26 August 2013

Rebecca Solnit & Rebecca Snedeker Unfathomable CIty - A New Orleans Atlas

I am not sure how Rebecca Solnit manages to turn out so much work or such uniformly high quality. But she does. And I am grateful. This forthcoming atlas of New Orleans promises to be provocative and beautiful. You can find publication details here.

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25 August 2013

Distance - A View

“I don’t get up close and cuddly with my subjects. I didn’t follow these people home. It’s not a documentary.  . . . I think it’s all an illusion; That there’s a perfect rapport established in the best work is false.”~ Philip-Lorca diCorcia

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24 August 2013

Business Insider Scandallized to Discover Sexism in Fashion Advertising

It seems from this report that the nice folks at Business Insider are simply shocked! ... and, of course, appropriately dismayed . . . to discover that purveyors of fashion are sexist. Apparently, the purveyors depict male and female models differently, even when advertising the same item of clothing. In this instance, the offending company, of course, is American Apparel.

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23 August 2013

Unions and Socialists: The Folks who Brought you ... the 1963 March On Washington

Where did all those people come from? As part of my ongoing effort here to resist sanitized depictions of American political history, let's recall that the March on Washington, yeah the event where MLK gave his "I Have a Dream" speech, was brought to you by trade unions and socialists.

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My LEGO Wizard

This is August, my LEGO wizard, with his latest creation. He is 7, the set is rated for 16+ and we figured it would take him forever to build. The things has 1334 pieces to it.  So, I'm not hear to brag (at least not totally) but to wonder how I can afford to keep the boy in colorful plastic pieces.

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Being Here ~ Radhika Philip

This new book consists of interviews Radhika Philip has done with jazz musicians in NYC. Her aim is to explore the creative processes and practices that inform improvisation rather than to compile endearing anecdotes.

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22 August 2013

" Today . . . it is politically effective, and socially acceptable, to deny scientific fact."

Two things about this Op Ed - "Welcome to the Age of Denial" - from The New York Times caught my eye. The first is that the author, Adam Frank, is a colleague from the University of Rochester. The second is that among the egregious examples he recounts is the disastrously ignorant behavior of many parents in Oregon where my young son lives with regard to immunizations. Even though I think the view of science (and especially its insulation from politics) Frank presents here is a bit of a caricature, I largely agree with the thrust of the argument.

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21 August 2013

Peter Norman

My friend Gissur Erlingsson sent me a link to this story at The Independent about the fallout to the late Australian Olympian Peter Norman for his role in the famous black power protest at the 1968 Mexico City games. I'd written on the image some time ago but focused on Carlos and Smith. Norman paid a heavy price for his participation in this event. It seems like the Australian government might be ready to try to rectify that somewhat. Too late.

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19 August 2013

On the Aestheticization of ...

... calamity here in a spread in yesterday's edition of The New York Times. So the question is, do complaints about aesthetization arise only when there are sick, dislocated, deceased, suffering (or whatever) humans in the image? Do disasters have to have already struck in some acute form to be problematic for those who issues such complaints? Or, can the disasters be impending or very slowly underway?

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From: The Neighbors. Photograph © Arne Svenson.

At The Guardian you can find this report on the outcome of a first amendment case involving photographer Arne Svenson who made pictures of his neighbors, without their consent, as they went about their business inside their apartments in a building opposite his own. You can find the series here at Svenson's we site. Bottom line, the photographer's first amendment right to free expression trumps your non-existent right to privacy in your own home. So now you have no expectation of privacy on in public and you have no expectation of privacy in, well, in private! One more reason to make sure you keep your soles clean.

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18 August 2013


I've come across several interesting items sitting here this evening trying to recuperate from a visit to may parents this weekend. Susan and I took August to see my folks. Given the continuous misbehavior of his mom, who refuses to comply with visitation, August rarely gets that chance. And so, he acted weirdly much of the time even though my mother was bending over backwards to try to accommodate him. In any case, the weekend was mostly uneventful.

And here is what I found when I got home.
Dani Rodrik has an OpEd here in his regular series at Project Syndicate on the tensions between Islamists and democracy.

Roberto Mangabeira Unger has a multi-part podcast here charting the Path Forward for Progressives.

The Institute for New Economic Thinking is offering this free on-line course on the Economics of Money and Banking - taught be Perry Mehrling.
And the Art Gallery of Ontario (Toronto) has an exhibition of Ai Weiwei that I want to get up to see. 

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16 August 2013

Passings ~ Jean Bethke Elshtain (1941-2013)

Jean Elshtain has died. You can find an obituary here at The New York Times. I disagreed with much of Elshtain's communitarian approach to politics. She was an early teacher of mine (back in the day at UMass-Amherst) who encouraged me. She was smart and always decent to me.

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12 August 2013

The Occupy Money Collective

This article appeared at The Nation today, reporting on the founding of The Occupy Money Cooperative an enterprise established by a group of Occupy Wall Street activist with experience in the financial services industry. this is institutional innovation emerging from movement politics. I am sure that many true radicals will find this undertaking problematic for one or another moralistic reason. But expanding the access of the economically disenfranchised to financial services is a necessary step and one that here is being attempted with considerable imagination. What could be better?

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09 August 2013

Knucklehead + Handgun = A Good Reason for Complete Strangers to Exercise Their God Given Right to Free Speech

Yet another knucklehead exercising his god given right to be one. I have written about guns and handguns and the death and destruction that trail more or less invariably in their wake repeatedly. If you want to hunt, fine. Go kill something (if you think you are able), then lock the gun up in the closet or someplace safe. If you want to collect something metallic and shiny, try coins; they are much less dangerous to you and your kids. If you want a cup of coffee leave the accessory to your manhood at home. Bring along your fancy Weber instead - just as useful for signalling true masculinity! All you are doing by pulling stunts like Matt Bottali (the aforementioned knucklehead) is demonstrating that you don't have anything like sufficient good judgment to be considered a responsible gun owner.

