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9/20, 9PM





Friday, October 21, 2005
1:05 PM      

My filter assumes everything I get from AOL is spam now. Spoofing sucks.



Don't know how long this will remain online, so go see ‘Interview With an Honest Boss’ soon.


spoke on color at the Javits Center [PhotoPlus Expo] yesterday. He suggested that color photographers might do well to think about color the way painters have. He went on to explain how the luminance adjustments in the curves dialog correspond to the zone system [He's convinced that if Ansel Adams were alive today, he'd be using Photoshop as one of his tools], and speculated on how we might approach developing a color zone system. He's developing some materials for the Apple website, which I'll be watching closely.

There were some practical tidbits - like a tweak on color correction, and some interesting ways of selectively adjusting color, contrast, saturation, etc. in an image.


I'm headed back to Javits this afternoon. Glad I didn't try to go out this morning... There was a nasty fire at West 4th Street station.

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Wednesday, October 19, 2005
10:20 PM      


Seeing Sight for What it Entails
Recently, I read a reprint of a 1993 New Yorker article titled To See and Not See [pdf], by Oliver Sacks. The article tells the story of Virgil, a man who had cataracts removed from his eyes after spending nearly 50 years (most of his life) being functionally blind. The article is the basis of the movie At First Sight, starring Val Kilmer, Mira Sorvino, Kelly McGillis, and Nathan Lane, among others. The musician Diana Krall even puts in an appearance, but I digress...

Having your vision switched on late in life, it turns out, is no piece of cake. The experience of Virgil, and a handful of other cases discussed in the article, underscores the part that is played by a kind of learned visual literacy.

We actually learn to read space. We learn to read shapes. We learn to interpret paintings, photographs, film, video, and sculpture as representations... Seeing, it turns out, is an active process, because there is cognition involved. As a result, we don't all see the same way, nor do we all see the same things.

I think that anyone who engages in creating visual work has to learn to extend the cognition of seeing even further. If seeing involves translating distorted impressions on the retina into a coherent sense of space, drawing and painting involve first translating that construct into gestures on paper. Beyond that, the artist has to learn how to articulate those gestures in such a way that the finished work conveys a readable notion of space, surface, and proportion to the viewer. Even photographers contest with related issues of representation in the choices of format, lenses, exposures, and printing processes. Sculpture complicates matters again, adding the manipulation of space and surface to the required mix. No wonder people throw up their hands and say ‘I can't draw.’

The interesting thing is, many of us [with sight] can't actually see!


Wilma?! Hey, when does hurricane season end?
The largest Atlantic storm ever recorded. What if it really does trash Florida? But, as Twain said, 85% of the things we worry about never happen. Besides, I'm not the FEMA director. Still, I have my fingers crossed for those folks.


The Big Flush
Some time last week, the Corps of Engineers reported that they had finished pumping New Orleans out. Even with the over-topping from Rita, it looks like they finished on schedule. The process took 6 weeks. The plan is to rebuild the levees to their pre-Katrina spec. [able to withstand a cat. 3 hurricane] by the start of next year's hurricane season.

Let's just hope that no more hurricanes blow through the Gulf before this season ends, and that it won't take another decade or two to upgrade the levee and pump system to withstand stronger storms of the future.

Three days ago, my friend ‘Dr. Zik’ Armstrong wrote:

...thanks to Rita as well as Katrina, branches of the Armstrong family in New Orleans, Lake Charles, and Beaumont are displaced– perhaps permananently. None of us will ever live in the Ninth Ward again. But a lot of folks who have lived for years on the edge of poverty have a fresh start. ...

The optimist in me is very excited about the prospect of a fresh start for so many people who were mired in the poverty of the Lower 9th Ward. Could a simple relocation be all that it takes to break the cycle? The sociologists and historians have to be watching.


Somebody Up There - Who? What?
If you saw the movie The Corporation, you know that corporations often claim to express emotion, especially love. A recent ad for DirecTV shows a corporation actually playing Gawd.

The video shows satellites, their gossamer solar-panel-wings deployed (angelically?), drifting gently above a jewel-like earth. The voice over says ‘somebody up there loves you.’ The more literal interpretation of the ad is that those satellites are the proxies for DirecTV's people on the ground, ‘up there’ merely refers to space, and well, they want you to be happy by remaining a DirecTV customer, or becoming one if you aren't already.

But we know advertising is always about creating emotional associations that compel us to buy. So: space is often referred to as ‘the heavens,’ which is god's haunt, the last time I checked. Sting's song St. Augustine in Hell begins ‘If somebody up there loves me...,’ and the St. Augustine character is certainly not offering a prayer to some inanimate satellite. And of course, people will do all kinds of things, if you just tell 'em you love 'em.

I guess ‘DirecTV is next to godliness’ would be a bit over the top for ad copy.

Yeah, I'm a DirecTV customer, too.


In da Bginnin God cre8d da heavens & da earth
The son of the Scripture Director of the Bible Society of Australia has translated all 31,173 verses of the Bible into the style of SMS TextMessages. It took him six weeks. The Society claims that none of the language of the bible has been changed; only the spelling.

