but the of all the art around, the thing I will remember from the weekend is the show at the Morgan Library called "The Diary: Three Centuries of Private Lives". The website is terrible (The exhibition is small. Why so few scans? Why so few transcriptions? Why are the scans so small?! Why do so many of the podcasts have to be read by someone that sounds like that English teacher you disliked in 7th grade? Etc. etc.) so don't bother, just go visit the Museum in person. You'll read Nathaniel Hawthorn muse in a diary about a story he's considering on “the life of a woman, who by the old colonial law was condemned always to wear the letter A…” You'll read Stuart Davis' "Complete formula for artistic & financial Success." And you'll see Charlotte Bronte's tiny handwriting, that alone was worth the trip for me.
Sidenote: Be sure to grab the xeroxed transcriptions as you walk in the door. They're easy to miss.
Photographs taken of the front and back of the Mona Lisa's empty frame after it's theft (the frame was abandoned in a staircase during the Peruggia's getaway).
In 1911 an Italian named Vincenzo Peruggia managed to steal the Mona Lisa from the Louvre. The Museum and the police were mystified. "La Gioconda is gone. That is all I can say. So far we have not the slightest clue as to the perpetrator of the crime," reported the Assistant Curator of the Louvre to the NYTimes.
Peruggia secreted the painting to his small apartment two blocks from the museum and kept it hidden for almost two years. I often wonder if, during those years, he kept the painting locked up in the secret false bottom of his trunk (where it was eventually found), or if, sometimes, he would take it out and and hang it while he made himself dinner and enjoyed a glass a wine. I love the mental image of Peruggia alone at table breaking bread with Mona Lisa's eyes always on him.
Nicholas Felton published his annual report today. Unlike years past where he cataloged, analyzed, and quantified a single year of his own life, this time he examined the life — the entire life — of his father Gordon Felton, who died in 2010. Nick studied scores of documents, calendars, postcards, and pictures to build a portrait of his dad in data. And it's quite a portrait. By triangulating his father's movements, Nick literally maps the shape of the world with the forms of continents emerging from the mesh of connecting lines (Felton Sr. was one hell of a traveler). The document is full of stories "Name legally changed to Gordon Felton in the province of Manitoba September 9, 1954 at 4:15" and facts both amusing ("Middle name Paul added in 1968") and heartbreaking (Last Day Sep 12, 2010 81 years, 2 months and 8 days old). Ultimately though, the document is a set of mysteries. Reading it reminded me of the questions asked by Rawlston in the opening scene of Citizen Kane after the newsreel ends.
What made Kane what he was?
And, for that matter, what
was he? What we've just seen are the outlines
of a career - what's behind the
career? What's the man? Was he good or bad?
Strong or foolish? Tragic or silly?
Why did he do all those things?
What was he after?
These are questions that will not be answered by this report, but they are the type of questions the report raises. The questions make the man real to people who never knew him. How did this elevator operator find himself at the far end of the Soviet Union. Why was he in Vietnam? Why that middle name? Why the divorces? What happened in 1964?
Anyone who has lost someone close knows the complicated emotions brought on by the sorting of the collected ephemera of a life. Some survivors live with the stuff, some put it in boxes and hide it away, some throw it out. Nicholas did something harder, he tried to understand the things his dad left behind, and then he tried to make us understand. I see this as a courageous act of love. It shows on every page of the report and that's a beautiful thing.
When I was a kid I thought if I could memorize the encyclopedia that I could understand the whole world. Good old fashioned paper encyclopedias are almost extinct these days, but I recently discovered the Smithsonian Natural History visual reference. It's a visual encyclopedia for the natural world with 600 pages and thousands of photographs. In my house it's quickly become a favorite. My kids use it constantly, for projects or just to discover something new. Best of all it's only around $30. Easily the best $30 I've spent on my kids in ages.
Phillip Toledano has created a new body of work titled Kim Jong Phil. He writes:
"For my palette, I've copied pre-existing dictatorial art. Paintings from North Korea, statues of assorted dictators (Kim Il Sung, Laurent Kabilla, and Saddam Hussein). I had these works re-created in China, and each instance, I've replaced the great leaders with myself."
