Thursday, April 30, 2009

and to think I saw it on mulberry street

I took this shot from my hotel room in Manhattan three blocks away and one day before that plane touched down in the Hudson River.

I was presenting in the same hotel the afternoon that it did, just before the news came in and the room started to buzz, and then later that evening I got the job of closing the bar bill, so I never got to step outside to hear the sirens in the street and see folks walking quick to the river bank, craning their necks to get a look at the miracle of a planeload of people standing in the cold water on the wings of the craft. I never got to see what I could see.

Maybe if my head hadn’t been pounding after everyone else went home and I retired to my room to order room service and work on a slide deck for the next day’s meeting, maybe I would have stepped out into the street to hear the quiet city silence that settles in after the wondering, after the what do you know about that, after the parade has passed, the lion tamer has gone, and the dustman sweeps the street.

the right tool for the job

Some may think that what we provide is just a good laugh. There’s nothing wrong with that. But when you are standing eye to eye with a giant spider, you will be thankful you bought the Keep Your Distance Bug Vacuum.

Skymall president Christine A. Aguilera in today's New York Times, referring to the Hammacher Schlemmer Keep Your Distance Bug Vacuum, which is one of the Skymall's top sellers.

Full disclosure: I used to work for the bug vacuum guys (page 2, paragraph 5) »

p.s. The image above is of a hobo spider. This is what a hobo spider can do »

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

send a letter to arne. speak out for soul.

Illus: Velvetsgirl

It's a sad truth that Arts programs is U.S. public schools are getting shaved down to nothing. That means there are a lot of kids in our country who will not be exposed to the tactile power of creating something amazing that's their very own -- music, art, theater, [insert your art here & yes craft counts].

In tangible terms, this could translate into raising a generation without much soul. Soul is that intangible quality of the heart and mind that is fed in part by nurturing our creativity and in turn fires understanding, deepens intellect, provides meaning, and generates compassion.

That's why I think we all have a responsibility to be more than spectators -- we all must make art. I'm not kidding about this. It's my creed. Schools have a responsibility to provide us with the skills we need to do that.

Americans for the Arts (on Facebook) is asking folks who care to send a letter to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan asking for a meeting so that they can share their concerns about the hearts and minds of our kids.

Here's a boilerplate if you'd like to do the same. Arne's email address is arne [dot] duncan [at] ed [dot] gov.

Dear Secretary of Education Arne Duncan,

Welcome to your new post. We're excited about the future for education in America in your hands. Our aim is simple. Our direction is clear. We support balanced curriculum which includes substantial arts education to round out academics and athletics for this next generation of future leaders.

Our Charity, Americans for the Arts, have done a significant amount of work to advocate on behalf of programs on a national level, drafting recommendations for No Child Left Behind, and establishing in-roads for regional educators and administrators.

Our request is simple. Please meet with Americans for the Arts and hear what they have to say. This is important to us. We are one of the fastest growing Causes on Facebook, achieving remarkable donation levels and a unique solidarity.

We support grounded, fully dimensional education and know that Arts Education is essential to the ongoing sustenance of culture and society. We look forward to the bold policy this administration establishes for our bright future. We want to be so proud of you for being the leader who takes risks and puts money into those educational elements our forefathers never would have done without.

[name, contact information]
[End Cut and Paste Here]

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

where it's at.

View H1N1 Swine Flu in a larger map

Click on any placemarker to read the case history of an individual who has contracted, or is suspected of having contracted, swine flu.

Or embiggen »



Nan-in, a Japanese master during the Meiji era (1868-1912), received a university professor who came to inquire about Zen.

Nan-in served tea. He poured his visitor's cup full, and then kept on pouring.

The professor watched the overflow until he no longer could restrain himself. "It is overfull. No more will go in!"

"Like this cup," Nan-in said, "you are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?"

—Zen Koan

I suspect, too, the economy of gifting is like this: emptying out our pockets, pouring out our hearts, making way for more.

Monday, April 27, 2009

maybe it is better to be silent

Photo: Mary Ellen Mark

a found poem

the acting mayor
delivered a short address
a bit wooden

then stepped back

making room
for a row of schoolgirls
to recite verses
they had memorized


an animated gray-haired man
edged his way
alongside the podium

and stepped onto it

sending whispers
through the crowd

From Critic-Shy Russian Mayor Walks Into Chess-Master's Trap in this morning's New York Times, which recounts how, on Friday, former grand master Garry Kasparov stepped uninvited onto the campaign podium of Sochi mayoral candidate Anatoly Pakhomov, mentioned Pakhomov's political rival briefly, and then went on to make a powerful critique of the "rise of racist violence in Russia," and the government's role in that rising tide.

The event was staged to commemorate the Armenian genocide during World War I; Kasparov's mother was Armenian.

