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Date:2008-11-09 17:51
Subject:A Last Hurrah, Part I

Things are winding down here, mostly because I've found other places to write on the internet. I'll tell you a little more about them in a final post, but for the moment here's a link to my main home these days: The Train of Thought, where I post as 6.54.

For now, since so much of this LJ was devoted to photography and thinking about photography, it seems fitting to make the last major post an essay about just that.

The Limits of Photographic Language:
Susan Sontag and Edward Weston versus Aaron Rose


Abstract photography provides an obvious counterexample to much of Sontag’s early work. Indeed, to make literal use of the theory in On Photography is to reduce photography to little more than vanity: that certain essential points are applicable only to art that focuses directly and solely on people sheds more light on her view of humanity and the world than it does on photography as a medium. No doubt Sontag is of great use in such psychoanalysis, but if her notion of photography’s fundamental aggressiveness doesn’t have the teeth to bite through Edward Weston’s sexually inspired peppers, how can it be expected to digest the fully abstracted aesthetic of Aaron Rose’s shells? There are differences between these two artists as large as any in the art, after all, even if neither falls fully within the scope of Sontagian critique.

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Date:2008-07-06 18:36

My house is being repainted, which is serving as an excuse for my parents to clean out as much shit as they can while everything is still in chaos.

In the midst of the mess, along with a 1960s-era "Batman" tie, Herbert Hoover's translation of De Re Metallica and The Book of Surrealist Games, they found a little plastic bag with a long red ribbon and a piece of card stock. On the card was this gem:

A rich American socialite in Paris needed a hat urgently for an important occasion. A famed milliner arrived at her apartment and within 20 minutes had created an amazing headpiece from a single strand of ribbon. The socialite was enthralled and asked the milliner his fee; the milliner replied, "Five thousand francs." "Five thousand francs!" the lady exclaims, "but, it's just a ribbon!" "Madam," said the milliner, handing it to her with a flourish, "the ribbon is free."

This illustration provided to you as a service of Volksboutique. Edition for RED-I Projects, New York, 2005

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Date:2008-06-17 04:50

Ceremonial glass of Jameson in hand, I just got back from the Symphony Space Ulysseys reading, in honor of the 104th Bloomsday. It lasted eight motherfucking hours, and I stayed the whole time except for coffee and conversation breaks.

7:00 PM to 12:00 AM or so was devoted to a reading of Chapter 17, "Ithica," by more than 100 actors and actresses (supposedly including Stephen Colbert, though he didn't show). Then a brief musical performance was followed by a single actress's non-stop reading of Chapter 18, "Penelope," which consists of Molly Bloom's unpunctuated train of thought as she attempts to fall asleep. That lasted another 3 hours.

It makes a big difference to hear it out loud, especially with an audience that's willing to laugh. The book is really fantastically obscene, and a large public reading is basically a communal acknowledgment of "yeah, life can be complicated, but fucking is awesome."

Today would have been long and productive even if the reading had only lasted 2 hours. Eight pushes it into as long a day as Mr. Bloom's – though of course I did not have to contend with my wife's adultery.

(this is just a cellphone picture, but I kinda like it)

New York is different.

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Date:2008-06-15 12:37
Subject:Thoughts on Boumediene v. Bush

There's been a lot of focus on Scalia's Boumediene v. Bush dissent over the last few days, in part because the enemy combatant clause in the 5th amendment is the constitutional grounding for Bush's case, and Scalia focused on that issue directly and immediately.

Roberts's dissent was interesting too, though. He also consider these people "alien" "enemy combatants," but focuses instead on his notion that habeus corpus is a poor way to get at the central issue of the case – namely, whether the rights of these people are infringed by Bush's rules. Even more interesting, he finds it problematic that the court never specified precisely which rights the detainees have, which will create further legal problems in the future (and presumably grant "terrorists" rights that he doesn't want them to have). Here's an excerpt from his introduction, which I got from FindLaw:

The Court does eventually get around to asking whether review under the DTA is, as the Court frames it, an "adequate substitute" for habeas, ante, at 42, but even then its opinion fails to determine what rights the detainees possess and whether the DTA system satisfies them. The majority instead compares the undefined DTA process to an equally undefined habeas right--one that is to be given shape only in the future by district courts on a case-by-case basis. This whole approach is misguided.

