Thoughts, comments, images and reflections from the people who bring you BeansAboutIt [dot] com


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Saturday, March 27, 2004
11:31 AM      

Out with the Old, in with the Same-old
In the last few months, it seemed as if Gage & Tollner, New York's oldest restaurant (established in 1879), had fewer and fewer customers. I didn't see the classically-dressed white-golved waiters in front of the building anymore. People no longer pulled their cars into the valet spot that competed with the B-52 bus stop. I can't tell you the last time I saw a limousine parked in front of the old restaurant. The place seemed dark at times when healthy restaurants ought to be doing business.

Finally, I saw the white butcher paper in the window, and a sign that simply said “Sorry, we're closed.” Most long-standing restaurants go out with a gushing tome saying “Thank you for being loyal customers for so many years... blah, blah, blah,” but I think Gage & Tollner may have become the restaurant equivalent of a ghost town. Maybe they had no more customers to thank, and so they just quietly closed shop.

The truth is, even though G&T was the oldest restaurant in New York, that was never compelling enough for me to want to try it. It never seemed as inviting as the Old Town Bar in Manhattan, which used to be featured in the opening sequence of the old David Letterman Show. That was a classic, smoky tavern with a kind of retro-chic that appealed to me. Gage & Tollner, in contrast, seemed stuffy and exclusive and well – old. And so, it's probably fitting that they closed, but it still seems a shame.

Not long after the butcher paper went up, the new occupants of this quasi-historic space unfurled their new banner:

I can see the appeal for the TGI Friday's chain. It's their kind of space. At least they're likely to maintain some of the atmosphere of the old restaurant. I won't be running down to visit when they open, though.


the War in Context: Iraq + War on terrorism + Middle East conflict + critical perspectives
This looks like a very juicy site. Lots of good recent entries on the 9/11 commission and the Administration's [mis]handling of Clarke's testimony. Links galore.

A little taste –

Thomas H. Kean (R), the former New Jersey governor Bush named to be chairman of the commission, observed: "I think this administration shot itself in the foot by not letting her testify in public."


What would a "wartime president" have done this week, as a bipartisan commission's public hearings on the Sept. 11 tragedy were being engulfed by political bickering?

I like to think that this hypothetical leader would have found a way to rise above the fray and unite the country: He would have embraced the commission's work, forthrightly admitted his own mistakes, sent his national security adviser to testify publicly -- and insisted that the security of the United States was too important to be buried in election-year squabbles.

President Bush and his White House handlers did pretty much the opposite. They fanned the flames of partisan debate; when asked awkward questions, they stonewalled; rather than testify before the cameras, national security adviser Condoleezza Rice spent part of her Wednesday afternoon dishing dirt to reporters about a commission witness who had criticized the president.


For both the UK and US, an energy crisis is looming. The latest BP statistical review of world energy predicted that UK proven oil and gas reserves will last, respectively, only 5.4 and 6.8 years at present rates of use. It has been estimated that by 2020 the UK could be dependent on imported energy for 80% of its needs. The US energy department has calculated that net imports of oil, already at 54%, will rise to 70% by 2025 because of growing demand and declining domestic supply.

[ link | e-me ]

Friday, March 26, 2004
11:43 AM      

Another pic taken during my last swing through the WTC PATH station on Tuesday. I like the mood it captures. As you can see, the site is in many ways a point of pilgrimage and a de-facto memorial.

A group called “The Expressions” from Hattiesburg, MS had hung a cardboard sign on the fence. The weather will eventually take its toll on it. Some of the flowers are already withered, but new visitors arrive daily to refresh the display of remembrance.

Notice the movie camera on the right. Lots of people were taking pictures that afternoon, but when I came back through in the evening I was told “Sir... no pictures.”

Lucky for me, I'd already caught a few shots. If I'd have used flash, the cop might have asked me to delete them.


Whither Freedom?
“...If you don't exercise responsibility then freedom, its Siamese sister, will wither as well. Sadly, now, freedom first needs to be exorcized before it's exercised.”

My friend James Nordlund said that in a recent e-mail.


Mixed Message?