It's reported that two and a half minutes into his speech a local official made an effort to remove Kasparov from the stage to which he appealed to the crowd saying "What's happening? I cannot speak? Maybe it's better to be silent?" The crowd thundered NO! and Kasparov remained.

Ellen Barry reports in her NYT piece:

In the audience, Vartyan S. Mardirosyan, a lawyer, was chuckling delightedly at the spectacle. He said the authorities in Sochi had cracked down so hard on dissent that it reminded him of Soviet times, when people were too afraid to express their political opinions outside their own kitchens. The ceremony had been an “undeclared competition,” said Mr. Mardirosyan, 68, with Mr. Kasparov both the underdog and the undisputed winner.

He began walking home, a broad smile plastered on his face.

“He didn’t just play chess,” Mr. Mardirosyan said. “That was a checkmate.”

Postscript: Pakhomov appears to have won in a landslide on Sunday.

Related: The Tsar’s Opponent: Garry Kasparov takes aim at the power of Vladimir Putin in the 1 October 2007 issue of the New Yorker »

Sunday, April 26, 2009


Originally uploaded by suttonhoo
Ida Noyes Hall, University of Chicago
Hyde Park

Posting by cameraphone.

the hollow men

Illus: Howard Penning

There's a horrible hollow that fills the belly when you wake to the morning and recall the world has changed.

I felt it when my dad was in a coma, each morning wondering fresh if he would survive the day.

Felt it when I learned my husband of 10 years had lied to me most of that decade.

Felt it after death took my friends. My family.

Feel it when I open the paper to read the latest wrestling over what to do, how to confront the horrible things we have done; committed in the name of Freedom, the principle we claim to have built our country on. Felt it when I read this morning's piece by Frank Rich, who also alludes to Hannah Arendt, on The Banality of Bush White House Evil.

The truth about those hollows? They take much time to fill, and they're never entirely whole again.

The Hollow Men

We are the hollow men
We are the stuffed men
Leaning together
Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!
Our dried voices, when
We whisper together
Are quiet and meaningless
As wind in dry grass
Or rats’ feet over broken glass
In our dry cellar

Shape without form, shade without colour,
Paralysed force, gesture without motion;

Those who have crossed
With direct eyes, to death’s other Kingdom
Remember us ‑‑ if at all ‑‑ not as lost
Violent souls, but only
As the hollow men
The stuffed men.

-- T.S. Eliot

Saturday, April 25, 2009

here's my proposal

let's not pretend about these things.

where there are bruises let us blow on them softly
cup our palms across them sheltering without touching
the tender corpuscular bloom

where the blood breaks through the thin skin
pressure first then cool clear water

where bones have cracked
let's set them with a grimace
and a groan

let's lay down the bandages
while murmuring sympathies

let's know that honey
on a shallow wound will help it heal

but let's not expect
that we can bind them on our own

let's not pretend about these things.

Friday, April 24, 2009

toward an understanding

Despite Le Corbusier's interest in theory, his discourses were anything but cerebral abstractions, and conveyed a vigorous physicality thanks to the method through which he illustrated his thoughts. His visual aids were low-tech yet high-impact.

On the wall behind him, the architect would unroll and pin up a swath of yellow tracing paper as wide as a movie screen. While he spoke, he used varicolored chalks or crayons and sketched a profusion of pictograms, scrawled a welter of catchphrases, and ended up with a dense calligraphic mural like a Cy Twombly drawing avant la lettre.

Many such Corbusier lecture backdrops survive, intact or in tatters, thanks to souvenir hunters who swooped in and claimed them the second he exited the stage.

From Maman's Boy by Martin Filler in the 30 April issue of the New York Review of Books.

NYC - MOMA - Le Corbusier's Urban Planning for Algiers
Originally uploaded by wallyg

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

reading david whyte

The Opening of Eyes

That day I saw beneath dark clouds
the passing light over the water
and I heard the voice of the world speak out,
I knew then, as I had before
life is no passing memory of what has been
nor the remaining pages in a great book
waiting to be read.

It is the opening of eyes long closed.
It is the vision of far off things
seen for the silence they hold.
It is the heart after years
of secret conversing
speaking out loud in the clear air.

It is Moses in the desert
fallen to his knees before the lit bush.
It is the man throwing away his shoes
as if to enter heaven
and finding himself astonished,
opened at last,
fallen in love with solid ground.

-- David Whyte
from Songs for Coming Home
©1984 Many Rivers Press

@glasshill mentioned David Whyte with a rush and a sigh when we were hanging out last night, so I pulled him up this morning and gave read while I was still downing my first cup of coffee.

That first hour of the day seems to be dangerously emotional territory -- again I teared up, this time over this one, and a few others.

