Monday, September 28, 2009

anatomy lesson

I don’t wish to touch hearts. I don’t even want to affect minds very much. What I really want to produce is that little sob in the spine of the artist-reader.

Vladimir Nabokov as quoted by Arthur Krystal in yesterday's New York Times Book Review.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

tell me a story

Posting by cameraphone from the
Illinois Storytelling Festival
at Dominican University,
River Forest, IL

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

a fine web we weave

Photo: Fred R. Conrad for the New York Times

Not one thread ever broke on the loom — it’s that strong.

Nicholas Godley, an American fashion designer living in Madagascar, remarking in today's New York Times on the textile created from the silk of the golden orb spider, which he and a colleague and a legion of assistants painstakingly gathered and wove.

That spectacular saffron color is native to the silk -- no dyes were applied.

The strength of the spider silk is no surprise, given the research that Randy Lewis has conducted into the marvelous material »

Monday, September 21, 2009

as cited

Attended the Saturday afternoon sessions of NIU’s conference on Crafting a Maya Identity. (The link appears to have expired or else the server died, so apologies for the lack of reference.) The afternoon sessions were concerned with “Indigenous Kitsch” -- tourist art in the Yucatan that has no historical antecedent outside the tourist trade, although in recent years the handicrafts have drawn from Classic Maya bas-relief for much of its subject matter.

The conference was accompanied by a lovely exhibit of artists’ works, and many of the Mayan artists were in attendance.

The usual questions about “is it art” were asked, as were questions of cultural identity. Not mentioned (unless it was covered in the morning sessions) were textiles as art and/or kitsch. Witness: I have in my possession some lovely table runners and pillow cases from Mexico and Guatemala, and although they were created on traditional Mayan backstrap looms and borrow from traditional patterns, I’m pretty sure the Classic Maya didn’t have a lot of call for pillow cases like these.

Mary Katherine Scott, who curated the exhibition and in part organized the conference, presented her paper on “Representing the Maya: When is it Appropriate to Call ‘Appropriations’ Art”. She drew extensively on referential imagery to explicate her subject matter -- Andy Warhol’s works put in an appearance as did Roy Lichtenstein. An extensive scattering of classic Mayan and Olmec artifacts were also visually referenced.

When she didn’t reference her own photographs to M.K. Scott, she referenced the imagery, almost universally, to Google Images.

I had hoped to ask her about it during Q&A but there was none following her presentation, and the panel discussion led to more interesting topics, and I had no interest in derailing it with this small matter.

But is it a small matter? To cite a reference engine that has no agency of its own as a source for imagery? Google Images only points to images created by others, and the actual citations could easily have been obtained by clicking through to the destination page and culling the reference from the parent source. Something, certainly, that this scholar had to do, because she used large images, not the small thumbnails that are rendered for Google Image search.

In each case she would have found a human being or an institution responsible for the making of that image. In each case it is that person or organization that should have been cited.

Not only was it horribly ironic that in presenting her criticism of historical appropriations she would have inappropriately appropriated imagery without proper attribution (say *that* three times fast); but I found it especially troubling, as someone whose trade depends upon architecting websites so that they may be found via Google and other channels of discovery, that she would have referenced a transitory source. Google Image search results may well change from day to day, depending upon the availability of the site serving the image and its competition with other images. There is no promise or contract in place that will ensure an image found there yesterday can be found again today. Perhaps if M.K. Scott had cited the keyword used to trigger the query the citation would be more complete and have a better chance of being reproduced, but really? Has the Chicago Manual of Style approved citing a search engine as an appropriate citation?

Please tell me no.

p.s. The image above is a holga shot from the Epcot Center sometime back when I was in Orlando for a conference. It’s Disney’s version of a Mayan pyramid, and it’s all kinds of wrong. If you care to reference it elsewhere please go with “Photo by: Dayna Bateman who posts to Flickr as suttonhoo.” Even though the image may sometimes be found in Google Images.

Saturday, September 19, 2009


ladies of the church

I shot this with my holga just after I visited the Lutheran ladies in the church kitchen off to the right where they were laying out the lemon bars and the brownies for the public reception following my grandmother’s service. Just after I carried in the trays of pickled herring which I was concerned no one would eat and everyone devoured. Just before the funeral began.

