by E. Tage Larsen
Welcome. Placement was a website that turned a critical eye on culture, with an emphasis on the importance of integrity in process over product. It published frequently from March 28th, 2005 through February 18th, 2006. In its eleven months of activity, Placement provided original content by independent voices – something the internet is particularly good offering but which blogs don’t seem to be very good at maintaining. Please take a moment to take a look within our archives.
I would like to thank to the many readers that have found their way to Placement over this past year. I’d also like to thank the writers and technicians that have helped bring additional color to this site.
In closing, I would specifically like to thank the following people whose support has been very vocal and often more important than they are aware: Lauren Cerand, Lorenzo Ciacci and Alyson Dykes, Geoff Manaugh, Andy Rutledge, Benjamin Schicker, Rob Shields and Anne Galloway, Mark Hurst, Michael and Tamara Surtees, Alex Trevi, Kathleen Tyler and Gary Couillard, and Edward Winkleman.
E. Tage Larsen
by E. Tage Larsen
Would it be too strong to say that I hate the AIGA's message? I don't think so. The national office's necrotic preening has resulted in a corpulent haze and professional hijacking-upholding its mantra of ‘90s styled loose dynamism and a voice steeped in slippery frippery. Recently it scuttled its own honest acronym of "AIGA: American Institute of Graphic Arts," into the now arbitrary "AIGA: the professional association for design." All hail "PAD."
Browsing the current issue of "W," I was rewarded by a sentiment similar to my own expressed by backspace author Louise J. Esterhazy. In her list of concerns for the new year, Ms. Esterhazy notes that her portion of the design world is also steeped in a heady tea of career-aggrandizement. "Fashion Designers: Do they want to be designers or something else? Social butterflies? Bankers? TV stars? What happened to just making beautiful clothes that women want to wear?"
By extrapolation, what’s wrong with Graphic Arts?
In a recent essay, Andy Rutledge discusses the need to simplify the messy inner-life of the designer/client relationship with an argument towards selling your product, rather than your drama. It's an argument which is symptomatic of the confusion foisted on design-at-large. From Rutledge’s Design Process he states,”[The] client is not purchasing process. They’re purchasing the expertise and successful track record of an individual or team. They’re purchasing your attention, education and ability. They’re purchasing the result, not the journey. And that’s how it must be. No use agonizing over the fact that the awesomely perfect something came to mind twenty minutes after your meeting – or, for that matter, after 84 hours of mind-numbing, excruciating design work.”
by E. Tage Larsen
T, Saul Leiter, 1959
I could not have greater love for the Saul Leiter show that opens tonight in the Fuller Building. The exhibition is online at Howard Greenberg Gallery. Leiter is an Ab-Ex painter that gave up the brush for photography. The images not only show a New York now long gone but one with a composure and zeal that will never be replaced.
While in Miami, I had the good fortune to discuss the show with Karen Marks, of the gallery. If you stop in, please say "hi" for me. She's a doll.
by E. Tage Larsen
So you're going to be in New York in 2006, nothing to do, and you need to look at some "young" anti-war, pornographic, Canadian or Los Angelino art work that may mostly be either photography or video when it's not occasionally audio, sculpture, and at times begrudgingly painting - then you're going to need to catch the 6 train and head uptown because the Whitney Biennial is the place for you.
Already names are being called, and hair has been pulled, over who will be who next year. The Whitney has just announced the list of artists to be represented in the coming collection. To follow, we're offering you an early look at what's to come.
by E. Tage Larsen
I was out sailing on the Long Island Sound about a month ago. It was cold and blustery in anticipation of Hurricane Wilma which was at that time pasting Florida and skipping its way into the Atlantic. At two points my novice self and crew were in difficulty. Gusting winds of 25+ knots buffeted the 21 foot boat in a frothy sea under too much sail.