I thought I didn't know David Whyte's work, but browsing his online store I realized I did -- I read a book he wrote, many years ago, that I highly recommend, about work, and working, and Crossing the Unknown Sea »

poverty is a pollutant

In which:
I = Environmental Impact
P = Population
A = Affluence, and
T = Technology

The IPAT algorithm was proposed by ecologist Paul Ehrlich and the physicist John P. Holdren in the 1970s as a means of projecting our environmental impact on the planet.

In yesterday's New York Times John Tierney called attention to the counter note that is the Environmental Kuznets Curve (EKC) and the quantitative study it describes that suggests affluence acts as a positive force on environmental impact once it clears a collective threshold within society. More on that here »

As someone who lives along the tidy streets of affluence among my Prius driving neighbors I buy into the Kuznets Curve; but as someone who has traveled in countries where poverty spills into the streets and overflows into murky effluence in the air and water, I'd add this last little bit: When any of us live in poverty on this planet, we are all impacted by the ungainly industrial striving of those who are just entering this game and firing up the engines. The industrialization that powers our planet often (always?) means that *somebody* is living in cramped quarters and taking home low pay. These are conditions which frequently translate into the godawful mess of poor sanitation, miserable water supplies, and inadequate nutrition.

Under these conditions human potential is crippled and the earth also pays the price.

Poverty is a pollutant that cannot be contained. Environmental discrimination against impoverished communities is a well-documented phenomenon; we are foolish if we believe that it's only the folks downriver who will be impacted by the dioxins pumped into the water or by the mercury that despoils the lake.

Every effort made to alleviate poverty puts money in the save the planet piggy bank.

We are all connected.

Happy Earth Day.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

the visual perception of slants

Last year, researchers studied 34 students at the University of Virginia, taking them to the base of a steep hill and fitting them with a weighted backpack. They were then asked to estimate the steepness of the hill. Some participants stood next to friends during the exercise, while others were alone.

The students who stood with friends gave lower estimates of the steepness of the hill. And the longer the friends had known each other, the less steep the hill appeared.

The New York Times synopsis of the research recounted in Social support and the perception of the geographical slant (PDF) by researchers Schnall, Harber, Stefanucci and Proffit of the University of Virginia.

So if Sisyphus had friends, he wouldn't have been so screwed. (Or at least he wouldn't have thought he was.)

Sunday, April 19, 2009

(seeing red)
(seeing red)

Saturday, April 18, 2009

einstein's brain

Photo: Phillippe Halsman

a found haiku

until age seven
he repeated sentences
to himself softly

Found in New Information about Albert Einstein's Brain by Professor Dean Falk of Florida State University, published in Frontiers of Evolutionary Neuroscience. [1]

In his paper, which ScienceNOW did a lovely job of distilling, Falk suggests that "despite the fact that a large portion of Einstein’s cerebral cortex was superficially unremarkable, regions in and near his primary somatosensory and motor cortices were highly unusual, and it is tentatively suggested that these may have contributed to the neuroanatomical substrates for some of his remarkable abilities" -- including his musical ability, his "superior ability to conceptualize physics problems," and his habit of thinking in images and sensations instead of words.

Falk hypothesizes that these anomalies may have been responsible for Einstein's atypical way of thinking:

As an adult, Einstein famously observed that “the words or the language, as they are written or spoken, do not seem to play any role in my mechanism of thought. The psychical entities which seem to serve as elements in thought are certain signs and more or less clear images which can be ‘voluntarily’ reproduced and combined”. Einstein laughed when informed that many people always think in words, and emphasized that concepts became meaningful for him “only through their connection with sense-experiences”.

He was a synthetic thinker. Family members and friends have documented that, when stuck on a physics problem, Einstein would play the violin until, suddenly, he would announce excitedly, “I’ve got it!”.

It is interesting to contemplate that such synthesizing may have contributed to Einstein’s insights, and that his extraordinary abilities may, to some degree, have been associated with the unusual gross anatomy of his cerebral cortex in and around the primary somatosensory and motor cortices.

Also of interest (if you get off on this kind of thing) are the paleoanthropological techniques that Falk applied to reassemble Einstein's brain for study, which had long ago been thin sliced, mounted on slides, and distributed scattershot by its original custodian.

Video: Admiral Freebee - Einstein Brain

[1] If you're looking for it, the complete PDF of Prof. Falk's paper is to the right of the abstract, and available without charge, which is exceedingly cool.

in real life

Crazy that in a consumer's paradise like America we need a day to promote shopping, but the cause is a good one: Today is Record Store Day, where all kinds of events and in-store only releases are happening to encourage folks to shop their favorite indie record store in the flesh.
Chicago's Reckless Records is hosting live music across three locations »

And Pitchfork has posted a listing of all the releases that you can only get IRL »

It's ironic to me that my industry -- online commerce -- has posed the greatest threat to my dad's original industry -- the music business. When I was a kid, take your daughter to work day meant hanging out in a recording studio. My dad's vinyl collection overwhelmed his book collection (which was itself monumental), and the last time we sat down to breakfast he mentioned that he'd gotten in touch with an old friend and colleague, who was once the Art Director at Elektra, and to whom he once suggested the concept for the caterpillar logo on the Elektra 45s, above. ('Cause, you know, the Elektra butterfly was on the LPs...)