Perhaps that depends on how you define language... The article did say that the text of the bible was ‘translated,’ the first definition of which is ‘to render in another language.’ But, it can also mean ‘to express in different words,’ and more interestingly, ‘to express in another medium.’

This brings us to McLuhan and the notion of how ‘the medium is the message.’ It's debatable whether SMSpeak is another language, but it is an important component of a different medium, and is connected to a different culture. Watch kids on a city bus with their cell phones and Nokia N-Gages, and you'll see what I mean. If you want to bring your ideas to a new group of people, the first thing you want to do is learn to speak their language and appeal to their sensibilities. That's Marketing 101.

In an interesting twist, I Googled Marshall McLuhan for this entry, and found this treatise on him from Probe Ministries, ‘a non-profit corporation whose mission is to reclaim the primacy of Christian thought and values in Western culture through media, education, and literature.’ We come full-circle.


Joaquin Laguer died
at a tattoo parlor around 2pm on October 15th, in a freak accident. ‘Tattoo Horror,’ shouted the Daily News. “Last Rites,” squawked the Post, splitting the lead with some dirt about twenty-something lovers having sex in public.

The gist of the two stories was that Laguer was having a tattoo done when he started to feel faint. He walked toward a glass display case to get some food he had brought with him, passed out, and fell into the case, shattering the glass and slicing his throat in the process. He died almost instantly.

Both stories played up the idea that the tattoo had some demonic dimension — In an article titled ‘A Bloody Tattoo Death,’ The Daily News described it as an ‘abstract, wizardlike tattoo’ [nothing abstract about it, by the way...]; the Post described it as the ‘face of a devil.’ The papers could not agree on whether ‘Last Rites’ was the title of the design or the style of the design. Looking at the photo of the design, I'd be just as inclined to read it as a werewolf or wookie, as a wizard. I think ‘devil’ is pushing it.

The Post leaves us with the notion that the poor guy got a devil tattooed on his arm, felt sick out of the blue, walked over to the glass display case, and met with his death... they leave it up to you to add the part about the supernatural force reaching down from on high to smite his pagan head into the glass, if you like... But, there's a glaring omission in this telling.

The Daily News reports one important additional bit of information, which does not appear in the Post: Laguer had a history of frequent fainting spells, and no medical insurance. He couldn't afford to see a specialist, and the cause of his lifelong fainting spells went undiagnosed.

Left untreated, this man was an accident waiting to happen, likely to pass out in some dangerous setting — falling onto subway tracks, into traffic, or simply hitting his head on a concrete stairway. In a very real sense, he was a doomed man; but the tattoo had nothing to do with it.

The Daily News ran a follow-up story on October 16, continuing with the themes of religion and family: The distraught tattoo artist felt guilty about the accident. He had a ‘teary sitdown’ with Juaquin Laguer's family, and is reported to have said ‘I just want to say God bless that whole family. After meeting with them, it's like I'm family.’

The issue of health insurance was not revisited in the follow-up article.


How Newsday Got the Story [wrong]
I had the opportunity to assist with a really talented photographer named Frank Franca in a workshop over the last two weekends. I was curious to see his work, so I Googled him, and was surprised to see that he was quoted in Newsday about 25-year-old Andrew Veal of Georgia, who committed suicide at Ground Zero shortly after Bush got re-elected.

It seems that the article has been pulled from the Newsday site, but fragments of it are quoted all over the web. I was able to piece these bits together:

Frank Franca, an East Village artist and registered Democrat, suggested the suicide was symbolic.

“Obviously, this person was devastated. I can see why he would come here.”

[Frank's friend Jeffim Kuznetsov, described as a student from Russia living in Atlanta is quoted as saying]

“It’s a national tragedy. This election is devastating to all who believe in democracy.”

Right-wing blogs like Attaboy ripped them a new asshole:

Frank, you’re so deep. A young man, about to embark on the best years of his life, possibly mentally ill, comes all the way to New York and kills himself at Ground Zero, where three thousand innocent people were horribly murdered, and you find that moving? ... Jeffim, your concepts of American democracy are the reason why some of us wish people like you would stay on the other side of the border. The fact the Senator Kerry lost demonstrates that our form of democracy works exactly as it was intended. Perhaps you meant to say that the election results was devastating to those who believed in John Kerry. ...

Yeah, nice, but that's not what Frank said. The ‘symbolic’ comment apparently came from one of Veal's co-workers, and very little of what Frank actually said got printed. Frank's comments on the incident:

You know, that whole thing with the right wing freaks online was really distressing to me for a while. I was interviewed when I took a friend visiting from Russia to Century 21, and we happened to be in front of Ground Zero. I was approached by a journalist from the Newsday, and asked about the suicide... I siad "I can imagine that the man was devastated with the results of the election, I know I obviously was. However, the man was obviously seriously disturbed and in need of help. I on the other hand, have decided to channel my energy into something constructive, and so I have just sent a check to the ACLU, which is something I have been meaning to do for years. I plan to take a more activist approach in politics"... That is not what appeared in the papers... I felt I was misquoted, and came off really quite silly and dumb without any subtlety. But now I don't even really care... More and more people need to speak out about what is happening in Washington...

That's what I love about the press: reliable, accurate, unbiased reporting!

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