Once, the boat was caught between a buoy and the leeward shore as it heeled over hard then stalled--as we rounded into irons, or dead into the wind with no momentum to get ourselves out. The second time was on the far side of Hart Island where, for hours, we were tacking into the wind in order to get back to our mooring. We were being blown into a shipping lane with 45,000 ton tankers gently strolling behind us. At one point, in frustration I looked off the stern of the boat and noticed a seagull floating easily in our wake.
by E. Tage Larsen
“Think of a fast-moving, highly contagious disease that wipes out 5% of the world population (950 million people). Half a million of them in the U.S. …bodies pile up in the streets. There aren’t enough morticians to bury the dead. Nor are there enough doctors and nurses to tend to the sick. The churches close, the schools shut. Telecommunications and transportation grind to a halt. The public succumbs to hysteria and panic. Police protection fails. Order decays. Productivity dives.’
“Sounds like a scene from a science fiction film, doesn’t it? But what if I told you, it already happened? What if I told you it was the pandemic flu that swept across America and around the globe in 1918? Or, if I told you that this glimpse into the past might be a preview to our future. An avian flu pandemic is no longer a question of if, but a question of when.” – Sen. Majority Leader Bill Frist, M.D., Address at Princeton University, 11-18-05
Perhaps it’s because of good fortune and alacrity that we collectively dodged the SARS bullet a few years ago and also why the present hew and cry about the H5N1 virus seems like some distant concern, or worse - media frenzy… so “Summer-of-the-Shark”. The world audience is still nursing its wounds and replaying the real-life disaster films from this past year.
Officially the death toll for H5N1 is still short of 100, with only a few human-to-human transmissions. Unofficially, investigators speculate that the cost in rural China alone is past 300.
Cathy: Mitch, why are they doing this, the birds?
Mitch: We don't know, honey.
Cathy: Why are they trying to kill people?
Mitch: I wish I could say.
- from Alfred Hitchock’s “The Birds”, 1963.
by E. Tage Larsen
My friend (and former colleague) Kevin Lo has just released issue seven of his online magazine, Four Minutes to Midnight. Lo and his partners believe strongly in activism on a personal scale via the arts. This publication continues to investigate art, design, typography, photography and the place of self in a global tide.
The current release also marks the beginning of their publishing empire as number seven begins Four Minutes to Midnight as a printed entity. I believe they are open to submissions. You may download the entire issue at 11:56:07. It's best enjoyed printed.
by E. Tage Larsen
“What do you want to do?”
“I don’t know.”
“Do you want to see a movie?”
“Which movie would you like to see: there are four playing now.”
“I don’t know.”
“Would you just prefer to go home?”
A scene not unlike the hallmark footage from the Ernest Borgnine movie “Marty” where two barflies trade rehearsed pleasantries, however this particular exchange was a variant on many which played similarly over this past weekend when my step-brother came for a visit. Aside, from being an exceptionally bright boy, I imagine he is a pretty typical fourteen-year-old: scruffy, attracted to skateboarding, and a natural but unholy obsession with acquiring an “I “heart” NY” thong for his Baptist girlfriend.
by E. Tage Larsen
&bullJuse: …a statement against Nike. &bull Harry : Honestly no one, not even the NY Times, put it into such perfect context as you. &bull Geoff Manaugh: of BldgBlog recommends additional mining sites.
by E. Tage Larsen
Presently caught between three things in addition to this writing. First, Salander-O'Reilly Galleries (my primary employer) has finally launched its new location for old master painting and sculpture. Roger Kimball of the "New Criterion" lovingly writes up the new space in today's Wall Street Journal. Leigh Morse and I will continue to represent Modernism at our original location at 79th street. It's been a taxing month. Secondly, Jury Duty has kept me firmly away from anything amusing during the day time. I appreciate that this task will be over shortly. Finally, My nights are colored with a last minute packaging job for a beverage company in Los Angeles.