There are so many commonalities between the online space I've worked in for the last 15 years and the music industry he worked in, starting in the 60s; so many similarities between the way they each grew primordial out of the garage and grew into swanky conference rooms.

My theory? Many of the folks who work in the Internet space would have worked in the music business if they had born a few years earlier. It's the same kind of problem solving, the same kind of rough hewn industry, the same kind of cobble together a creative product and find a market for it so the kids can eat and so you feel like you've made something that matters at the end of the day.

And I'm more than certain that I wouldn't have found my groove as naturally as I did if my dad hadn't encouraged me to do what he did: listen to your heart, first, always, and feed the fire.

Friday, April 17, 2009

the banality of evil

Today the New York Times published the full CIA documents released by the Justice Department on Thursday detailing the interrogation techniques that were approved for use during the Bush Administration and its War on Terror.

The danger, of course, in reading excerpts from these documents before I’ve had my morning coffee is that the hard edges of day haven’t yet supplanted the soft boundaries of dreaming where emotions float close to the surface. Which means that this morning, while reading about how my country, with intent, tortured captives in their custody, I wept.

I knew all this before -- we all did. As President Obama pointed out in his statement on the documents, “the interrogation techniques described in these memos have already been widely reported.”

It’s the banality that’s horrifying. The simple labels, denuded of intent. The matter of fact assessments of their impacts.

Of Walling, a method in which the interrogator “quickly and firmly pushes the individual into the wall. ... The head and neck are supported with a rolled hood or towel ... to help prevent whiplash” it is decided: “while it may hurt ... any pain experienced is not of the intensity associated with serious physical injury.”

Of Wall standing, in which “The individual stands about four to five feet from a wall. ... His arms are stretched out in front of him, with his fingers resting on the wall.” it is decided: “any pain associated with muscle fatigue is not of the intensity sufficient to amount to ‘severe physical pain or suffering’ under the statute, nor, despite its discomfort, can it be said to be difficult to endure.”

Of Waterboarding, the effects of which Christopher Hitchens documented following his own experiments, it is determined: “In the absence of prolonged mental harm, no severe mental pain or suffering would have been inflicted, and the use of these procedures would not constitute torture within the meaning of the statute.” [1]

In his statement President Obama urged that we not prosecute the individuals responsible for the execution of the Bush directives; that we move forward from here because “nothing will be gained by spending our time and energy laying blame for the past.”

Of course I thought of Arendt when I read that; of her 1963 reflection on Eichmann’s Nuremberg Trial; of her conclusion that:

The trouble with Eichmann was precisely that there were so many like him, and that the many were neither perverted nor sadistic but were, and still are, terribly and terrifyingly normal. From the viewpoint of our legal institutions and of our moral standards of judgement, this normality was much more terrifying than all the atrocities put together, for it implied ... that this new type of criminal, who is indeed hostis generis humani, commits his crimes under circumstances that make it well-nigh impossible for him to know or to feel that he is doing wrong.

A Reporter at Large: Eichmann in Jerusalem V by Hannah Arendt in the 16 March 1963 issue of the New Yorker, p. 132

[1] Explaining and Authorizing Specific Interrogation Techniques in the 17 April 2009 New York Times.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Video: オオカミはブタを食べようと思った。
stop motion with wolf & pig

via @davidteter

temps perdu


I have a theory about how computer human interfaces shape our perception of time that took shape when I was just out of college. I went to school on the cusp of the transition -- maybe half of us used word processors and fewer owned their own. I put myself through school and the best I could afford was a Brother typewriter that I bought with my boyfriend (I would later buy out his share, with cash dollars pulled from the ATM, when he tossed me over). Which meant I wrote my papers out by hand, arrayed the work in progress in piles (around me on my bed, usually), scribbled and scratched and when I got where I was going, typed them out.

Just out of school I worked long hours in L.A. for a litigation consulting firm, creating court evidence -- scanning texts in question and creating callouts in PageMaker to call attention to the pertinent bits.

The output of my task was reams of paper handouts. It wasn't uncommon to deliver 1000+ pages to our attorneys, carefully indexed and correlated to their delivery of the evidence.

Sixty hour work weeks were not uncommon, and although I was exhausted I was always startled by how little I felt those thousands of pages that moved through my hands.

The theory that took shape was simple: in the absence of the physical artifact we lose our markers in time. In the virtual space I never felt the weight of the work. The hours I spent absorbed in the task flew by and felt much briefer than the hours I was familiar with when handwriting documents and shuffling paper piles in space.