It is also fruitless. How the detainees' claims will be decided now that the DTA is gone is anybody's guess. But the habeas process the Court mandates will most likely end up looking a lot like the DTA system it replaces, as the district court judges shaping it will have to reconcile review of the prisoners' detention with the undoubted need to protect the American people from the terrorist threat--precisely the challenge Congress undertook in drafting the DTA. All that today's opinion has done is shift responsibility for those sensitive foreign policy and national security decisions from the elected branches to the Federal Judiciary.

I don't know enough about the law to say whether he's right about habeus corpus being too procedural to get at the question of these people's rights: it seems, to me, like precisely the place where an argument should take place (or at least start).

Nevertheless, much of the commentary (and even the court itself, if Roberts is to be believed) has treated this as a complete indictment of Bush's policies regarding Guantanamo detainees. But Roberts is definitely not thinking along those lines, and anticipates more and more difficult casework in the lower courts – casework that will probably strip away rights that progressives will not be comfortable with stripping away, and ultimately keep things the way they were before this ruling. So, cause for celebration, yes; outright victory, no. We shouldn't forget that these small successes only undo some of the damage caused over the last (nearly!) eight years, and the ideas and sentiments that drove the acceptance of Bush's policies are still alive and well in this country.

Still, at least there's a judge and jury involved now.

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Date:2008-06-10 12:29
Subject:Internet Statistics

So here's a hell of a graph. Aside from the wider and more obvious implications (read: the internet is for porn), and aside from the fact that we'd really need to know more about what this is measuring and be given real numbers to consider it meaningful, there are a few points worth making.

-In general, the search volume of "Porn" grows with time, while political searches merely spike. I suppose this is just because more and more people are using the internet, and everyone uses the internet to find pornography.
-Pornography dwarfed searches for political subjects during the last 4+ years, except during the '04 election. It'll be interesting to see what happens in October and November of this year.
-Nevertheless, "Porn" flatlines on the measure of news coverage volume in comparison to the other three.
-The combination of political and pornographic searches, of course, puts a DC suburb and Washington, DC itself on the top of the "searched by" list.

Here's "Porn" by itself. More thoughts:

-Ireland? Really? And the U.S. is 7th?
-Especially since 3 English cities top Dublin. Apparently the Irish are quite consistent across regional demographics in their love of pornography.
-Apparently Turkish-speaking countries also love their porn.
-What on earth caused that huge spike around May/June/July November/December of 2005? There's no corresponding spike in news coverage, and we eliminated Paris Hilton. Her video was "released" in 2003. This, maybe?
-Given that the most U.S. searches for porn took place in L.A. and one of its suburbs: how many of those searchers were honestly seeking employment?
-2008 already looks to be a better-than-average year for pornography.
-Google Trends is tight.

(special thanks to G. Newman and C. Witherspoon)

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Date:2008-05-22 20:51
Subject:To put it lightly

Due to Ted Kennedy's unfortunate illness, Barack Obama will be the commencement speaker at the Wesleyan graduation on Sunday.

I have secured a press pass.

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Date:2008-05-08 10:36
Subject:This happened at Wesleyan yesterday

(also caught some mad blatant on-stage blunt action, but figure the internet ain't the place for that sorta thing).

Unofficial setlist (and bootleg), courtesy of Wesleying:

1. "Liquid Swords"
2. "Dual Of The Iron Mic"
3. "Living In The World Today"
4. "Swordsmen"
5. "Cold World"
6. "Labels [a capella]"
7. "General Principles [a capella]"
8. "4th Chamber"
9. "Shadowboxin'"
10. "Killah Hills 10304"
11. "Beef [a capella]" (Boogie Down Productions)
12. "Investigative Reports"
13. "Gold"
14. "I Gotcha' Back"
15. True Master freestyle
16. "Illusory Protection [a capella]"
17. "Crash Your Crew"
18. "Destruction Of A Guard [a capella]"
19. "Clan In Da Front" (Wu-Tang Clan)
20. "Animal Planet"
21. "Hip Hop Fury"
22. "Breaker, Breaker"
23. "Legend Of The Liquid Sword"
24. "Older Gods" (Wu-Tang Clan)
25. "Queen's Gambit [a capella]"
26. "Reunited" (Wu-Tang Clan)
27. "Silent"
28. The Tongue Is Like A Sword
29. "Triumph" (Wu-Tang Clan)

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Date:2008-04-29 20:30
Subject:Just signed the rental agreement!

I'll be living HERE this summer.