Please expect things to return to a greater semblance of normalcy next week – that of course being highly subjective.
by E. Tage Larsen
A few years ago, I wrote a memoriam of my experiences on 9/11, in an attempt to meet head-on my anger and melancholy. This fourth anniversary reminds me of that history: the days of confusion; months of sorrow; and years of daily life that are so close to normalcy but never again the same. I’m no more secure in my uneasiness of that day and the little trauma that is brought to my doorstep early each September since.
New York is as home as anywhere I’ve lived in the past. At thirty-five years of age, I’ve probably moved over forty times. My New York experience has always been devoid of any suburban outlet. By that I mean that the tall, tight, urban lifestyle defines so much of the activity without any expansive miles of monotonous housing developments or middleclass glades. The different communities here are as quickly divided by intersections as they are by subway stops and rivers. I’ve been fortunate enough to live in a number of different local communities. Presently, I reside in Harlem.
I wanted to bring attention to memorials and shared experiences.
“It was a reminder for everyone. Something happened here. Somebody gave a life here.” - Aliina Granholm, from Deborah Sharp’s “Battles Over Roadside Shrines More Common” in the USA Today.
by E. Tage Larsen
At two and a half miles wide and three-quarters of a mile deep, the Bingham Copper Mine is an extraordinary hole. It is so large, in fact, that it is one of only a few manmade objects viewable from the Shuttle in orbit. Presently its bottom rests at 4,600 feet above sea level. If consumption of excavated material maintains its historical average, the Bingham site will continue to be mined down to 100 feet above sea level, or at least another hundred and fifty years, resulting in at least 10 billion tons of additional material removed.
I had two reasons for visiting: taking an obvious look at the relationship of man, nature and industry; secondly, reflecting on place against a now familiar position that place is the location of site and sentimentality.
by E. Tage Larsen
“Through the vaporous abstraction of Box Elder County Utah, I beheld a wide expanse of lake whose waters were so bloody a hue as to bring to mind a landscape of unspeakable carnage. Yet at the same time a voluptuous calm prevailed. A voluminous languor coupled with a foreboding sense of menace produced a gyratory dimension.” – Robert Smithson,
The words above belong to a notebook on spirals written by Robert Smithson now at the Archives of American Art. His curves are made famous in the artist’s later work, but Smithson’s “Spiral Jetty” is the grand inheritor of that particular arc. “Spiral Jetty” is one of the most recognizable and celebrated markers of late 20th century art.
by E. Tage Larsen
In the shadow of major architectural landmarks is a brilliant, artificial strip of sand. This little mirage will shimmer for a month: built as an easement for weekenders loitering between Central Park’s Summer Stage and PS1’s dance parties. At the tail-end of a parking lot in industrial Queens, a couple of businessmen came together with an idea to create a mid-city beach. Add 400 tons of white sand and two-dollar Pabst Blue Ribbons, a volleyball net and umbrellas (for those shirking violets) and you have the Water Taxi Beach.
New York is slowly trying to promote more of its waterfront property for public usage. What with real estate here being so expensive, the goal remains delectable pabulum for local politicians and far less sating for the constituents. Most of the city dwellers have to commute to the extremes of the boroughs in order to touch something resembling a beach.
by E. Tage Larsen
The ex-Libertarian in me recognizes pangs at the intrusions illustrated in headlines and on the evening news of transit cops conducting bag checks. Random searches are part of the new New York experience. Looking beyond that, the NYPD are doing what they can to shore up a porous system, balancing immediate response against inconveniencing a majority of the commuters.
The cold truth is that the police are always profiling – it is a reductive process of ferreting out criminals via analytical reasoning, usually based on non-verbal cues. And, it’s a tenuous line amplified by the ACLU as a discriminatory practice. People make assumptions about paintings all the time, without stopping to fully appreciate the works. In fine art, people tend to be the most finicky about portraiture as the human form and scale is something of which we are all innately hyper-aware.
by E. Tage Larsen
Mariana had a wayward Mediterranean beauty. She was one of the most stunning women I’ve known, yet bent by a midland-California upbringing and gawky, boyish length. Leigh was mechanical but alive. She held herself within a coat of plaster, corrosive under a frozen mantle. Emily was the last in a series of magnificent daughters. Her ample beauty and puckish cruelty enlisted my teenage devotion. Deborah was unlike the others – less aware of her remove and quite giving. She hid behind soft features, with nervous golden eyes and a complicated anger.