We had a private reception later, for family, in the little boating community where my aunt and uncle live, overlooking the water in the summer afternoon light. The buffet was (if I remember right) stacked high with shrimp and fish and steamed clams and thoughtful vegetable preparations. Delicious. Polished. A bit distant from the grief.

The reception in the church gym was fed by rye bread and cold cuts and lefse gone wrong (no no no: we do not mix the sugar and the cinnamon into the butter before we spread it and roll the little pancake. no.). It was just like all those buffets held in church gyms: suits and skirts looking strange against baseboards and the worn and weary free throw lines scratched out on the floor. Old friends and family counting the years, catching up, tallying the time.

I associate my grandmother so strongly with this church that I burst into tears when my aunt suggested we might have her service somewhere else. Childish tears which I tried quickly to bury. It wasn’t my call, I had no right to protest, but I was relieved when it came around in the end to this and we remembered her in the pews where she raised her children and churched her grandchildren.

Where she recited the Apostle’s Creed like a magic incantation and comforted her heart with hymns sung from memory. Where she shuffled the pages of her program and engineered that transference that is so crucial to people of formal faith: that others hold the same hope, believe the same stories, light the same candles.

Where she tried so hard to save our souls.

Friday, September 18, 2009

sincerely yours

metra seat

There's a quiet scene in the movie Julie & Julia where Julia Child travels to Boston from Paris with the co-author of her momentous cookbook to meet a friend who is in publishing.

We've heard about this friend all the way through the movie, and it only becomes clear when they arrive at the train station that Julia has never actually laid eyes on her.

They're pen pals. They've been pen pals for many years.

Meryl Streep plays the bit brilliantly: a little dismissive in a "don't you worry about it" way when her colleague appears alarmed that she's never actually met this important contact. Because so much depends upon this friendship now -- it will be the bridge that gets the cookbook published, and they both seem to know it.

At last the friend arrives and they know each other instantly. The clip isn't easily found online which isn't surprising because it contains no pots or pans; there is no food in the frame, or ecstatic eating. There are only the words, at least as I remember them -- "my dear friend"-- spoken low as the small woman arrives in a rush and takes both of Julia's hands in her own, welcoming her from far way, knowing her from old.

It's my favorite scene of the movie.

I'm firming up plans for a long weekend in London and afield where, among other lovely things, I'll be meeting up with some of my pen pals.

The giddy: it grows.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

don't know when I'll be back again

safe home

You can fly around the globe in Google Earth using the flight simulator feature.

(Mr. Hoo tells me that "everybody knows that.")

Found, along with the answer to life, the universe and everything, in Google easter eggs: 15 best hidden jokes in today's Telegraph »

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

ghost stories

ghost stories
Originally uploaded by suttonhoo
Spending a working evening in Ann Arbor bridging two meetings, which means leaving the office around 5.30 for the Sweetwater Cafe where they make my ginger/honey/lemon tea the way I like it (and list it on the menu even), and then dinner at Zola where their fish can be trusted (tonight it's salmon; before -- miracle of miracle -- it was halibut cheeks, that strange facial meat that shreds like crab).

More work to do still -- it's been this way for a while now, will be this way for a while longer, and for now that's okay.

I've been listening in to the music and the margins of conversations all evening and I have been deciding things: Those two at the cafe were in love; he a little more than she. These two beside me now as I nosh my asparagus at the bar are sleeping together, or getting ready to, or did once, but are not in love. They're not believing enough. Not in each other, not in themselves, not in love.

The waitress is rude, but only because she's better than this and uncomfortable serving people when she should be served. Her parents are well off and are bankrolling her tuition at UofM but insisted she take a job for spending money. She wears the pearl studs she received for her high school graduation.

I suspect none of these assertions are true.

If I talked to any of these people for even a little while I would learn a hundred truths that would undo the glue of my fictional narratives.

But tonight I prefer my cocoon.

