Saturday, September 13, 2014

As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner

Ask yourself who was
dying during this journey,
who truly is "I."

Yes, I love Faulkner's novels. Yes, I've read this many times before. Yes, I still enjoy it. Blah, blah, blah.

"How often have I lain beneath rain on a strange roof, thinking of home."

Why don't I enter the Faux Faulkner contest? I don't know, other than the fact that it's on hiatus.

For those so inclined, this novel is more approachable than The Sound and The Fury.

"Aside from purely technical analysis, nothing can be said about [writing], except when it is bad; when it is good, one can only [read] and be grateful.” -paraphrasing W.H. Auden

There is a foolish corner...

Aaron the Ripper? DNA evidence reveals Jack the Ripper to be an insane Polish immigrant, Aaron Kosminski.

Courtesy of Madden 15 you can generate your own NFL animated GIF. And courtesy of The Atlantic  we see the geographic reach of each NFL team's fans.

Morris Louis, Saraband, 1959. source
In which the case is made that split infinitives are OK: grammar controversies.

Daniel Lanois has a new album coming out in late October: Flesh and Machine. To my ears, that video reminds me a lot of Eno's Small Craft in a Milk Sea. But what I find most baffling is what that third guy is actually supposed to be doing in the video.

In other music news, early reviews of King Crimson's tour are very complimentary.

Begin Rant

OK, so here's a video from Robert Florczak that asks Why is Modern Art So Bad? Mr. Florczak is a painter himself and he's affiliated somehow with Prager University (which seems to be an ultra-conservative "educational" extension of talk-radio personality David Prager) and the Art Renewal Center (which, among other things, is anti-modernism in art - you gotta love organizations who define themselves in terms of what they're against instead of what they're for).

Now I don't care whether you like "modern" art or not - that's your opinion and preference. Plus I'll admit that I don't understand or appreciate a lot of art forms - photography and  sculpture in general, or even some of the specific pieces cited in the video. However, when it comes to painting, if the goal of painting is representation (as the video seems to suggest) then why has it remained relevant after the invention of photography?

So let's now shoot fish in a barrel - I mean address some of the video's points.

He begins with the statement that "the Masters" of painting earned that title through high standards of excellence, building upon the achievements of their predecessors, and aspiring to the highest quality. By "excellence" he appears to mean the excellent ability to accurately represent reality. In an age without photography and without means of rapid information exchange I can imagine that gazing upon those works would produce awe and wonder. Quality, like excellence, implies accuracy in representation. Fine. These paintings leave me kind of "meh" but whatever.

Then he makes the categorical assertion that profound, inspiring, and beautiful artworks were replaced by those that were simply new, different, and ugly. First, "new" in my interpretation is identical to "building upon the achievements of your predecessors." Otherwise, we'd still be doing cave paintings. And by introducing the term "ugly", he's reduced fine art to matters of taste and decor. This is followed by more broad brush categorical statements and cherry picking of specific pieces for comparison. (Kinda like pointing at a Big Mac and saying that all consumption of beef should be banned.)

Then he spouts the dying out of the "ascent to artistic perfection" by which he means how realistically can we paint a bowl of fruit. Since when has perfection been an artistic standard? And then he resorts to cherry picking again when he makes the case for universal standards of artistic quality versus artistic relativism by a) assuming that everyone agrees that his samples of master works truly are outstanding and b) choosing modern works that not everyone would like either (and one with piss in it to really get people riled up).

To bolster his claims he describes a "test" he gives his students in which he displays a Pollock and asks them to describe its merits. Well, the joke's on the kids when he reveals that the supposed Pollock is just a closeup of the smock he wears in his studio. First, the image shown was obviously not a Pollock (and I don't claim to be an expert on such things). He then builds on this error by later claiming that it's impossible for anyone to tell the difference between his apron and a Pollock. (Hey dumbshit - I could.) Second, as a fan of abstract painting I acknowledge a fear of being tricked by liking the painting made by a monkey or elephant and therefore take every online test of that type (and still sometimes only get 80% right). But his test introduces biases right away where the instructor, in a position of power over the students, presents something as a Pollock and therefore would require quite a great deal of gumption on the part of the student to disagree.

I usually don't argue analogies but he then holds up the judging of Olympic figure skating as a model for how the artistic merit of painting should be judged. Talk about a flawed model. This model would work if the judging consisted of defined elements: paint a straight line, a circle, mix two perfectly complementary colors, etc. Then you could have a computer do the judging.

He next introduces the loss of transcendency in art and contrasts that with "modern" art that just tries to shock or make a statement. Not all "modern" art (a category so broad as to be useless in this discussion) is shocking and I also don't like art that exists simply to send a message. But to say that modern works lack a sense of the transcendent is an utter fabrication. (And how exactly would his Olympic art judges rate transcendency?)