I finally dug through the original archive myself at the The Historic Houses Trust site today. It's well worth the visit. The site allows download of full resolution versions of the images and provides context. Many of the descriptions are like that famous 6 word Hemingway short, "For sale: baby shoes, never worn."
In my 20's I went there regularly, not for the food—I never had a truly great meal there—but for the crowd. It was the type of place you might run into Woody Allen or Gregory Peck, you might be seated next to a table of pinky-ringed Italian men in shark skin suits, or you might find yourself next to a Mets pitcher who ate there for good luck. Why this place? The room was nothing special, just a dark rectangle hung with low grade office ceiling tile. The lighting was lousy, and there were those damned plastic flowers in cheap sconces. It wasn't like Dan Tana's in LA, with it's red leather booths and feel of faded glamour. Gino's was almost lowbrow, but it had an irresistible sense of style regardless. The yellow door was just the right yellow, the green sign was EXACTLY what it was supposed to be, and the red zebra wallpaper was... well, perfect. The zebras, in addition to being on the walls, could be found on the matches and the napkins and the doors to the bathrooms. Gino must have known he was on to something, because those zebras became design icons in their own right. Without the zebras, the room is nothing special. I always said the zebras helped carry the place through time.
When the restaurant was slated to close Gay Talese wrote, "All the items on the menu appear on a single plastic-covered page and were handwritten in ink sixty-five years ago by the restaurant’s founder, Gino Circiello, a dapper and debonair trendsetter in 1945 who thereafter ignored all trends. Even a year after his death at eighty-nine, in 2001, when the restaurant was described in the Zagat Survey as “frozen in the 40’s,” the regulars liked to boast that, at Gino’s, nothing was new: within the zebra-covered walls of this place everything remained the same, including the fact that a stripe was missing from the rumps of half the zebras—a mistake made by the original designer which Mr. Gino, a superstitious Italian of Neapolitan origin, chose not to correct, because to do so, he feared, might bring him bad luck." (full article)
Don't know why I was thinking about Gino's today, but I wanted the wallpaper for my computer. I couldn't find a digital copy so I made one myself: Gino's Digital Zebra Wallpaper. I left the stripe off the rump.
Kevin Cheng twittered recently "Cannot find any iTunes solution that lets me have an external master library, laptop w/ synced subset, and synced ratings/metadata."
Ahh.. the holy grail. I've been pursuing it for some time because I often orbit between 3 or 4 machines. I'd go further. I also want my iphones to share the synced data and to be able to sync on multiple computers. It can be done! Here's how.
Assumptions: I assume Macintosh. I assume normal locations for your Music folder and for the iTunes folder. I assume matching usernames on all the computers. I have 2 sets of instructions the first is for a fresh start (new library), the second set is for converting an existing library. Most importantly I assume a Dropbox account (they're free).
I keep being served rice labeled Mexican rice, that is not Mexican rice, at least not Mexican Rice as I know it.
Here is how to make proper Mexican rice:
Liquify 1 big tomato, 1 garlic clove, 1 onion, salt, black pepper and a teaspoon and a half of cumin. Add some chilis if you like things spicy. Set aside.
Boil 2 cups of chicken broth, then let it simmer. Keep one cold cup of broth off to the side
Soak 1 cup of long grain rice in warm water for 4 minutes. Drain and let it stand for 5 minutes.
Put a touch of bacon in a frying pan and warm it up to grease the pan. Add a touch of oil. Then add the rice and fry it until the rice turns golden brown.
Turn the heat up on the broth.
Add the liquified tomato mixture to the rice and fry for one minute.
Now add the broth. Bring to a boil. Once everything starts boiling reduce the heat and cover loosely so the steam escapes. When the liquid has vanished, add a third cup of cold broth, cover and cook until it has also evaporated.
I suspect the NYTimes writer of this piece on the fascinating and disturbing phenomenon of honeybee colony collapse disorder was having a bit of fun w/ this one:
"One perverse twist of colony collapse that has compounded the difficulty of solving it is that the bees do not just die — they fly off in every direction from the hive, then die alone and dispersed. That makes large numbers of bee autopsies — and yes, entomologists actually do those — problematic."