Posting by cameraphone.

like the lady says

like the lady says
Originally uploaded by suttonhoo
Posting by cameraphone from
Ann Arbor, MI

Monday, September 14, 2009

can't you see

Photo: Pablo Casals, 1954 by Yousuf Karsh

Years later, when this portrait was on exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, I was told that an elderly gentleman would come and stand in front of it for many minutes each day. When the curator, by this time full of curiosity, ventured to inquire gingerly, “Sir, why do you stand day after day in front of this portrait?” he was met with a withering glance and the admonition, “Hush, young man, hush - can’t you see, I am listening to the music!”

The photographer Yousef Karsh, via his website, which came to me via @duckunix. (thank you)

dirty job

I always thought of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg as birdlike -- small, fragile, hollow of bone. Unlike Mr. Hoo who is a Supreme Court junkie and voraciously follows each session and season, I don't know the quirks and predilections of our nine justices: I know only their rulings, their dissents, their precedent making and citing as a mass.

Which may be why I wasn't expecting her strength. She is wiry, yes, and petite; Bader Ginsburg stepped onto the stage at Spertus last night wearing a jeweled open throat v-neck which I only remark upon because it was unsettling and unexpected to see bare a throat that is usually bound up by lace. She wore a black diaphanous shawl over her shoulders, wing-like.

She was there to speak on From Benjamin to Brandeis to Breyer: Is There a Jewish Seat on the U.S. Supreme Court? (her host, Spertus, is a Jewish learning and cultural organization in Chicago) and she delivered a solid history lesson on Judah Benjamin, a soon-to-be Confederate who was the first Jew to decline a Supreme Court nomination in favor of a Senate Seat, and then on the anti-semitism that Brandeis faced even within the court (his peer McReynolds would habitually leave the conference room when Brandeis spoke and refused to be photographed with his peer).

Her lecture was serviceable but unremarkable. It was in the question and answer session that my crush grew and during which it became apparent that she's no sparrow -- she's a gryphon. Fierce, watchful, talons at the ready, guarding our golden hoard of Justice from thieving self-interests.

Slow and deliberative in her response, as I suppose anyone might be on whose words the fate of weighty matters relies, she spoke with careful conviction and supreme confidence without a shade of arrogance on the questions put to her -- Should a judge rely more on empathy or impartiality? Did she expect that Roe v. Wade was headed for an upset? In which direction did the Court's sympathies lie regarding death penalty cases? What about that Hilary movie?

She spoke of how she keeps in her chambers the words in Hebrew from Deuteronomy: "Justice, Justice; Thou Should Pursue Justice," and it's true that every opinion she shared last night was steeped in this conviction. It was a like a fragrance that couldn't be laundered out, no matter the succession of spin cycles. It pervaded every word, chosen and delivered.

Whether she came by the unwavering solidity of her character through an early predisposition or through a life of public service in which she has pursued justice as her day job, I don't know. But I hung on every word. It was impossible not to. Her conviction that public discussion is a public duty. Her confession that death penalty cases and the 11th hour vigils that are a matter of course when one comes before the court are "the one part of the job I dislike. I dislike it intensely," and yet she will not recuse herself from these cases as other Justices have done (on the grounds that the death penalty is cruel and unusual punishment), because she feels it's important to have a voice in these matters.

It's a dirty job, and I'm glad we've got a dame on the bench to get it done.

The Opposite of Law »
Nothing Like a Dame »

Saturday, September 12, 2009

2 1/2 horsepower sandwich engine

Sandwich, IL was known for its ag engines and industrial corn
husking/shucking power from the 1880s until they sold the plant
to the New Idea Co. in Coldwater, Ohio in 1930.

That's when the jobs went away.

Posting by cameraphone from the Sandwich Fair.

how it's done.

Biscuits & gravy with a side of scrambled eggs
at the Sandwich Fair.

Posting by cameraphone from Sandwich, IL

Est. 1888

Posting by cameraphone
from Sandwich, IL

Friday, September 11, 2009

Surface Area Required To Power The World (revision)

New information design crush. Mccandelish's whole stream is a dream.

Be sure to embiggen this one.

staying alive

Robert Reich on the Public Option

I love how Robert Reich lays thing out. I remain mystified by folks who don't think we have a responsibility as a wealthy, populous nation to provide affordable health care for our citizenry. I haven't blogged about it before now because I get apoplectic just thinking about, and that leads to complete incoherence.