At the end he states that the way for us to correct this situation is by the galleries we frequent and the art we purchase. I agree 100%. I do not care if he and I ever cross paths in a gallery - each to our own. That's the way it should be. However, he does say "if the art doesn't sell it won't be made" which assumes that art is all about commerce. That's an entirely different debate, but his fundamental point is inaccurate. For example, how many of the great "masters" died penniless and it was only well after their death that their works sold for millions?

In summary, this guy is a self-righteous ass who wants to impose his opinions on others through weak and spurious arguments. I bet his opinions on music are equally amusing.

End Rant

We all know beans are the musical fruit. But do we really know how beans make music? This video does the explaining.

Burger King is offering this black burger for sale in Japan. I wonder how well it would do here.
Who says you can't learn anything by watching football on TV? During last night's Baylor v Buffalo game they mentioned and undergraduate who had invented a water lens for cheap water purification in developing countries.

Good god, I'm getting cranky. the brain of the wisest man. ~Aristotle

Saturday, September 6, 2014

How To Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

It's really very
simple to make many friends.
Do not be a jerk.

Yes, that's a rather crass summary of what's been called one of the top business books of all time and one that's been on my "to read" list for years. But I finally got around to reading it and wasn't disappointed. It's not like there was a Eureka! moment, just a succinct reminder of of things we all really ought to know anyway.

So here they are in summary.

  1. Fundamental Techniques in Handling People
    1. Don’t criticize, condemn or complain.
    2. Give honest and sincere appreciation.
    3. Arouse in the other person an eager want.
  2. Six Ways to Make People Like You
    1. Become genuinely interested in other people.
    2. Smile
    3. Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.
    4. Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves.
    5. Talk in terms of the other person’s interests.
    6. Make the other person feel important - and do it sincerely.
  3. How to Win People to Your Way of Thinking
    1. The only way to get the best of an argument is to avoid it.
    2. Show respect for the other person’s opinions. Never say “You are wrong.”
    3. If you are wrong, admit it quickly and emphatically.
    4. Begin in a friendly way.
    5. Get the other person saying “yes, yes” immediately.
    6. Let the other person do a great deal of the talking.
    7. Let the other person feel that the idea is his.
    8. Try honestly to see things from the other person’s point of view.
    9. Be sympathetic with the other person’s ideas and desires.
    10. Appeal to the nobler motives.
    11. Dramatize your ideas.
    12. Throw down a challenge.
  4. Be a Leader
    1. Begin with praise and honest appreciation.
    2. Call attention to people’s mistakes indirectly.
    3. Talk about your own mistakes before criticizing the other person.
    4. Ask questions instead of giving direct orders.
    5. Let the other person save face.
    6. Praise the slightest improvement and praise every improvement. 
    7. Give the other person a fine reputation to live up to.
    8. Use encouragement. Make the fault seem easy to correct.
    9. Make the other person happy about doing the thing you suggest.

In love, as in gluttony, pleasure is...

W.H. Auden said “Aside from purely technical analysis, nothing can be said about music, except when it is bad; when it is good, one can only listen and be grateful.” This explains - for me at least - why writing about music, or painting, or literature is so dang difficult. Unless it sucks cuz then it's like shooting fish in a barrel.

Hoorah! The entire Modern Art Notes podcast catalog is on Soundcloud.
Mosaic of satellite photos of Antarctica.
The creators of Wallace and Gromit have something new coming in 2015: Shaun The Sheep

Geography. A lost art. How many world capital cities do you know? (Me? Only 16 of 20 correct.)

I can't recall whether I've already shared this or not: The Atlantic's 20-part World War II in Photos. presents this visualization of the 2014 NFL schedule. Shown above is the Dallas Cowboys' season. You can choose, team and/or week. 
For those so inclined, here's another touchstone in the debate of the two cultures, science and the humanities. "The devaluation of human fallibility."

Fox News reports that Harrison Ford is confirmed for the Blade Runner sequel but I can't find corroboration. (Please don't make this movie suck.)

Monet's Impression Sunrise was painted on 13 Nov 1872 at 7:35 a.m. - or so says science. (But what an incredible use of color.)
Steve Reich. Philip Glass. Performing together again finally after almost 40 years.

Don't click this if you get dizzy easily: Orbital Trails.

World map of favorite alcoholic drinks: wine, beer, or booze.
...a matter of the utmost precision. ~Italo Calvino

Monday, September 1, 2014

Terry Bozzio: An Evening With and Live in Japan 2007

A solo show on
percussion, more musical
than most full rock bands.