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Southern Oregon ~ Drawing Breath?

This satellite image of Southern Oregon accompanies this story from Mother Jones on the crappy air quality due to wildfires. The thick white on the left is cloud cover over the Pacific. The translucent grey across the middles of the image is smoke. Here, from my perspective, is the key point: "On Tuesday evening, the state's environmental department noted that the area around Medford (metropolitan population: 207,000) had an "unhealthy" air quality index of 151, meaning that anybody outdoors could incur "serious health effects," according to Oregon Smoke." August lives not far from Medford. This is at least the second summer since his mother moved him there that the air quality has been dangerous.

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On the Uses of Walls for Politics (8)

Israel-Egypt border. Photograph © Moshe Milner / GPO.

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06 August 2013

Beauty in Contemporary Art

Video © 2013 Institute of Art and Ideas 

Here is a video discussion (length - approx. 37 minutes) on the role of resurgent preoccupation with beauty in contemporary art featuring critic Julian Stallabrass, art historian Griselda Pollock and Norwegian artist Sidsel Christensen.

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05 August 2013

DIA Statement on Proposed Sale of Its Collection

"The Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) has learned that Christie’s, at the request of the Emergency Manager, plans to proceed with a valuation of the DIA collection, and we will be cooperating completely in that process. However, we continue to believe there is no reason to value the collection as the Attorney General has made clear that the art is held in charitable trust and cannot be sold as part of a bankruptcy proceeding. We applaud the EM's focus on rebuilding the City, but would point out that he undercuts that core goal by jeopardizing Detroit's most important cultural institution.

In addition, recent moves in Oakland and Macomb counties to invalidate the tri-county millage if art is sold virtually ensure that any forced sale of art would precipitate the rapid demise of the DIA. Removing $23 million in annual operating funds – nearly 75% of the museum’s operating budget – and violating the trust of donors and supporters would cripple the museum, putting an additional financial burden on our already struggling city. The DIA has long been doing business without City of Detroit operating support; any move that compromises its financial stability will endanger the museum and further challenge the City’s future."
That is the statement issued today by DIA in response to the ongoing and extremely wrongheaded effort to sell off its collection to satisfy bond holders and avoid placing financial responsibility where it squarely resides - on political and economic elits and their destructive, self-defeating decisions over several decades. There is nothing much to add.

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Can the Hard Case on your iPhone Support Human Rights and Free Expression?

So, onto my FB news feed pops a link from a group called Friends of Ai Wewei who are peddling 'skins and cases' for various sizes, shapes and makers of cell phone. Proceeds putatively go to support campaigns for free expression and human rights. I am pretty sure that neither the Chinese manufacturer of my cell phone nor it's American purveyor don't care what I wrap the thing in once I've paid for it. And irony is not necessarily effective in art or politics, so wrapping my iPhone in this case is unlikely to change anything much. Are there better places to send my money in support of admirable causes? I can't tell from the web pages.

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04 August 2013

And the PEN/Pinter Prize for 2013 ...

... goes to Tom Stoppard. You can find the mandate for the prize - named for Harold Pinter - here. It seems Stoppard is a deserving winner. For some reasons why see this effusive report at The Guardian.

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AIDS, NYC, History

"New Yorkers are strong; we do not need to be protected from our past. Instead, we should learn from the hard truths and bad choices it contains. It is not enough to mourn the dead or memorialize the survivors; we must confront history in all its painful, guilt-inducing glory and use it as a guidepost for our behavior today."
The New York Historical Society has produced this exhibition on the early years of the AIDS epidemic in NYC. During those years governmental entities (elected and bureaucratic; local, state and federal) proved unresponsive, the church and mass media typically were actively hostile, the medical establishment largely uncomprehending and resistant and the broader public largely ignorant or indifferent. And ACT UP emerged as one truly inspiring radical democratic response to all that. In this Op-Ed - "How The Whitewash a Plague" - Hugh Ryan not only calls out the NYHS for getting nearly all of that wrong but underscores the consequences of doing so.

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George Saunders on Kindness

Some time ago I posted here about writer George Saunders who, it turns out had lived and written in Rochester for a number of years. Saunders now teaches at Syracuse where he gave this address at commencement a couple of months back. If you've read The Very Persistent Gappers of Frip (and you ought to have read it!) you won't be surprised at the theme or the humor. Here is one of the serious lines: " If we’re going to become kinder, that process has to include taking ourselves seriously – as doers, as accomplishers, as dreamers."

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03 August 2013

Math & Politics

A couple of reminders why teaching mathematics is not a politics free zone. Here is a post from The New York Times a while back. And here is a recent story on NPR on Robert Moses, an American hero.

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01 August 2013

On the Uses of Moden Art

 Orange, Red, Yellow © Mark Rothko

I am pre-occupied with the pragmatics of visual images, meaning with their uses. We have known for years that during the Cold War the US government sponsored tours of, for instance, jazz musicians to the Soviet block as examples of "freedom." Now, from this report at The Independent, we know that the CIA was involved in the dissemination of abstract modern art for much the same purpose. Surprise! I've posted here before about complexities at the intersection of art and politics in Mark Rothko and Robert Motherwell, among others. This latest report helps underscore that politics depends not just on the posture of artists and other art world denizens, but of agents from other worlds as well.

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