Now, of course, the majority of my work is performed this way; although I still prefer to sketch initial UI designs on paper, or draft outlines or mind maps in the physical world -- and that sketch time is the time, in retrospect, that feels most real and is most memorable, when I look back on a project.

I think the emergence of the chronological information stream which characterizes the architecture of Web 2.0 -- posts that proceed chronologically in a long stream of information, with the most recent post at the top of the pile -- is an effort to restore those markers in world that conducts itself increasingly in the virtual space. The word blog was birthed from "web log", of course -- like a ship's log. Our diaries, our journals. I find I rely on my blog to help me keep track of the passing of time, to recall where I was and what I did, and has a year passed really, since then?

I spend hours in conversation with folks I've never met in real life. The common posture is laptop on my lap, fingers on the keyboard, eyes on the screen. How will this concretion of Twitter and Flickr and Facebook exchanges encode themselves in my memory over time? Will they shape my experience of the world the same way an hour's conversation in a cafe with a friend has? Will I remember it as clearly if I can't recall the way the light fell across his face, the weight and warmth of the coffee mug in my hand?

I'd like to think these exchanges are only a conduit to establishing a real life friendship -- but there are folks whom I may never meet in real life. Whom I could I pass on the street and not recognize, because although I might know their thumbnail snapshot I don't know their gait, or the way they carry their book bag, or the way they shyly say hi to a passing stranger.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


When you ask a person to jump, his attention is mostly directed toward the act of jumping and the mask falls so that the real person appears.

Photographer Philippe Halsman commenting on why he was in the habit of asking the folks he photographed (Dali, Monroe, Nixon) to jump.

Others he didn't ask, or if he did no record exists: Einstein. O'Keefe.

My search for photos from Halsman's iconic Jump Book resulted from a recent obsession with ideas about identity and the constructed self -- especially the self that we project online -- which was kicked into high gear by the swirl of ideas at the SxSW conference.

(No conclusions yet. Nothing to write about. If anything it's made it difficult to write at all.)

Halsman's idea behind the jump could be considered kin to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's ideas about Flow -- that state of optimal experience where one is entirely absorbed in the work at hand and finding satisfaction in it. The state of flow is also where, according to Csikszentmihalyi, where we find our true selves.

Curiously, at the same moment we forget ourselves.

Another thought that crossed my mind while I was googling Halsman images this morning: What possessed Halsman to merge Mao and Marilyn Monroe? And why can't I stop staring?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


Photo: Hubble's Greatest Hits in the Telegraph »

In space you can get in touch with your quantum self. I was a human cosmic ray detector.

Astronaut and Hubble Space Telescope repairman John Grunsfeld (who spent a little time living in a Zen monastery in Tokyo) commenting on how he was able to, during his spacewalk, "identify the different kinds of particles zooming through his eyeball by how bright the flashes were."

Grunsfeld is profiled in today's New York Times in a piece that explores his feelings over the cancellation of the Hubble program and his professional grace in moving forward with the work left to do as the massive telescope hunkers down to die.

The Telegraph recently ran Hubble's greatest hits -- a collection of remarkable images from space »

(And we're killing this program to channel resources towards, er, putting man on the moon? But didn't we already do that?)

Monday, April 13, 2009

in the vernacular

Flickr Slideshow: The Peter Zumthor Pool

In a society that celebrates the inessential, architecture can put up a resistance, counteract the waste of forms and meanings, and speak its own language.

The architect Peter Zumthor, who just picked up a Pritzker Prize »

the sound of silence

I told Dustin and Katharine, ‘Look, we’ve got traffic blocked for 20 blocks, we’ve got a police escort, we can’t do this over and over. Get on the bus and laugh, God damn it.’ I remember thinking, What the hell is wrong with me? I’ve gone nuts. The next day I looked at what we’d shot and went, ‘Oh my God, here’s the end of the movie: they’re terrified.’ My unconscious did that. I learned it as it happened.

Mike Nichols, director of The Graduate, in Sunday's New York Times.

Nichols is the subject of a film restrospective at MOMA.

Sunday, April 12, 2009


Easter in Atitlan

I’ve written before of the ways and habits of the Atitecos of Atitlan, or rather, related what others have observed about the people who live around the lake rimmed by three volcanoes in the Guatemalan Highlands. The contemporary Easter practices of these Maya who managed under Spanish conquest and the persistent presence of the Catholic Church to preserve their old stories and practices is no less interesting -- and perhaps it’s no accident that it brings us back to belly buttons and to the renewal of Spring:

her majesty

Just as the three volcanoes conceptually grew out of the waters of Lake Atitlan, the three church altarpieces rise above the floor of the church. The space beneath this floor contains a number of burials which Atitecos associate with sacrificial offerings, semideified ancestors, and indigenous kings. Tz’utujils also believe that the floor of their church constitutes a thing barrier separating them from the underworld, where all the creative and destructive elements inherent in nature gather together.