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Date:2008-04-28 08:41
Subject:The following items are fantastic:

1. Banana Tempura.

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Date:2008-04-17 04:15

An essay of mine was just accepted for publication in Logos, the Undergraduate Journal of Philosophy at Cornell. It's a comparison of Søren Kierkegaard, a Danish Christian philosopher who lived mostly in the first half of the 19th century, and Xunzi, an ancient Chinese Confucian philosopher from the 200s BCE. I'm both gratified and a little surprised by the acceptance – not because it's a bad essay or anything, but because it was written as much out of my own need to work through some ideas as it was an inspired comparison. So it's not only professionally cool for this to be of interest to other people, it's a little touching.

This is the second piece of mine that will be published on the undergraduate level this semester: Evidence for the Social Revolution: Trends in Great Ape Behavioral Research Between 1992 and 2006 is going to be in this year's Mind Matters: The Wesleyan Journal of Psychology. I'm more proud of this paper, as it represents more than a full year of work and involved the careful categorization of every abstract related to great ape cognitive research over the last fifteen years (or, at any rate, the last fifteen years when I started the project). As it turned out, this was 1350 or so, though only 1179 made it into the final tally – maybe not as many studies as you might think, for an entire field, but enough. For the record: the field is booming, and is increasingly focused on dynamic social research. I'm probably going to revise/rewrite this one, and submit it to journals in the real world, since the data is of more use to people who work in the field than it is to us undergrads.

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Date:2008-04-03 21:42
Subject:Astronomy, Part 2

Nikon D300 w/50mm f/1.4 lens and tripod, through a 16" reflecting telescope with a 32mm eyepiece. Add my glasses, and the sheer amount of light bending equipment between my eye and the object was just silly.

This still looks cooler in real life, though it's so bright that you can get a better sense of its color through the photos. I'm going to look into ways of strapping the camera directly to the telescope – my guess is that passing the light through so much carefully focused glass will never result in a really sharp image. Not to mention, the sky's movement prevents exposures of even a few seconds in this setup. While the telescope tracks with the object, the detector doesn't.

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Date:2008-03-31 23:49
Subject:Astronomy, Part I

First Attempt: Nikon D300, 300mm lens with tripod and self-timer. At this focal length, the objects' motions across the sky started to blur the images at around 3 to 6 second exposures, so I had to ramp up the ISO to keep the shutter speed fast. These will be quite amateurish until I work out better techniques, so bear with me.

Here's my favorite of the ones I took, the Orion Nebula, which makes up the middle "star" in Orion's sword and is visible with the naked eye to a certain extent. This gives a pretty good impression of it, but it's stunning on a whole other level through the 16" reflecting telescope.

Astronomy seems to be one of those things that starts out really cool, and then becomes way cooler, and very different, the deeper you get in.

And this here is Mars. Notable mostly because you can see its phase (though keep in mind that the shape is exaggerated a fair bit by the trail it makes through the sky, which you can tell with a comparison with the stars around it). I think it's close to the slimmest it gets, around now, but since its orbit is beyond that of earth's, it never gets slimmer than a fairly full gibbous. Also, you can see the noise from the high ISO in this shot, which wasn't necessary since Mars is so bright. I'll try to take another one sometime with a shorter exposure and lower sensetivity, which will clear up both of those problems.

Mars might've been the first thing in the sky to make a real impression on me, when I was younger. Even looking at it with your naked eye, you can get a sense of it in a way that you can't get with stars. They're too far away to feel the distance involved: with Mars, you can just barely tell that it's not a point, that there's a real and oh-so-nearly comprehensible, breathstealing void between us and that object out there.

This is hardly worth posting, it's so faint and blurry; but towards the top of the image, there's a cluster that lives in the Auriga constellation. It doesn't seem like much here, but these sorts of clusters are absolutely unbelievable through the telescope, so when I figure out how to take a good picture of one, it's sure to show up here.

Up next: Saturn!

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Date:2008-03-22 18:16

MontrealCollapse )

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Date:2008-03-12 21:01
Subject:Photography And Representation

During my final semester, the new hot-shot head of the school is offering an advanced seminar at the intersection of my two primary interests, in my department, with an on-topic conference at the school in November.