The artist and the muse is a quaint practice now somewhat shunned for gender politics and pictorial vogue. You could argue that the muse is no more. But then, if I’ve had mine mustn’t you have yours? Perfection and adoration are universal aspirations (though neither are considered healthy from a therapeutic perspective.) Marketing offers models which are supposed to replace our personal desires, yet alienate from a script they believe to be sublime. Even if there is as much latent desire in your Blahniks or Carrera there isn’t a reciprocal relationship. They haven’t been able to replace the other yet.
Is there still room in this world for that discreet object of inspiration?
by E. Tage Larsen
Is Steve Wynn an unconscionable huckster or a design genius? Nobody since perhaps Bugsy Siegel has had the type of impact on Las Vegas as Steve Wynn. His portfolio has included the Golden Nugget, Treasure Island, The Mirage and Bellagio. Wynn brought his ambition to the people, and the people repaid him in kind – making Las Vegas a family vacation destination.
His new resort, Wynn Las Vegas, opened with enormous fanfare and scrutiny. Ten thousand visitors its opening day. This newest vision offers something much more conservative from his previous ventures. Wynn Las Vegas is the less-More of the Less-is-More debate. Expecting the lavish excess of a next Bellagio, the major newspapers have been unkind at this plain, boxy venture.
Steve Wynn in a recent, rare, two-part interview on the Charlie Rose Show answers important questions about the role of the businessman in the life of aesthetics. To follow are some lessons learned from the “design billionaire.”
“The businessman part is easy. The art part is hard.”
by E. Tage Larsen
Normally, We reserve this space for longer essays but Oskar Karlin’s project sort of speaks for itself. Every day he maps out his travels, over time patterns appear. Under projects, check out the series “The Never Ending Drawing.”
Reminds us a Bob Mould song, “All the time, you wore a hole/ The same place tacked over and over/ And I never go there, I never go there.”
But then, We’re probably projecting. There’s little to say other than how exquisitely beautiful somebody’s else’s wandering can appear.
by E. Tage Larsen
“Those glasses make you look ugly.”
“I want to look ugly.”
“Those glasses make you look stupid.”
“I want to look stupid.”
Salacious euphemisms won’t sate the honest ambition of Michael Winterbottom’s “9 Songs.” Descriptives such as “erotic” and “making love” seem like coy colloquialisms, as antiquated and emancipated as Marlo Thomas or as minted as Mae West’s lure. Can the 20th century really be so distant? “9 Songs” is a window into the often meaningless and habitual interaction of many cosmopolitan relationships: made all the more real for it’s ad lib dialogue, actual concert footage, and explicit hardcore sex.
Set for theatrical release in the next few weeks, barring certain distribution difficulties, “9 Songs” is the love story of Matt and Lisa, who meet at a concert and spend a summer together. The movie is told through a rapid series of vignettes intended to reveal a relationship Matt remembers: great music, endless sex, quiet moments of inane conversation and rising spats. It’s because of this blasé vérité that it might be the best date movie of the year.
by E. Tage Larsen
The Summer issue of "Art on Paper" (presently at the newsstand) displays the fruit of a simple experiment. A young staffer (either real or fictive) sends a letter to a bunch of artists explaining the problem of being young and new to New York, with many of the problems that come to bear on that condition with the added issue of being a young artist. A number of letters are sent out and they publish a dozen of them.