This detail from a “Hellboy” poster seems to sum up the tone of much of the news squawk about what America stands for these days. Notice the proportions. If you get a look at the poster, you'll also see that Hellboy has a tail. Saint/Sinner/Killer. That's [the] US.


Further Adventures of the Plastic Consciousness

These are my last two sketches from last night. The one on the left was a 10 minute pose, and the one on the right was a 20. Yeah, sorry... he's not anatomically correct. On the other hand, Houston, we have proportion!

I've made progress every single session at the Studio School. Last night, we started drawing from 2-minute poses and when Bruce, the instructor, had looked over each of our shoulders, he said none of us were using his input from the previous classes. Speaking a little like a soft-spoken version of a Drill Sergeant, he reminded us that the short poses are meant to be structural foundations for longer drawings. He pushed us to draw reference lines that “subdivide the picture plane,” and to find lines that defined the angles and limits of the form. Every 2 minutes, the pose would change, and I'd start over again on a new sheet. I started using the front and back of my pages to conserve paper. The guy next to me would waste the first 30 seconds or so of each pose, erasing his previous drawing. For a while, it was all I could do, just to get the reference lines down in the time allotted.

Those sketches either looked nothing like the model, or only contained a fragment of his body in very rough form. It took some effort to avoid slipping into the mode of drawing the way I always have, but I know that mode doesn't produce very good drawings. I pushed myself to draw the reference lines and avoid rushing to try and draw the shapes directly. At one point, Bruce came by and told me to extend the reference lines all the way across the page. Finding the form within that tangle of lines had looked simple when Bruce had done one of his many drawing demonstrations, but I lost track of what the lines represented several times, and the tangle of lines would become overwhelming. In other words, my brain would vapor lock.

I began to get it though, and when Bruce came by again, he said “OK, now when you see a line that doesn't work, erase it, and draw another.” I was working with vine charcoal and chamois in the same hand, switching back and forth between drawing and erasing. I would make a few reference marks, rough out that part of the form, remove the reference marks, and move on. I began to find it easy to map horizontal points onto the paper by sight. I still had to measure my vertical points, but working with the idea of finding the center and angle of the arms, legs, torso, etc. was giving me a more effective means of finding my way into the drawing.

Slowly, I started paying less attention to the model, but the drawings were getting stronger. I was beginning to grasp the notion of seeing the figure in 3-D space and mentally mapping that onto the picture plane. I was about half way through my 20-minute drawing at the end of the evening when Bruce walked by again. He said “Hey!...” with a smile in his voice. “That's a good drawing... Now, make sure you hold the charcoal so you get a good line...”

The first couple of sessions, I had peeked at other students' work, and I noticed that many of them did the same. I'm feeling less concerned about comparing the quality of our work now. The game for me is to push my own drawing as far and as fast as I can.



The Dobro player's name is Alexander. He made a point of saying that, so that there'd be no confusion. He's not Alan, or Albert, or any other name that can be shortened to “Al.” He's a good slide player, and he often plays in the same entryway at West 4th Street – which is where I saw him last night on the way home from drawing class. The acoustics are pretty good; the tile and concrete add a natural hard reverb that suits his style of playing and the twangy sound of his guitar. He talks a lot, as if he craves conversation. I asked if I could take his picture, and took several snaps. A first, he asked for a print – which I'll be happy to give him. “I keep a scrapbook,” he said.

[ link | e-me ]

Thursday, March 25, 2004
12:14 PM      

Uncle Richard “Fester” Armitage?


“Your government failed you, those entrusted with protecting you failed you and I failed you. We tried hard, but that doesn't matter because we failed... And for that failure, I would ask - once all the facts are out - for your understanding and for your forgiveness.”

At the hearing, Republican commissioner James R. Thompson, a former Illinois governor, held up Clarke's book and a text of the briefing and challenged the witness, "We have your book and we have your press briefing of August 2002. Which is true?"

Clarke said both were true. He was still working for Bush at the time of the briefing and was asked to highlight the positive aspects of the administration's counterterrorism efforts and minimize the negative, he said.

Seeking to counter White House suggestions that he is seeking a job in a future Kerry administration, Clarke said he wouldn't accept a position - and noted he was under oath.