The most sacred opening into the underworld realm is a small hole called the pa ruchi’ jay xibalba (“at the doorway of the underworld”) or r’muxux ruchiliew (“navel of the face of the earth”) located 3m. west of the raised altar in the center of the nave’s floor. It is approximately a meter deep and 35cm. across and is normally covered with a removable flagstone. Among traditionalists, this hole is the principal access point leading to the underworld and the symbolic center of creation.


The navel hole at Santiago Atitlan is only uncovered once a year, at midnight prior to Holy Thursday during Easter Week. On the following day, Holy Friday, a great throng of Atitecos gather in the church to watch a massive wooden cross, on which the life-size sculpture of Christ with moveable arms has been nailed, being lowered into the hole.

bound cross

The placement of the cross of Christ in the ground signifies not only his entrance into the underworld of death, but also represents the means by which the resurrected God reemerges to new life from the center point of creation. One of the sacristans who participated in the ceremony told me that the cross is “planted” in the ground just as a seed is planted. Christ on the cross is thus reborn “just like new maize plants.”

From Allen J. Christenson's Art and Society in a Highland Maya Community.

Saturday, April 11, 2009


holga »

Friday, April 10, 2009

Video: Salvador Dali on What's My Line

speaking of more human

Illus: Yearbook Project: Excelsior 1968 by John Martz

When there is a picture, your attitude and approach changes — the human aspect is inserted.

Dr. Jonathan Halevy, the director of Shaare Zedek Medical Center, commenting in Tuesday's New York Times on a study kicked off by Dr. Yehonatan N. Turner -- who found that attaching a photograph of the subject to an x-ray file resulted in the delivery of "longer, more meticulous reports" by radiologists.

When my dad went down in red rock canyon country and wound up wired and intubated and in a coma at St. Mary's trauma center for an infection that none of us immediately understood, maybe six hours elapsed from the time I got the telephone call to the moment I boarded a flight to Grand Junction from O'Hare. I packed badly and regretted it for the next -- was it two weeks? -- that I stayed in Colorado, right there, doing whatever needed to be done, along with the rest of my immediate family.

The one thing I packed right was his photograph: a picture of him playing his Gibson, smiling like he does when he sings, which I posted next to his bloated and prone and unrecognizable form in Critical Care.

More than one nurse asked me: "Is that him?" Surprised. Amazed. And informed, I hoped.

Related: A study conducted by Marketing Sherpa, based on initial research by Stanford's Persuasive Technology Lab, showed that a more "personable" About Us page -- including a photograph of customer service folk -- elevated the conversion rate (that is, the rate at which visitors actually buy something from the site) by up to 30% for the people who visited that screen.

That's a remarkable statistic in ecommerce, and it's further evidence that technology is just a conduit.

It's people -- knowing them, loving them, digging them -- who are the prize.

I share therefore I am.

We’re very good at creating personal narratives but its the shared narratives that make us a culture.

Renny Gleeson on the Culture of Availability and Obligation at TED

p.s. TED toned down their opening title track. Better.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

please pass the crisps


I spent the day slogging through an endless spec in preparation for a meeting tomorrow, but feel just now as though I spent most of the day in a sun warmed nook of London hanging out with friends, drinking coffee and eating olives.

This is entirely due to a marathon listening session of podcasts by Robert Brook and Bobcat Rock, starting with Episode 8 in which they philosophize on all manner of things, and returning again to previous episodes -- some that I hadn't yet managed, some that I wanted to hear again -- just so I didn't have to say goodbye.

It appears there's a lovely new landing page as well -- perfect for bookmarking, to return to again and again »

noodle shop

Waiting for the noodles to come.


Meet my wet dream (every girl should have one): Twin poets from Portland. One “hard edged and tough,” “something of the pugilist”; the other “lush”, “Nureyev--each movement articulated”.

Matthew and Michael Dickman, profiled by Rebecca Mead in Couplet: A tale of twin poets in the 6 April 2009 issue of the New Yorker.

I’ve dated a twin and I’ve dated poets, but never all at once.

My twin was the taller of the two, the muscled one, as much as muscle shows itself in the second grade. We were “going steady” which meant at that raw age a few shy glances, a note passed between friends (“check ‘yes’.” I did.), and then nothing.

Did we hold hands? I can’t recall. Eat lunch together? Unlikely. Sit together in class? Impossible.

But his stamp was on me and I was his -- the whole class knew it. My parents did not. Second grade is not an age for going steady. Steve, I think his name was.

There must have been some fond exchange of affection however, because what I remember most was its absence. After a long summer of nothing to do with one another I expected we would pick up where we left off.

