Sunday, May 31, 2009

the opposite of law

We talk about making decisions and doing the best you can and then moving on. How illness is a distraction that must be defeated so that you can focus on the real work.

I learn that her husband makes a sublime Grand Marnier cake. (Recipe needed.) That she adores the opera, which is fascinating to me, because it is all madness, murder and uncontrolled passion, the opposite of law.

But maybe not.

The artist Maira Kalman in conversation with Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, as blogged in the New York Times.


a found poem

As I cycled back from the square
an icy wind blew in my face

The streetlights were dark
the moon pointed the way

As I approached the overpass
a wave of heat swept over me
it got hotter as I rode further

I heard a song drifting my way
saw lights in the distance

Thousands of people
were standing guard
on the bridge
and the approach roads

Singing under the night sky

With our flesh and blood
we will build a new great wall
Arise, arise, arise!

they stood steadfast
confident their bodies
could block soldiers
and tanks

Packed together
they gave off a blast of heat
as though every one
was a blazing torch

Found in China's Forgotten Revolution by Yu Hua in today's New York Times.

Yu Hua writes that few young Chinese know anything about the protests at Tiananmen because the story isn't told in China.

As I went digging for the image of the student who stood down the tanks I wondered what his name was. Turns out no one knows »

Says the Times of London: "Photographs of the face-off are banned in China and blocked on the internet by the Great Firewall of China. Few Chinese have ever seen the image that for the rest of the world symbolises the student movement of that spring in 1989."

"Renmin" means "The People."

Saturday, May 30, 2009

I wish I were Isabel.

Frank Lloyd Wright, Isabel Roberts house, River Forest, Illinois, 1907. Plan. Built late in the Chicago period, when Wright had found freedom of expression.

This may be my favorite Wright.

where there's more of singing and less of sighing

Where the West Begins

Out where the skies are a trifle bluer,
Out where friendship's a little truer,
That's where the West begins:
Out where a fresher breeze is blowing,
Where there's laughter in every streamlet flowing,
Where there's more of reaping and less of sowing
That's where the West begins.

Out where the world is in the making,
Where fewer hearts in despair are aching,
That's where the West begins;
Where there's more of singing and less of sighing,
Where there's more of giving and less of buying,
And a mana makes friends without half trying,
That's where the West begins.

Picked this up at the Arts & Crafts Chicago show this morning at Concordia University in River Forest: it's a 1920s print with a piece by a fellow named Arthur Chapman -- whom Google tells me is a classic cowboy poet -- in the original frame. It's a lovely spot printing job -- although I'm not convinced the bristle cone pine and the mesas make a whole lot of sense together.

Still. Makes me lonesome for the American West.

Also brought home a couple of oak pieces to fill out the floor plan. Because that's the rule: there's no leaving an Arts & Crafts show without a little oak.

the peonies are rioting

Thursday, May 28, 2009

like choosing friends

Photo of Sam Maloof armchair by Jonathan Pollock

There’s a lot of work being done today that doesn’t have any soul in it. The technique may be the utmost perfection, yet it is lifeless. It doesn’t have a soul. I hope my furniture has a soul to it.

Designer/Woodworker Sam Maloof, as cited in Maloof on Maloof, a Smithsonian American Art Museum online exhibition. The self-taught furniture maker Sam Maloof passed away last Thursday at 93.

In a story broadcast on NPR a month before he died Maloof was quoted as saying:

When making furniture, start with the legs: They're like values, principles, beliefs. Choosing the arms is like choosing friends. And the seat keeps you upright, steady and looking ahead toward goals and the future.

The Riverside Art Museum is running a retrospective exhibit of Maloof's work, Grace and Grain, through July 2nd.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


It’s like birdwatching -- but with buildings.

So said Mr. Hoo when he emailed me some links re Frank Lloyd Wright in and around Buffalo, NY last week when I was just a few scant hours away in Warren, PA. He suggested that, as long as I was in the neighborhood, I should take an extra day to see a few -- including the tremendous Martin complex right in the city, and Graycliff, also built for the Martins and a brief drive outside the city limits on the shores of Lake Erie.