- A.P. report

Watched a little of the 9/11 hearings yesterday. Clarke was spectacular. The Republican spinmeisters on the panel were no match for him. There was one moment where he stopped speaking and the room was dead silent for about 10 seconds, though it seemed like 30 or more.


Passing through the WTC PATH station a couple of days ago, I came upon two of these matchbook icons taped to the posts that support the fencing around the open pit at the WTC site. There were also braided green garlands and what looked like flower leis woven into the fences. I suspect the green garlands have some sort of religious significance.


I got a glimpse of how simple it is to adjust NEF (RAW) files in Photoshop CS yesterday, and how good the resulting image quality can be. I feel another upgrade coming on...

[ link | e-me ]

Monday, March 22, 2004
4:15 PM      

Redoing the Math
I revisited my print cost calculations, and I'm happy to report that my first estimate was way off. I went back and calculated my costs based on the number of prints produced vs the number of ink cartridges consumed, taking into account the two different sizes I've been printing.

I've used 5 whole cartridges of ink, with 5 more cartridges at about the halfway mark. I've used about 25 sheets of letter (8.5 x 11) paper, and 10 sheets of super b (13 x 19). That amounts to about 5549 square inches of print. Ink cost comes to about $75, and paper cost is $43, making total print costs $118.

That works out to 2.13¢ per square inch, meaning letter size prints cost me $1.99 each, and a super b page costs me $5.25. These costs are based on using 1440 dpi print mode. “Super Photo” pages use more ink, although I doubt that it's twice as much ink. If they consume 50% more ink, that would work out to about $3 per print for letter size and $7.88 for a super b print.

[ link | e-me ]

3:34 PM      


The Deal on Roger Green
I found out that Roger Green pleaded guilty to double-dipping on travel expenses over a period of nine years. He'd accept free rides to Albany from vendors, then submit a claim for travel expenses anyway. Green says all of his fellow legislators double-dip, and no one seems to be denying it.


City In the Sky
by NYT reporters James Glanz and Eric Lipton is an account of the “life” of the World Trade Center from its beginnings to its final destruction, and the forensic inquiry afterward. It's described as a page-turner, packed with well-researched details, and a “Robert Altman-sized cast” of characters.

“Like David McCullough's The Great Bridge, City in the Sky is a riveting story of New York City itself, of architectural daring, human frailty, and a lost American icon.” - Amazon review

I think I'll have to pick this one up.


The Weekend in Politics

Saturday, I wandered into Union Square park, and got a glimpse of some of the protest activities that were underway. A small group of marching protestors were leaving the park as I got there, and a group of cyclists was gathering. I'd say there were about 40-50 marchers, and about 70-80 cyclists.


The police were a noticeable, but not overwhelming presence. Cops on bikes, cops on motorcycles, and a cop chopper hovering way above the park... The motorcycle cops looked very much like a throwback to the early 1960s, except that I don't think there were any African-American motorcycle cops in the 60s.

It struck me that the bike protestors were very sophisticated in their use of visual communications. There weren't just placards, but lots of logos and icons – once primarily the tools of corporations and governments. The protestors were brandishing their own symbols and appropriating and recontextualizing the symbols of the opposition. Even though we had the peace symbol in the 60s, I think the current use of symbols and logos by activists is significantly more sophisticated than it was then.

Seeming to position themselves as an alternative to both protest and violence, religious groups, especially Christian groups, are turning up at protests to spread their message. This booth has a few clever promotional elements: “Serving the community of over 2000 years,” plus a laundry list of prayer subjects: “job, finances, tragedy, friends, family, health, happiness, seeking god, seeking purpose,” and the ever-so-versatile “other.”

Not far away, people were using the park for the kind of stuff that people always use parks for.

Dimitri makes these acrylic spheres appear to be weightless

This is Spike. Spike is a bitch.

Sunday, I attended a very pleasant brunch. The theme was “Bashing Bush.” It was especially pleasant because we weren't simply sitting around calling Bush names, but talking instead about details of the case that can be made against him and strategies for making sure that he doesn't get reelected. In other words, the conversation wasn't mired in our personal dislike for the man and his policies, it was about action and strategy.


A while ago, I said I'd post some more pics of Jake Stigers' most recent gig at The Bitter End. Here ya go...

[ link | e-me ]
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