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Friday, May 07, 2004
10:50 AM      

Last night was a good night for drawing.
As soon as I started working with the 2-minute poses, I found myself in a flow. I was getting the shapes more easily. I wasn't having major problems with scale or proportion. Of course, with 2 minutes, I wasn't going to completely finish the drawings either, but that fits with (the instructor) Bruce's idea that the 2-minute sketches should be structured in such a way that they can be extended. I think I accomplished that with most of my drawings last night.

There was an “aha!” moment at the end of the last class. I'd been struggling with getting the figure and the space down on the page for several weeks. There were times when I'd just feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume. Bruce looked at my drawings and said “you're drawing the figure at the size you see it...” He said I should draw in such a way that there was a good balance between positive and negative space. The implication was that the attempt to draw all the space around the figure was consuming my energy, and making the drawings anemic in the process. This time around, I trusted that I could get the proportions, and drew bigger. The result: a lot less time on the space, better figure drawings.

We did an interesting exercise at the end of the session. We had about 5 minutes left, so the instructor had us do 5 fast, loose drawings from 1-minute poses. “Just react,” was his instruction. The results were surprisingly satisfying.

A painter friend of mine commented on how fortunate she feels, to be able to sit in a studio and create while things are going the way they are in the world. Shortly after the twin towers came down, I wrote in this blog that we are alive, and we have to go on living. To that I add, we are creative – we must continue to create.


More Media/Message Stuff
There is a lot of fascinating stuff in “Semiotics: The Basics,” by Daniel Chandler. I've gotten past the nomenclature stuff, and into an exploration of the theory and application of semiotics now. In semiotics, there is a signifier – essentially a symbol, sign, or word – and the signified – the concept or thing that the sign refers to. (That's not a precise explanation, but it will suffice for the next part...)

“In film [or photography] the signifier and the signified are almost identical [in appearance, and in movement in the case of film]... The power of language systems is that there is a very great difference between the signifier and the signified; the power of film [and photography] is that there is not.” - James Monoco

The book delves heavily into the interaction between media and message, form and content. Since film and photography are considered more “real” than other forms of communication, the implication might be that we base “reality” on the appearance of things, rather than the idea of things. The current craze of “reality TV” shows suggests that there are perceived degrees of reality, even within the “real” media.

The funny thing there is that reality show producers often manipulate their subjects dramatically to achieve a certain look, or to enhance drama. There are often reshoots, and yet these shows are deemed more “realistic” than other program fare.


Date: May 7, 2004 6:13:59 AM EDT
Subject: Today's NY Times Editorial: "Disney's Craven Behavior"


Below you will find today's New York Times Editorial. Please pass it around.
Thanks for all of your letters of support. No news to report today, hopefully tomorrow.

Michael Moore

May 6, 2004 – Editorial, New York Times

Disney's Craven Behavior

Give the Walt Disney Company a gold medal for cowardice for blocking its Miramax division from distributing a film that criticizes President Bush and his family. A company that ought to be championing free expression has instead chosen to censor a documentary that clearly falls within the bounds of acceptable political commentary.

The documentary was prepared by Michael Moore, a controversial filmmaker who likes to skewer the rich and powerful. As described by Jim Rutenberg yesterday in The Times, the film, "Fahrenheit 9/11," links the Bush family with prominent Saudis, including the family of Osama bin Laden. It describes financial ties that go back three decades and explores the role of the government in evacuating relatives of Mr. bin Laden from the United States shortly after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The film was financed by Miramax and was expected to be released this summer.

Mr. Moore's agent said that Michael Eisner, Disney's chief executive, had expressed concern that the film might jeopardize tax breaks granted to Disney for its theme park, hotels and other ventures in Florida, where Jeb Bush is governor. If that is the reason for Disney's move, it would underscore the dangers of allowing huge conglomerates to gobble up diverse media companies.

On the other hand, a senior Disney executive says the real reason is that Disney caters to families of all political stripes and that many of them might be alienated by the film. Those families, of course, would not have to watch the documentary.

It is hard to say which rationale for blocking distribution is more depressing. But it is clear that Disney loves its bottom line more than the freedom of political discourse.

There was a time when broadcasters would run a disclaimer in front of material that “does not reflect the views of XYZ Corporation.” It seems that Disney could do the same with this film.