We didn’t.

Of our whole history I remember only the way he looked at me when I asked him why, and the disdain in his eyes when he explained: “You used to wear dresses.”

There were several poets, including one who failed in his promise to “teach the wind” my name, but it was only the first who transcended sentiment and burrowed into the hard nut of contention that bound us in perpetual heat. Arguing hours of philosophy and resolving argument in a rough tumble of perfect compatibility (I remember kisses of unique sympathy and thought maybe I imagined it until years -- years -- after we split and he mentioned the same, like mentioning a map lost and with it a whole continent).

We were ultimately undone by his Catholic conscience.

He immortalized the heat and argument into pitch perfect verse, delivered poems to me on carefully copied pages, and then took confession.

An act that wiped him clean, he told me, of our delicious immorality. I remained soiled; still damp from our coupling.

Too soon the burden of my sin got to be too much for him, and it undid us -- along with a larger assortment of complicated conditions.

Years later there would be a sudden brief clumsy moment in the dark when he pulled me close after much waiting and I pulled away from the shock of it. When I said nothing more and left the room. He stayed awhile, until it was entirely clear I wasn’t coming back, and then let himself out silently, closing the door behind him.

(Here is where I feel regret like a slow swelling Tsunami.)

If he wrote a poem about that moment, about the loss that accompanied it, the history that preceded it, the future that never followed; if he wrote a poem I have yet to read it.

Some poems by Matthew Dickman »
Some more by his brother Michael »

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

this is a perfect photograph

Video: Visual Acoustics trailer, a documentary about the architectural photographer Julius Shulman

a found poem

this is a perfect photograph
and if I went back
with an eight by ten
or a four by five

I could never have done it as well
as I did then.

It's not the camera
(I remember exclaiming)
it's the composition.

I pointed out how the windswept tree
the tip of the tree
the most remote area of the tree

was hanging down
close to the ground

but it seemed to be pointing
to a curved row of trees
in an orchard
way in the distance

it made a perfect "S" curve
in the composition

(and I said)

There's nothing you could change about this picture.

What Julius Shulman said to "the man in charge, the host on the Groucho Marx show. I always forget his name, but it's not important now." when the host looked at a Shulman photo from 1933 (sometime after that) and asked him: "If you went back there today, could you do it better, since this was taken apparently with your Vest Pocket Kodak?"

As recounted to Taina Rikala De Noreiga at Shulman's home in Hollywood Hills in 1990 and cited in Julius Shulman interview, 1990 Jan. 12 - Feb. 3, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

More Julius Shulman at:
The Getty »
The Fisher Gallery, USC »

Monday, April 06, 2009



That’s why I haven’t had a cheese steak.

My brother, who’s been living in Philly for the last eight months and will most likely leave as soon as he wraps up his graduate program, when I saw him over the weekend and related to him something I had just heard from Allen Christiansen at the U Penn Maya Weekend.

Namely that, tangled up within contemporary Mayan conceptions of ancestry, is the very potent possibility that we come to know the things that matter -- histories, remedies, right ways of being -- because the blood of the ancestors resides in our blood and helps us remember these things.

But unlike the euro-centric idea of ancestry which is top heavy with begats and begottens, in the Mayan world view one isn’t born into ancestry -- ancestry is tethered to place.

Nine months is usually what it takes to make the ancestors of a place your own: a period of gestation in which you live there, eat the local food[1] and contribute to the community.

After that you are of that place and the ancestors are your ancestors -- and once the ancestors have got your back, baby: you're golden. (Provided, of course, you do your part with the prayers and the flowers and the offerings and stuff.)

[1] Corn tortilla is the food that matters most to the Maya -- it bears a powerful resemblance to the Catholic Host in their world view.


Available in Determined (shown above) or Happy Pose.

Want more? Then maybe Baracklava is for you.

(Me -- I'm done. Enough already. Plus, I prefer my chia as a tasty beverage popular in Mexico.)

p.s. Looks like Walgreen's is done too »

Sunday, April 05, 2009

a great pity

There's no better test of funny than having your work read at 3am, and almost 14 hours and 500 pages in, the faithful were still chuckling over zingers like, "A great pity, now, that this unfortunate whale should be harelipped."

John O'Conner in the Weekend Financial Times writing of the annual Moby Dick marathon reading in New Bedford, Mass.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

home of the jelly omelet

home of the jelly omelet
Originally uploaded by suttonhoo
This is the Lee -- a double decker of turkey and pastrami
smeared with Russian dressing and topped with slaw at
the 4th St Deli in South Philly where the small sandwiches
are 17 oz. of meat and the jumbos -- like the Lee -- will
stop your heart without looking back.

Still. Doesn't mean I regret the blintzes smothered in sour
cream and sour cherries that we ordered as an appetizer
plate. But sorry that there wasn't room for the Linzer Tart.