Photography and Representation
ARHA 365
FALL 2008 Section: 01
Crosslisting: PHIL 336, AMST 364

Photography has given rise to theoretical and critical reflections since its emergence in the 19th century. This seminar will examine some of the theoretical problems posed by photographic practice (in aesthetics, history, philosophy of mind and philosophy of language) and the photographic problems that have been posed by modern theory (in genres as diverse as the snapshot, portraits and forensic photography). Some of the themes to be explored include photography¿s relation to problems concerning memory, identity, sexuality, realism, fantasy and politics.The goal of the course is to enable students to think more clearly about how photographic images tell the truth, how they lie, how they inspire and how they generally affect thinking and feeling.

Credit: 1 Gen Ed Area Dept: HA ART
Course Format: Seminar Grading Mode: Graded
Level: UGRD Prerequisites: None

Major Readings:
Readings by:
Susan Sartas
Roland Barthes
Michael Fried

Examination and Assignments:
Three short papers.

Additional Requirements and/or Comments:
Attendance at History and Theory Conference on Photography and Historical Truth is required. Conference will take place on the Wesleyan campus November 7 and 8, 2008.

Instructor(s): Roth,Michael S. Times: ..T.... 01:10PM-04:00PM; Location: TBA
Total Enrollment Limit: 19

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Date:2008-02-25 13:13
Subject:I've watched this three times today already

The "One Laptop Per Child" project is cool enough at face value: an internet-capable computer for everyone in the world? Hell yes! The tower of babel rebuilt, more glorious than ever before.

Then it turns out that, not only do these people have fantastic ideals, but they're apparently better at building computers than anyone else, ever. The list of genius innovations that the project has unveiled is simply unbelievable. I would be highly disappointed if most of these didn't end up on U.S.-marketed machines in the near future:

-biodegradable batteries, with 4 times the lifetime of standard batteries
-1/20th the power consumption of a standard laptop (1/20th!!!) and 1/80th the power consumption of a desktop
-at only 2 watts, it is efficient enough to be reasonably powered by a solar cell or hand crank
-easily repairable (particularly the screens)
-no toxic materials
-screens that take advantage of the sun, making the laptops not only readable in bright sunlight, but considerably more efficient
-screens that stay on after the processor is turned off
-extremely long-range wireless internet (2.4 kilometers!) that automatically networks with others of its kind within range and acts as a wireless internet hub, passing the internet from computer to computer, spreading effortlessly over the landscape
-which means that, even with the internet down, the computers can act as a phone system
-all solid-state materials, so far more rugged than laptops with moving hard drives

And, amazingly enough: many of these innovations represent the cheapest way of doing it. In building the cheapest computer, they've also built the greenest one in the history of the industry, and by an amazing order of magnitude. So, check out this video of the Mary Joe Jepsen, Chief Technology Operator of the project. This is real progress.

Full Video Available Here.

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Date:2008-02-15 12:42
Subject:An Exercise in Serendipity

Posted HERE you can find SAND MOON, the second "Cocaine in Motion 48 Hour Movie Project." As the more competent successor to last year's Cakes Unfathomable, Sand Moon is an epic comedy that follows a young man (Mason Cash) through a day of tragedy and despair.

Filming involved,

-depending on how you count it, either 7 or 8 interactions with police in under 36 hours
-none of which, very thankfully, involved the all-too-real-looking and definitely-illegal-in-DC handgun we used as a prop.
-We were asked to leave monuments twice, but in both instances had finished the final shot of the scene literally seconds before.
-We were not asked to leave the AU Law School classroom that we broke into.
-The power outlet box at the concession stand on the mall was unlocked.
-Some of the best weather, and the best light, of the entire year.
-An enlightened single mother named Destiny.

Conceived, written, cast, costumed, propped, shot, edited and screened in forty-eight 72 hours
& directed by Sam West, Mason Cash and myself:

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Date:2008-01-05 18:34
Subject:Political Interlude

Quick shoutout:

For anyone interested in the leadup to the 2008 election, the massively communicative online contemporary conceptual artist Jon Winet is doing some fantastic work on the ground with his ongoing project, The Electoral College. Check out his website at http://www.america-the-globe.net/tec/ or just do a YouTube search for his name.

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Date:2008-01-03 12:27
Subject:By Rain

The View From My APA Hotel Room: Part 3Collapse )

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Date:2008-01-03 12:10
Subject:By Night

The View From My APA Hotel Room: Part 2Collapse )

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Date:2008-01-03 11:38
Subject:Baltimore By Day

The View From My APA Hotel Room: Part 1Collapse )

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