“My advice? Don’t go into art for fame and fortune. Do it because you cannot not do it. Being an artist is a combination of talent and obsession. Live in New York, L.A., Koln, or London.” – John Baldessari
by E. Tage Larsen
Robert Smithson, "Terminal Area Concepts," Tibbets, Abbot, McCarthy, and Stratton, c.1966
Robert Smithson’s distant, mythic, Spiral Jetty is his most familiar artwork. However, it was nearly eclipsed by an earlier and far more commercial proposal to develop the “Dallas Fort Worth Regional Airport” as a landscape that integrated a public space with land art.
From 1966-67, Smithson was retained by Tibbets, Abbott, McCarthy, and Stratton (TAMS) as an “artist-consultant.” Smithson’s heavy interest in French films and structuralism saw a number TAMS related works based on maps, aerial art, and with a different perspective.
by E. Tage Larsen
“Italian mothers tell their children that it’s bad manners to eat or drink anywhere but the table.” – Deborah Ball, WSJ “Italian Challenge: Water everywhere But Not on the Go”
I could find no mention of eating in public in Emily Post’s etiquette book. The Italian deference on this just seems like good taste and proper manners. Italians drink more bottled water than the rest of the world – about three times more bottled water than Americans consume – and nearly entirely behind closed doors. Nestle SA is aggressively trying to change those social practices with a marketing campaign designed to subvert the cultural norm: in this case “good taste.”
by E. Tage Larsen
Despite the marvelous technology that colors our lives, we persist in perpetuating an anachronistic mindset. According to Ron Pompei we might as well be living in the 19th Century. Our growth is subsumed by a culture that privileges an ever-narrowing worldview. Ron Pompei is the principal at Pompei A.D. What comes across from his recent talk is a desire to connect with the client in better ways, emphasizing empathy and authenticity.
That our culture hasn’t reconciled with the industrial age confuses our best efforts to digest and portray the information age. Instead we are the inheritors to a blind enlightenment. For Pompei, we are still hobbled by that history. To that end he offers, “In that period of time we limited our definition of our selves because we have to fit in with the machines that we were creating.”
by E. Tage Larsen
Though you can draw a diagram for the different axis’s that humor works on, you can’t really sit down and tell somebody what “funny” is. Humor is contextual, inexplicable and personal. Bob Mankoff has been working on a research project with the University of Michigan psychology department to find out how people process humor: how your eyes track and when your pupils dilate.
As the Cartoon Editor for The New Yorker magazine, Mankoff is in the fortunate position to pursue this question as he looks at a thousand cartoons a week. His recent book tour took him to a lengthy discussion at the New York Historical Society and Good Experience Live 2005.
“Cartoons and humor are not for the good times. They’re for all the bad frustrations, annoyances, and things bordering on the horrible that happen to us. And they’re even for the horrible things happen to other people - it’s a certain little anesthesia of the heart which is necessary.” – Bob Mankoff
by E. Tage Larsen
&bullBen Schicker : It's strange to me the different people I've met online & how their stories overlap my own. How their essays tell me about my life. &bullJim Sheehan : Colbert's eye owes something to Godfrey Reggio, but his heart is all Norman Rockwell -- and his soul (if his photography could afford him one), belongs to Hugh Hefner. &bullDana Fisher: So many times, things that seem so profound from the outside ...are really just done for convenience.
by E. Tage Larsen
The image you see here is from a manuscript auction a few months back. It's been resting in limbo because I keep thinking it’s from a Sotheby’s sale in March, and that i'll find the source material. No matter how many times I go back to the Cosmatos catalogue, it’s not there.
The story goes, as I remember, that an English printing press was on its last legs, taken over by a new owner in the 19th Century and they issued this preface before a short-run publication. This story could all be fiction with as poor as my memory serves me at times. [I challenge anyone to find this auction lot, $50 to the first person to send me the correct link.] No real matter, because truly, the story the document tells is why it’s here.