I had the pleasure of seeing drummer Terry Bozzio perform live in Fort Worth's intimate McDavid Studio this past Friday on his An Evening With Terry Bozzio tour. For my first concert in years, other than my boys' school band concerts, I was not disappointed.

During a 2-hour, 2-set performance, Bozzio wove together rock, Carribean, African, and Southeast Asian performances in a seamless and enthralling and often unbelievable display of musicality and technical virtuosity. There were times when you thought an entire ensemble was performing due to his ability to give voice to what usually sits in the back of the band - the drum set. And to call his kit simply a "drum set" is a disservice as the photo below shows.

Panorama of Bozzio's drumset (sorry for the choppiness).
Lest you think he's compensating by performing behind an uncountable number of instruments (his drum tech afterward said it takes 3 hours to set the whole thing up each night) twice during the performance he came up front and played a chorded drum machine (looked like a practice pad you play with your hands) and what was basically a box that he sat on and tapped out a 10 minute performance accompanied by bells he attached to his feet.

Maybe you know him from his 1980s work with Missing Persons or his work with Zappa, U.K., Tony Levin and many others. But to get to know him as a consummate percussionist the CD Live in Japan 2007 (which I purchased at the show) gives you a pretty good taste of what we experienced a couple of days ago. Or you could check out the video below.

Terry's website is and the website for his artwork (yes, he's a painter and inventor in addition to being a musician) is

I received no compensation of any kind for this review.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Only the guy who isn't rowing...

Automata: this movie looks good. (And hopefully it's not just a Blade Runner derivative.)

Robert Irwin, All That Jazz, 2011
(lest anyone think that Dan Flavin is the only artist working in this medium). source
I've been eating sushi wrong. If you fear the same, check out How to Eat Sushi (worth watching). Be sure to catch the joke about not shaking soy sauce off your sashimi (alliteration unintentional).

You might think I'm posting the video Rhapsody of Steel because it's in the craft pr0n category. But I'm not. This film from 1959, entirely animated, includes the work of animation legends Eyvind Earle and Maurice Noble.

But this really is craft pr0n: ceramics masters.

 photo hexwave_zps2d5b6d22.gif
Git yer GIF on with these hypnotizing animations.

Reading this article about a hidden Cold War bunker in the Brooklyn Bridge makes me wonder how many of these are scattered across the country and lost to time.

Is it too early to start planning for the 2017 total solar eclipse that will be perfectly visible across most of the United States?

For each state, find out where its residents were born. (61% of current Texas residents were born here versus 25% for Nevada and 79% for Louisiana.)

The United Sweets of America shows each state's signature dessert item. Texas', not surprisingly, is pecan pie. (Pronounced pah-cahn not pee-can.)
Something sounds fishy, like someone has an agenda, when you call a map that displays demographics like race and income a "justice map."

The average tooth fairy payout is $3.40? Since when did teeth become subject to inflation? What's wrong with a dollar? Better yet, a nice dollar coin? I used to get dimes - Mercury dimes.

Mine was the last class in my high school (class of 1980) required to learn how to use a slide rule in science class. Still have one in my desk at work. (Perhaps not coincidentally, mine was also the first class to learn to program a computer - BASIC on a Wang 3300.) Anyway, here's the International Slide Rule Museum.

If sliced in half, do not let your liver fall out. source
Time to laugh along with Ze Frank: True Facts about Marsupials.

Time to be scared? Humans Need Not Apply. Too fanciful? Read how software found influences in paintings that art historians hadn't.

This could either be the greatest thing ever or an intestinal nightmare. Now available for purchase at Green Bay Packers games is the Horse Collar, a 22 inch kielbasa with beer cheese, fried sauerkraut and a bun.   
...has time to rock the boat. ~Jean Paul Satre

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Micro by Michael Crichton

This horrible book
was so bad that I gave up
before CD 4.

When I saw that my local library had added the audio book version of Michael Crichton's Micro I took a chance and checked it out. I love his The Andromeda Strain but his more recent works suffer from a tendency to read like screenplays instead of novels.

Big mistake.

A couple of completely implausible plot elements were followed by a twist that was so mind-numbingly stupid that I punched the Eject button on the car's CD player. The dopey plot wasn't helped by prose that was so weak and flimsy that it made Hemingway look like Joyce by comparison.

The crappy writing wasn't helped by the voice acting. John Bedford Lloyd punches out each word with the deftness of an oafish eighth grader playing Whac-A-Mole.

Avoid at all costs. At least the first 3 CDs. Who knows, maybe the book gets really good after that.

Better yet, snuggle up with a copy of  The Andromeda Strain. (Or the movie from the 70s.)

Update 30 Aug 2014: Grammar corrections.