"The first steps were awkward, partly because the Army lab was not used to testing bees, or more specifically, to extracting bee proteins. “I’m guessing it was January 2007, a meeting in Bethesda, we got a bag of bees and just started smashing them on the desk,” Charles Wick said. “It was very complicated.”
The process eventually was refined. A mortar and pestle worked better than the desktop, and a coffee grinder worked best of all for making good bee paste."
"Another possibility, he said, is a kind of insect insanity."
I met several awesome artists today. One was Cassandra Jones who creates art from found photographs. She makes elaborate large-scale wallpaper from repeating pictures of cheerleaders, flamingos, lightning, etc., etc. and she he makes really super short video pieces. One of my favorites is above. What's not to love about a neo-Muybridge?
Secret society of pretty girls who read Catcher in The Rye.
Secret society of guys who wear chicken shirts.
Secret society of vaguely familiar acquaintances.
Secret society of ladies who smell of butterfly milk.
Secret society of pretend sleepers.
Secret society of guys who carry briefcases but might be in metal bands.
Secret society of guys with beards who read Epictetus.
Secret society of quiet farters.
Secret society of contagious yawners.
Secret society of guys who nod to other guys even though they have no idea why they are nodding.
Secret society of artists who might be drawing you, but are actually drawing monsters.
Secret society of men who are probably pirates.
Secret society of humans from the future (this is how they study us).
Secret society of children (who are involved in too many secret societies to list in this forum).
Secret society of people who consciously make eye contact.
Secret society of people who studiously avoid eye contact(who by the way are involved in a fierce silent battle with the secret society listed above).
Secret society of people with broken hearts and other hidden wounds.
Secret society of listmakers who search out the invisible.
Liu XiaoFang's was one of the photographers chosen for reGeneration2, a selection of "50 photographers of tomorrow" curated by the Swiss Musée de lElysée. One of her images graces the cover of the Aperture foundation catalog of the exhibition. I don't know much about this photographer and have only seen her work online at the 789 Gallery. I was wondering if anyone out in internet world had a better link. I find the work striking but cold and would like a bit more context to see if it warms me up.
Someone mentioned David Leventi's photography of opera houses to me, so I looked up the site. The opera houses didn't do much for me (architectural photography rarely gets me out of bed), but I really enjoyed his portfolio of Romania images which he titles Romania Revisited. In his statement he writes,
"Romania Revisited retraces my great-grandfather’s footsteps into an unexpected past. Based on stories told by my father and grandmother, I traveled to Romania with a 4x5” large format view camera, collecting lost memories on a journey through a country now struggling to put behind it a lifespan of tyranny, while all the best and brightest who dared or were able to left."
Every few years I find myself back at Peter Garfield's portfolio site admiring his Mobile Holmes project. It helps to know that no photoshop was involved, and also that it's not exactly what you think. (via William Lamson)
When I visited Siem Riep in 1991 it was sleepy backwater recovering from decades of brutal war. The single hotel was former French outpost pockmarked with bullets, the waiters in the newly opened "foreigner restaurant" limped terribly as they were unaccustomed to wearing shoes, and the only nightlife to be had was at a bar called The Minefield decorated with defused mines, run by a mercenary from New Zealand (who was offered his "wife" to the highest bidder), and inhabited by a rather large python named Gorbachev.
Today all this has changed. Siem Reip, or rather the nearby ruins of Angkor Wat are on the global must-see tourist list. The population of the city has increased 20 fold and is circled by 5 star hotels filled with foreigners on package tours. Thai phtographer Miti Ruangkritya's project On the Edge views the city at a distance from the vantage point of someone approaching (or perhaps momentarily escaping) the city... The effect is a sort of a topsy turvy South East Asian version Tati's film Play Time, a film about Paris, but in which Paris is only seen in distant reflection. The pictures are both familiar and foreign, and loaded with a dusty melancholy of seeing the underbelly of an encroaching world. (via HHS)