But my schedule didn’t have any give in it, so I made my plans to return home right after the last of the meetings wrapped up, do what I had to do to ship off some more work, speak to a gathered assembly of creative types in Chicago, and then daytrip into Manhattan the following day.

And then, unforeseen, the last of the meetings canceled, and I was left with *just* enough time to stop by Graycliff on my way to the airport in Buffalo (and perhaps enough time to squeeze in the Martin House in the city, if only it weren’t closed on Tuesdays...).

I squeaked in for the 2 o’clock tour as the docent was corralling the only other folks to materialize -- a couple from Sweden who had taken in the Martin house the day before. Our docent was two unsteady years into her volunteer stint, and delivered the story line like someone who didn’t entirely believe the fiction: “Frank Lloyd Wright carried the octagon through the negative spaces of the facade. (Can you see it? I’ve never been able to see it.)” She was a stern task master, insisting on stopping at the predefined spots on the tour and reviewing her mental notes before we moved on, all three of us eager to get under the eaves.

But we did all right. And we got to see the summer place that Wright built for the Martins sometime in the late ‘20s, which was open and wide and penetrated by clear glass panes throughout -- something that Isabelle Martin insisted upon, given her failing eyesight. (No colored art glass in evidence.)

The central living area opened on both sides to the drive and to the lake shore, the doors and windows alternating in balanced syncopation (the door on the left confronted a window on the right, and vice versa) to minimize strong drafts through the core of the house while still encouraging cooling breezes. It felt very much like the receiving area of Unity Temple, although where that is a place in between the primary spaces (the Sanctuary and the Meeting Hall) this was a place where living took place, rooted in the most impressive Frank Lloyd Hearth I’ve seen to date.

The hearth was flush to the floor and as tall as a standing man -- if that man were Frank Lloyd Wright -- and it was populated, on the day I was there, with thick logs tented together like a traditional campfire. Ablaze I imagine it would light and warm the entire room.

There were echoes of the Heurtley House here -- a screened stairway that led to a long promenade hallway, opening into rooms that overlooked the lake. Settled, refined, surprisingly without ostentation. A place to remove the working world mask and be still awhile.

Something I could use a little more of right now -- if only I didn't have to get back to work.

Monday, May 25, 2009


Warren, PA

blood brothers

Illus: Norman Rockwell, Blood Brothers (1968)

Inspired by The Dead Matador by Edouard Manet, Rockwell initially portrayed a black man and his white friend dead in a ghetto. With the war in Indochina raging, Look requested that Rockwell substitute a Vietnamese village for the inner city. Rockwell's haunting revision showed two dead marines -- one black, one white -- in a pool of melding blood. "His idea for the painting," Claridge wires in Norman Rockwell: A Life, "was the visual mixing of blood flowing from both men, reminding the audience that skin color didn't affect the deepest levels of human connection."

Look again passed on the piece, notifying Rockwell that an African American editor at the magazine found the painting "patronizing." The comment wounded Rockwell and led to some self-doubt. But any misgivings about Blood Brothers receded in time. According to Claridge, Rockwell ultimately concluded, "Look lost its nerve."

From Killed Cartoons: Casualties from the War on Free Expression, edited by David Wallis.

Saturday, May 23, 2009


The Masons take a lot of heat for their secret handshake bury me with my sheepskin stuff, but it's important to remember that the roots of masonry lie in being handy.

Masons are the ultimate handymen.

And handymen are hot.

(And what's with the Mason Jar? Are they behind those too?)

Masonic Temple
Evanston, IL

Friday, May 22, 2009

something I regret

On my last day during a trip to Greece a long time ago, following my illegal activities on Kos, I wandered around the Plaka in Athens before catching my flight home.

I passed a Greek Priest in street vestments. He had a kind face and we exchanged smiles. I turned into a music store and exited a short while later to find him waiting for me. He asked me, in Greek, if I would buy him an orange juice.