We need this. Now is too late, but it will have to do.

What we face is above all a moral issue; at stake are not just the details of policy, but fundamental principles of social justice and the character of our country.

President Barack Obama citing Senator Ted Kennedy in his health care address on Tuesday

Thursday, September 10, 2009

one great leap for manny klein

Barnett Hoffman on Old Jews Telling Jokes

Mr. Hoo and I have a running Monday date with Simon Schama and his show the Power of Art where Schama conjures up the stories of the lives of great artists and never leaves me without believing that making art is as hard as it is worthwhile. (And also is very likely to get you laid.)

Come to find out that Schama also applies his quintessential head bob to the telling of Jewish Jokes: he'll be appearing at the Spertus Center during the Chicago Humanities Festival in November doing precisely that.

Simon Schama Tells Jewish Jokes
Sunday, November 8 from 12 noon to 1 pm

Simon Schama Tells Jewish JokesWorld-renowned historian and cultural critic Simon Schama is best known as the droll, erudite host of the BBC’s A History of Britain and Simon Schama’s Power of Art. But he also indulges in a secret passion: collecting and recounting Jewish jokes. Schama joins Chicago Humanities Festival artistic director Lawrence Weschler to share some of his jokes and unpack their complex cultural resonances in a sort of klezmer slapdown.

Simon Schama is professor of history and art history at Columbia University and the author of over a dozen books. His articles have appeared in The New Yorker and the New York Review of Books.

Tickets are $10 in advance, on sale September 21. $15 cash at the door. Students and teachers eligible for free tickets. For tickets, call the Chicago Humanities Festival at 312.494.9509 or visit

John Hodgman will be there too. Different venue.

I love Fall in Chicago.
See you there.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

49 days

the 50th day 49 days
A friend of mine is a practicing Tibetan Buddhist and when she learned of my Grandmother’s death she asked when. “I’ve started the prayers,” she said.

Her tradition believes that the soul hovers about for 49 days before making its departure. There are things to settle before one may go; matters that must be attended to. She laughed a little when she told me, saying: “So precise.”

Forty-nine days.

For the duration of those days candles are lit, prayers are said, offerings are made. Goodbyes are, perhaps, forestalled.

Until the 50th day.

Which is today.


Video trailer for District 9 (which came out a few weeks ago)

Video trailer for Tim Burton's 9 (premiering today)

And Nine (embedding disabled upon request) coming out this November »

Yeah. I don't know what's up with all these 9s either. Just thought it was curious.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

wild thing

Video Trailer: Where the Wild Things Are


I can get into that.

Plus the kid looks a whole lot like my Portland honey, J-H.

The movie adaptation of Where the Wild Things Are opens October 16th.

Sendak's book terrified me when I was a kid. Not in a nervous Cat in the Hat kind of a way; in a subverting the dominant paradigm I want to do that too kind of way.

Of especial interest is the documentary that director Jonez has also made about Where the Wild Things Are author and illustrator Maurice Sendak, a clip of which is available via the NYTimes website (left side rail) »

The documentary airs Oct 14th on HBO. (Or so says the NYT. Nothing online at HBO about it quite yet.)


Originally uploaded by suttonhoo
Posting by cameraphone on Sunday Morning from home (sweet home).

Saturday, September 05, 2009

o'hare oasis

o'hare oasis
Originally uploaded by suttonhoo
Picking up some freight near the airport. Spotted this along the way.

Posting by cameraphone.

Friday, September 04, 2009

do you see what I see

the SAAM camel

I don't know what the SAAM camel sees, but thanks to the Museum of Animal Perspectives I've got a good bead on what a cranky cow is all about.

Update: Swapping in an armadillo because the cow has evaporated -- as have most of the videos in MAP's stream. So goes the Internet.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

gloomy sunday

Video: Paul Robeson sings Gloomy Sunday

I’ve sat in on classes where people are talking about the ’30s and about civil rights and about Martin Luther King, and there’s this gap, as if this man never existed. He’s one of the giants of the civil rights movement, and no one knows.