Considering the mix of business and politics in today's political environment, I think it might be appropriate to organize a response to Disney's behavior: While parents with kids might be loath to skip Disney flicks, Touchstone pictures is a Disney division that aims its fare at adults. Boycotting Touchstone films might be an effective way of sending a message. It's not a perfect solution, though, because Miramax, which bankrolled “Fahrenheit 9/11” in the first place, would be affected too.

[ link | e-me ]

Tuesday, May 04, 2004
12:29 PM      

E-Voting Oversight Overwhelms Agency

Created nearly a year after a congressional deadline, the [U.S. Election Assistance Commission] took over the Federal Elections Commission's job of setting standards for ensuring the voting process is sound.

But the EAC lacks the authority to enforce any such standards...

Created under the 2002 Help America Vote Act that began funneling $3.9 billion to states to upgrade voting systems after Florida's hanging chad debacle, the agency's two Republican and two Democratic commissioners weren't appointed until December. Their first public meeting was in March. A bare-bones Web site only went live on Friday [4/30].

With only $1.2 million of its $10 million budget appropriated, the commission has so far been able to hire seven full-time staffers, borrowing some part-timers from other federal agencies.

The lack of funding has forced the EAC to abandon or delay much of its intended mission. ...

[The National Association of State Election Directors] plans to transfer its certification authority to the National Institute of Standards and Technology, which is supposed to update the decade-old standards the labs use to make sure voting equipment is secure and reliable.

But that also is on hold because NIST "did not receive funding to support the work," the commission report says. ...

The labs may take a year or more to test voting equipment - a bottleneck that may tempt manufacturers to install uncertified software in voting machines...
- A.P. report

When you want to give the impression of doing something about an issue you really don't want to deal with, create an agency and then under-fund it. You can always blame Congress. See also No Child Left Behind.

[ link | e-me ]

Monday, May 03, 2004
4:04 PM      

The SONYA (South of the Navy Yard Artists) website went live this weekend. I did the design, and built the whole thing, which kept me off the streets for a few days.

The experience was interesting, because I really pushed the pre-visualization process this time, and it's paid good dividends. I did several architectural diagrams, and built comps in Fireworks for each page before I wrote any HTML. That was particularly helpful in giving me a reference for writing my CSS, and made it easy to determine column widths for my tables.

Mainly, I used Fireworks to create slices, but built most of my own tables in Dreamweaver, because Fireworks HTML can get really weird if you plan to maintain it.

I'm happy with the design and the navigation, though I have to say that I have some insights on how to create even stronger designs in the future, after having gone through this project.

Another thing that became abundantly clear, is that you actually have to train your clients on what comps are, and how they're used. Some of the team members thought my comps were print-outs of finished HTML, and it was hard to get corrective or constructive feedback. Ultimately, I had to rely mostly on my own instinct to refine the design.

In a similar fashion, the team wasn't used to pre-staging a site before launching it. I didn't get any corrections until the site was live. Fortunately, only two sets of corrections have come in so far.


Nice to see that candidate Kerry is a cyclist. I never liked jogging, and he actually looks like he knows how to ride.

Interesting to read that Warren Buffett will advise him on economics. Buffett advised Schwartzenegger, too, but Arnie nixed his advice. We'll see how this all plays out.


This reminds me of my Schwinn – mine was a red fastback stingray, with metallic flecks in the seat, skinny tires and a 5-speed stick shifter.


This weekend was the annual Sakura Matsuri (Cherry Blossom Festival) at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Sunday started off threatening, but it turned out to be a wonderful day.

The Festival is really a complete celebration and demonstration of Japanese culture – traditional and modern.


An impressive demonstration of Samurai sword technique and Bushido philosophy took center stage for more than an hour.

The Sensei

Handle with respect

Cherries weren't the only things blooming, of course...

Tree peony

Smell the lilacs!

I think she works here


Another day, random pics around Union Square.

These strange poles seem like something out of Star Trek. They respond to movement or touch, or a combination of the two. When activated, the lights blink, and recordings of exotic tropical birds play. The sounds can get pretty intense. I wonder if the sounds are even close to the sounds you'd hear if you actually visited the habitat of these creatures. For most of us, we'd never be in the position to know the difference.

[ link | e-me ]
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