I understood him perfectly (I had been studying modern Greek) but I pretended I did not, mostly because I didn't understand why a kind Greek priest would ask me to buy him an orange juice. And it frightened me.

I shook my head and continued on. He looked sad and mystified.

His memory will sometimes materialize for no good reason; a regret that nags at me like his unslaked thirst.

the notificator

twitter business model?
Originally uploaded by inky
To aid persons who wish to make or cancel appointments or inform friends of their whereabouts, a robot message carrier has been introduced in London, England.

Known as the “notificator,” the new machine is installed in streets, stores, railroad stations, or other public places where individuals may leave messages for friends.

The user walks up on a small platform in front of the machine, writes a brief message on a continuous strip of paper and drops a coin in the slot. The inscription moves up behind a glass panel where it remains in public view for at least two hours so that the person for whom it is intended may have sufficient time to observe the note at the appointed place.

The machine is similar in appearance to a candy-vending device.

From the August 1935 issue of Modern Mechanix.

Posted by inky to Flickr
Found via @h0h0h0

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

google evolves

People really want to do stuff real time and I think they [Twitter] have done a great job about it. I think we [Google] have done a relatively poor job of creating things that work on a per-second basis.

Google co-founder Larry Page in his closing remarks at Google's Zeigeist Conference, as reported in The Guardian.

I thought it was interesting that on the heels of this comment Google, which has the delightful habit of rolling out unique art on their home page to celebrate calendar events like historic birthdays and the Olympic Games and holidays, featured an image that drilled down to news results for a news story that has just hit the presses: that of the Missing Link Found in Germany.

It's possible that Google has been spotlighting breaking news stories with their Googleart for some time, rather than running a easily anticipated commemoration of an occasion or historic marker. It's possible that I only noticed it today because the Guardian article was fresh in my mind.

It's also possible that Google, one of the most prescient creatures on the Internet, is doing everything it can to evolve into the kind of life form that will continue to thrive in the changing online landscape.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

traveling violation

traveling violation
Originally uploaded by suttonhoo
Beef on a weck violates all my rules about what *not* to eat when I'm on the road:

Meals absent of vegetable matter.

It is all these things with a side of potato salad (and no: potatoes do not count as vegetable matter. not on the road. not at home. not never.).

This is roast beef in a gentle au jus resting on a salted (big kosher salt salted like soft pretzels salted) kaiser roll accompanied by horseradish. The menu said horseradish *sauce* but for my money this is the real deal -- nothing mayo like about it the way some horseradish sauces can be. This is mostly raw grated root smear it on thick and wait for the smoke to trickle up the back of your throat to your nose horseradish.

I learned of Beef on a Weck a full 10 minutes before I sat down to my very first one from the TSA guy who promised me there was beef on a weck and wings on the other side of security.

"Beef on a *what*?" And he explained it to me.

Airport food, even. I can only imagine what this thing is like outside the TSA biosphere.

For this? I'll bloat.

Posting by cameraphone from Buffalo, NY. Heading home. (Yay.)

red top charcoal broiled hots

Somewhere along HWY 5 near Buffalo, NY

Posting by cameraphone.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Allegheny, you're gorgeous.

Posting by cameraphone from the
Rimrocks area of Allegheny National
Forest just outside Warren, PA

Sunday, May 17, 2009

fade to black

fade to black
Originally uploaded by suttonhoo
Sunset over Buffalo -- or somewhere in that vague vicinity. Sunday night flight out; meetings tomorrow and Tuesday.

Missing my bed.

Posting by cameraphone.

almost forgot: this was Wisconsin

Happy shiny people. Everywhere.

Posting by cameraphone a few days
after the Appleton trip.

speceies of origin

How to know if your copy of Darwin's Origin of Species is a first edition? On line 11 of page 20 "species" is misspelled as "speceies".