Joan Landzberg, who witnessed the Peekskill Riots at 13, speaking in today's New York Times of performer and civil rights advocate Paul Robeson who was the headline act of the concert that kicked off those riots.

According to the Times:
Born in 1898, the son of a slave who became a minister, he was the third black student admitted to Rutgers University. He became the dominant college football player of his time, was elected to Phi Beta Kappa, was class valedictorian and earned a law degree from Columbia University.

He almost single-handedly legitimized black spirituals and folk music as an art form and became perhaps the world’s most famous concert singer as well as a renowned actor. His performance in “Othello,” on Broadway in 1943, was one of the most celebrated of his time. He was befriended by Jawaharlal Nehru, Noel Coward, Sergei Eisenstein, Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce, Gertrude Stein and Emma Goldman.

He became a pioneering and uncompromising human rights advocate. He spoke out against segregation decades before the civil rights movement began, and was a fierce opponent of colonialism when that was barely an issue.

It's fairly certain Robeson's Communist sympathies are the reason he doesn't appear in our histories.

Tomorrow night there will be a musical celebration of Paul Robeson in Peekskill, NY hovering quite near the anniversary of those riots (which the People's Weekly World has written about at length).

Robeson Celebration
September 4, 2009 8:00pm
Paramount Center for the Arts
Peekskill, NY
An Evening with Friends, A Celebration of the Legacy of Paul Robeson
A benefit concert featuring David Amram, Roy Haynes, Ty Jones, Tao Rodriguez-Seeger, Kenneth Anderson, Beth Lamont, Jon Batiste Band, Ray Blue and more special guests

Wednesday, September 02, 2009


Photo: Mark Menjivar

A refrigerator is both a private and a shared space. One person likened the question, "May I photograph the interior of your fridge?" to asking someone to pose nude for the camera. Each fridge is photographed "as is." Nothing added, nothing taken away.

Photographer Mark Menjivar, in his artist's statement for You Are What You Eat, a photographic series of refrigerator interiors.

No permalink available, unfortunately, so click on Project > You are what you eat from the link to find the work.

I learned of Menjivar's fascinating photos in the September | October 2009 issue Orion Magazine.

I considered shooting my own fridge for this post and then decided against it. Too naked.

Although I might be tempted to take a timed interior shot for the In the Fridge Flickr group »

From one of the group's admins, Roo Reynolds:
I hate to sound weird, but this group is for photos taken from inside refrigerators with the door closed. All other images are liable to be removed from the pool. Thanks.

under the bleachers

under the bleachers

Even though I'm not a big sports fan I'm a huge fan of the spaces beneath the bleachers (and not for the reasons you might think).

The hidden space created there; the muffled noise and din of feet and voices overhead; the blast bright lights slicing through the slats into the dark; the smell of wood and dirt; the chill of night games, Fall in the air.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

ella es el matador

It’s a testament to the filmmakers of the strangely moving Ella es el Matador (She is the Matador) that, regardless of what you think about bullfighting, you want to see these women in ring.

And you want to find one of your own.[1]

Airing on PBS POV in September »

[1] Figuratively.

their anniversary

One sun drenched afternoon in Boulder while I was hiking the trail behind my place I met up with an awkward academic on the summit ridge. I had planted myself on a rock and he came over the hill, nowhere near the trail, dressed in clothes not entirely designed for hiking with a big wooly sheepdog in tow. He was visiting from Korea, staying with friends. The sheepdog belonged to his hosts.

He really wanted to talk, and I was polite but a bit icy, because I didn't.

He kept talking.

For nearly an hour we talked on that ridge and I learned about his engineering work before I learned, most importantly, about his loss.

His story spilled over like a faucet left open, the kettle overfull.

Some few years before he and his wife had been visiting New York when, on the return, she was bumped from the flight. He had something to attend to so he went ahead rather than staying behind with her. Her flight the next day, the one she boarded with their first child in her belly, was KAL Flight 007, which was shot down shortly after that by Soviet aircraft when it errantly violated Soviet airspace.

She never returned home.

His every gesture was saturated with anguish and regret.

Today is the anniversary of that flight.

I hope he has company. I hope he has someone to talk to.
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