This one's my brother's. I got the Reuben. We celebrated
his birthday by stopping at the first restaurant flashing
a "fresh baked cookies" neon sign in the window.

Posting by cameraphone from Philly.

the sphinx speaks

the sphinx speaks
Originally uploaded by suttonhoo
U Penn Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology
Posting by cameraphone.

Friday, April 03, 2009


Originally uploaded by suttonhoo
Dinner at the White Dog Cafe on Sansom Street in
Philadelphia, where they specialize in local foods
(delicious.) and taking it slow. But maybe that was
just our waiter taking the whole slow food movement
far too literally.

Regardless: All good. And highly recommended.

Posting by cameraphone from Philly, PA.

awkward moment

please make a note of it

Last night I was reminded what a complete nerd I am when my drinking companions looked at me through the din of the pub with fixed and glazed expressions while I explained I would have to leave pretty early so that I could pack for Philly where my sweetie and I would be taking in U Penn’s annual Maya Weekend.

Of course I had to persist, hoping to spark the fire in their eyes, explaining what a hottie Simon Martin is, and how I was pretty sure Karen Bassie would be presenting the Popol Vuh geo-specificity theory that she had cooked up with Google Earth and some crazy road tripping with our buddy Nick.

Polite nods were followed shortly by car bombs (Guinness + Bailey’s + Whiskey) and I can only hope that they’ve since forgotten how I like to spend my weekends.

showtunes for a queen

The Internets are bursting at the seams with the news that Obama gifted the Queen of England with an iPod -- but are paying faint attention to the fact that it was LOADED WITH BROADWAY SHOWTUNES.

Leave it to a German publication to report, with exactitude, the news that really matters. Adopted from Spiegel Online here's "Die royale Playlist" that Obama conferred with his gift:
"Oklahoma!" (no word whether it was just the title track of the whole dang soundtrack)
"If I Loved You", Jan Clayton, Carousel
"You'll Never Walk Alone", Jan Clayton, Carousel
"There's No Business Like Show Business", Ethel Merman, Annie Get Your Gun
"Once in Love with Amy (Where's Charley?)", Ray Bolger, South Pacific
"Some Enchanted Evening", South Pacific
"Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend", Carol Channing, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes
"Getting to Know You", Gertrude Lawrence, The King and I
"Shall We Dance?" Gertrude Lawrence, The King and I
"I Could Have Danced All Night", Julie Andrews, My Fair Lady
"I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face", Rex Harrison, My Fair Lady
"The Party's Over (Bells Are Ringing)", Judy Holliday
"Maria", West Side Story
"Tonight", West Side Story
"Seventy Six Trombones", The Music Man
"Everything's Coming up Roses", Ethel Merman, Gypsy
"The Sound of Music"
"Try to Remember", Jerry Orbach, The Fantasticks
"Camelot", Richard Burton
"If Ever I Would Leave You", Robert Goulet, Camelot
"Hello, Dolly!", Carol Channing
"If I Were a Rich Man", Zero Mostel, Fiddler on the Roof
"People", Barbra Streisand, Funny Girl
"On a Clear Day (You Can See Forever)", John Cullum
"The Impossible Dream", Richard Kiley, Man of La Mancha
"Mame", Charles Braswell
"Cabaret", Liza Minnelli
"Aquarius", Ronald Dyson, Hair
"Send in the Clowns", Judy Collins, A Little Night Music
"All That Jazz", Chita Rivera, Chicago
"One", A Chorus Line
"Tomorrow", Andrea McArdle, Annie
"Don't Cry for Me Argentina", Patti LuPone, Evita
"And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going", Jennifer Holliday, Dreamgirls
"Memory", Elaine Paige, Cats
"The Best of Times", George Hearn, La Cage Aux Folles
"I Dreamed a Dream", Aretha Franklin, Les Misérables
"The Music of the Night", Michael Crawford, The Phantom of the Opera
"As If We Never Said Goodbye", Elaine Paige, Sunset Blvd.
"Seasons of Love", Rent

Sure he could have loaded it with American rock or blues or jazz tunes, but would HRH have dug Springstein half as much as the title track from Camelot? Or Zero Mostel singing If I Were a Rich Man? As a gift, Obama's playlist, loaded onto Apple technology, so beats a bald eagle Steuben paperweight.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

the day the music died

That is Dr. King's briefcase, just as it was. His brush. His pajamas. That's a can of shaving cream there on top. And you can see his book, 'Strength to Love,' peeping from the pocket.

Life Magazine writer Mike Silva commenting on Henry Groskinsky's photograph of the luggage Martin Luther King left behind the day he was assassinated.

Life Magazine has published -- for the first time -- the photographs that Henry Groskinsky took at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis the day the music died »

via @minorjive and @adamserwer
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