That's according to this morning's New York Times Book Review, which also indicates that scholars currently taking an inventory of all existing copies of Origin expect that they may find as many as 1,000 of the original run of 1,250.

Saturday, May 16, 2009


Originally uploaded by suttonhoo
Laying in some forbs and grasses while the nice man refinishes our hardwood floors. We'll sleep at the hotel again tonight, a fairly dumpy place whose sole benefit is that we could bring our Charlie cat with us so we didn't have to kennel him while we're homeless.

Working in the backyard while the fumes off gas through the windows in stage one of Operation Prairie Overrun (if I have my way all that lawn will be prairie soon).

Posting by cameraphone from my very own backyard.

hull house

On the road to Kenosha.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

red menace

Writing this up over two eggs over medium and blueberry pie made from scratch at Mom's Place in Brillion, Wisconsin in the final sprint of a road trip to Neenah, Wisconsin for a business meeting.

I would have been there by now if I hadn't decided to take the long way around, skimming the shore of Lake Michigan which ran with me like an endless deep blue horizon to my right, magnifying the expansive fresh tilled fields with their ever present weathered red barns that flew by on my left.

I went the way of Manitowoc so I could stop to see this little metal marker in the road where in September of 1962 a fragment of Sputnik IV lodged itself without much notice, according to Roadside America. Wisconsin folk being honorable folk they sent the steaming fragment back to the U.S.S.R. by way of the Smithsonian, but not before it had cooled and not before they cast it to create a replica that is now housed with honor at the local museum.

I didn't see the replica because I arrived in Manitowoc after the magical hour of 4PM at which it's ordained all museums will close.

And so instead I dashed into and out of the road whenever the traffic ebbed just enough in order to capture a shot of this sweet little halo in the asphalt which uncannily fell dead center onto the dividing line of the main thoroughfare, HWY 10, rather than splashing unnoticed just a few brief blocks away in Lake Michigan, like Bruegel's Icarus.

I believe this may have been the only fragment of Sputnik to survive re-entry.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

but what about the lawyers

Most of you as new lawyers will soon find it easy to make a buck but find it hard to make a difference. Yes, torture gets results. It has resulted in easier, swifter, more successful recruitment for terrorist organizations among the millions of young Islamic fanatics who are willing to use the one weapon against which an open society such as ours has no sure defense — suicide bombing. It also resulted in a sharp decline in America’s standing among allies who might otherwise have provided intelligence and other forms of help. It has cost us the respect of other countries that we enjoyed, which protected us against attacks from abroad.

Intellectually and morally dishonest lawyers (in the Department of Justice) disgraced not only their country but their profession. In a country based on the rule of law, in which no man is above the law, whatever his rank or title, no man can undertake, authorize or immunize unlawful conduct. Our current wonderful president cannot promise the CIA practitioners of torture that they will not be prosecuted. With all those now exposed of complicity in torture pointing fingers of blame at each other, it is clear that the guilty include political ideologues, cowardly bureaucrats, and inexperienced psychologists, all of whom plead ignorance of the law. But what about the lawyers?

JFK speechwriter Ted Sorenson in a speech delivered last week at the University of Nebraska Law School, as cited in Harper's Magazine.

tintinnabulation is like this

a found poem

Here I am alone with silence.

I have discovered
that it is enough
when a single note

is beautifully played

The composer Arvo Pärt, who rocks the umlaut, found in Protesting This World in Sounds of Another, a musical review of his Symphony No. 4 (“Los Angeles”) that is described by the New York Times as a protest against Vladimir V. Putin, the current Russian prime minister and former president.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

in transit

in transit
Originally uploaded by suttonhoo
Posting by cameraphone from Detroit International.

Monday, May 11, 2009

the story of stuff

The Story of Stuff,” a 20-minute video about the effects of human consumption, has become a sleeper hit in classrooms across the nation.

From A Cautionary Video About America’s ‘Stuff’ in this morning's New York Times.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

speaking of Eisenstein

Video: ¡Que viva México! footage by Sergei Eisenstein

Come to find out Eisenstein set out to make a film in Mexico in 1932, during the depths of the Depression, bankrolled by the American author Upton Sinclair.

A mountain of reels were shot and Eisenstein expected that they would be shipped to him in the U.S.S.R. for editing. The Soviet government prevented their delivery, and the film was never finished.

But the footage -- most all of it quite stunning, if misguided in its portrayal of the modern Maya -- was cobbled together by another hand and has been posted in nine parts to YouTube by Documentales Mexico »

Update: The cameraman on ¡Que viva México! was Manuel Alvarez Bravo »

had Eisenstein replied

Video: Opening clip from Sergei Eisenstein's first full length feature Стачка (1925)

How I would like to go to Moscow and work under Eisenstein for a year. ... What I would learn under a person like Pudovkin is how to handle a camera, the higher trucs of the editing bench, & so on, of which I know as little as of quantity surveying.

Samuel Beckett in a series of letters to his friend Thomas McGreevy, cited in The Making of Samuel Beckett in the 30 April issue of the New York Review of Books.

Beckett wrote to Eisenstein and requested admission to the Moscow State School of Cinematography. He didn't hear back.

It's strange to speculate what kind of films the author of Play and Endgame and the just now running on Broadway Waiting for Godot might have made, had Eisenstein replied.

Friday, May 08, 2009

pulp fiction

The work of Thomas Allen.

So good.

via @davidteter

safe home

Schmaltz is good for you.

Thursday, May 07, 2009


[Twitter's new VP of Operations, Santosh Jayaram] told of being in the Twitter offices in San Francisco on March 30, when the Twitter engineers noticed that the word "earthquake" had suddenly started trending up. They didn't know where the earthquake was. Several seconds later, their building started to shake.

The earthquake had been in Morgan Hill, 60 miles south of San Francisco, and the tweets about the shaker reached the office faster than the seismic waves themselves.

Rafe Needleman writing in Cool changes coming to Twitter Search.

Those cool changes include indexing the content behind links that are tweeted and ranking search results according to a reputation ranking.

Stating the obvious: Once Twitter has nailed search they're halfway to monetizing their business model -- and seriously competing with engines like Google. Twitter has an advantage that Google doesn't have[1]: homophilious network neighbors, which research has shown to be a powerful conduit for influencing others and for identifying affinities that don't materialize via traditional demographic profiling.

With the introduction of more powerful and reliable search capabilities Twitter could become a serious contender to Google in the search space.

[1] Worth noting that Google has attempted to accomplish something along the same lines by introducing the ability to tether an individual profile with search history (even more so now that they've introduced profile pages) and by letting folks score and record the importance of their search results.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

green earth. blue skies.

Green Earth Institute
Naperville, IL

Fresh produce soon. Eat it up, yum.

p.s. CSA season is approaching -- find one near you »

on the market

Tesla's Wardenclyffe Lab: $1,650,000

LONG ISLAND: 5 Randall Road, Shoreham, N.Y., between Tesla Court and Randall Road SIZE: 15.69 acres

ZONING: Two-acre residential

PROS: Complex of 14 industrial buildings, including historic Tesla laboratory. Property can be delivered fully cleared and level.

CONS: Property was a New York State Superfund cleanup site, with the main concerns being silver and cadmium. Remediation was completed last year, but the site still requires semiannual groundwater monitoring as well as periodic inspections of two soil areas of concern, to ensure that they undergo no disturbance.

Listing in Tuesday's New York Times, which also details concerns that Tesla's Wardenclyffe Lab outside of Manhattan, which doesn't have National Heritage protection, might be leveled if the property is sold »

Also worth noting: the lab was bankrolled in part by J. Pierpont Morgan and designed by the architect Stanford White, the fellow who was shot by the millionaire Harry Kendall Thaw after fooling around with Thaw's wife on a red velvet swing.

The ill-fated tower, unfortunately, was scraped for its metal not too long back.

And did everyone know about Tesla's Colorado Springs lab except me?

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

mississippi mud

Dubuque, IA

Monday, May 04, 2009

gordon's toggery

gordon's toggery
Originally uploaded by suttonhoo
Like the sign says.

Posting by cameraphone
from Dubuque, IA

Sunday, May 03, 2009

google's equivalent of the cotton gin

The basic technique it uses involves two infrared cameras which determine how flat or curved each page to be scanned is and then adjusting the optical character recognition software it uses to read the text accordingly.

In other words, the infrared cameras help figure out a book’s three-dimensional shape and then back out any resulting distortions. This results in much faster book scanning since each page doesn’t need to be flattened by glass plates and spines don’t need to be broken.

The TechCrunch synopsis of the book scanning technique for which Google received patent no. 7,508,978 on 24 March of this year. The improved method, it's reasonably assumed, will improve the efficiency of preparing publications for the Google Book Project.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

cosa morta

cosa morta

cosa morta: the idea "that art divorced from its archaeological setting is a 'dead thing'."

Gleaned from Who Should Own the World's Antiquities, an examination of art, antiquity, nationality and provenance, in the 14 May issue of the New York Review of Books.


Originally uploaded by suttonhoo
Riding in between getting the news
and hitting the road.

Everything's shuffled. Heading out
on Monday now.

Posting by cameraphone
from the bike trail.

I can't begin to know when

lone petition

Harry was my husband’s friend and family and he became mine.

A Catholic kid who was raised and remained in Dubuque when he wasn’t off fighting a war in Korea and returning with stories of crossing the Panama Canal, Harry was a working man, a plasterer who built his father’s business into his own while all the world needed plastering, and watched with stunned wonder as the business withered in the hands of his sons under the competitive threat of drywall.

His body went in tandem as Parkinson’s worked its way through his nervous system. This last Thanksgiving I sat with Harry as he sobbed in silent rage. The conversation had ebbed around the table where we so often sit with our coffee and catch up after long distances; folks got up and got busy with preparations for the meal. Harry’s demeanor slipped from lonesome into left; his whole frame melted and the tears came. I took his hand and kept him company.

Later we had dinner.

Once I sat with Harry and a video camera and asked him about his father, a Frenchman who brought his trade with him to America. It’s not surprising that he settled in Dubuque, a town settled by Frenchmen before him and Catholics of his kind. He brought a European method of plastering that was kin to methods used in the great cathedrals, Harry told me. He told me the story of working on a Frank Lloyd Wright building, a bank? And was it he or his father who experienced the imperiousness of the great man?

I can’t remember, and in an act of unforgivable carelessness I later pulled the tape from a pile of others and recorded over it with a usability session, not realizing what I had done until I was reviewing the tape and saw the last little scrap of Harry telling the last little scrap of his story.

Harry was his nickname, although no one can tell me how he came by it. He called me Watusi because, he told me, I looked like one: too skinny when we first met, my hair piled high on my head and secured with a chopstick. I never saw the resemblance, but I liked the nickname so I didn’t protest.

Harry died yesterday on May Day. Workers’ Day. We’re heading out to Dubuque to bury him. I downloaded some Neil Diamond tunes for the road, so we can remember Harry when he was last on his feet. It was his anniversary party and he was dancing at Happy’s Tavern (as well as he could; the Parkinson's had already begun) with his wife of 50 years to Diamond’s Sweet Caroline.

Video: Neil Diamond Sweet Caroline

Friday, May 01, 2009

the slip

these first hours of grief
fire hot like a kiln

hardening this soft thing
we’ve turned
between us over time

you have told me your stories
and I have told you mine

savor it was his advice

when like a poker
pulled from the fire
the grief is still
too hot to look at

savor it now
because it grows dim

as time exerts its
cold distance

tell the stories
recall the smile
replay his voice
while you can still
hear its music

play Sweet Caroline and cry

fire these memories
in this brief insufferable

bake them into pottery
fierce enough to hold
what remains
once you lower him into
the clay
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