I’ve been thinking about the past recently. Mostly about my grandparent’s generation who went through World War II, some of which were children of the Great Depression. Those people not only lived through trying times but they all struggled for the comfort we now benefit from. They knew enough to be thankful, and to work hard.
by Jennifer Hamm
“Every waking moment of our lives, we swim in an ocean of advertising, all of it telling us the same thing: consume, consume. And then consume some more. The epidemic of over-consumption begins with the things we put in our mouths.”
So writes Morgan Spurlock in his newly released Don’t Eat This Book. Having slimmed down after making “Super Size Me,” Spurlock has been working the morning talk show circuit to promote his book and talk about the factors that have made the United States the fattest nation on the planet.
Spurlock’s “epidemic of over-consumption” took a surreal turn recently with the release of Paris Hilton’s newest soft-porn – an advertisement for Carl’s Jr.' Spicy BBQ Six Dollar Burger.
by E. Tage Larsen
This is a quick announcement to let you know that we've finally got a subscription service up and running. You may now use the navigation button Subscribe to sign up for updates on articles published, special events, and projects that we're involved with.
by E. Tage Larsen
Now grossly over-magnified, marketing is pivotal in exaggerating choice in western culture. It’s a tired refrain to remind that branders and advertisers gorge you on implausible and improbable variants of things you already own or likely never needed — a buffet of attrition culminating in economic bulimia. Wealth does what it does. More choice among goods and services serves more to detract us from the type of quality decisions that improve our lives. Too many choices distract and sap our energy, trapping us in an ever-yawning entropy of consumption.
Should you “choose” to look past Determinism and be welcomed into this complicated and godless waste of modernism — for we are all truly its heirs and byproduct, regardless of your theistic ascription — then you can’t escape the numbing preponderance of consumptive mass. For the past few hundred years, choice has been a battle cry of freedom. Now, the “too-muchness” of it may ultimately be a schism between free will and freedom.
Barry Schwartz, author of “The Paradox of Choice,” recently spoke about this at length, at the GEL 2005 conference (included within, is a transcript of his talk). Schwartz opened with a brief voice-over by Carrie from HBO’s “Sex in the City”:
“I thought about choices. Since birth, modern women have been told they can do and be anything we want – be an astronaut, be a head of a company, a stay-at-home mom. There aren’t any rules anymore. And the choices are endless. And apparently they can all be delivered right to your door. But is it possible that we’ve gotten so spoiled by choices that we’ve become unable to make one? That a part of us knows that once you choose something, one man, one grade of carpet, one amazing job, another option goes away. Are we a generation of women who can’t choose just one from column A? Did we all have too much to handle? Or was Samantha right? Can we have it all?”
by Cherie Louise Turner
The work of Los Angeles–based artist Tim Hawkinson is currently featured in a two-decade retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art. This, and indeed all of his shows, has met with enthusiasm by both art critics and the public. There is no doubt that Hawkinson is an artist deserving of accreditation for he is imbued with requisite inventiveness, talent, and passion. He is prolific in meticulous ways. Because Tim Hawkinson is obsessed with exploring the very meaning of life. And it is evident in his abundance that the specter of time is always at his heels, pushing him to find a satisfactory, awe-inspiring resolution; which hasn’t yet come, for the viewer or the artist. Unedited and self-indulgent, the work often doesn’t go further than Hawkinson and his (and by extension, our) everyday world.
In Situ, was a side-blog produced by Placement for items of quick note and links that didn't require additional introduction.
• Susan Mazur offers a short follow-up interview with our man Oscar White Muscarella regarding the announcement that the krater at the Met will be returned to the Italian government. Within this second part, Muscarella defines what "good faith" means to the antiquities market:
"When a museum director or curator or trustee says that they purchased an object in good faith, what it means is that the dealer who sells it to them can guarantee:
(1) that the site from which these objects were plundered is now destroyed so no one can trace it;
(2) that the objects were smuggled out of the country of origin;
(3) that all the bribes were paid;
(4) that the object was then shipped to America and entered legally."
• In other noteworthy happenings earlier this week, we are happy to mention that the Metropolitan Museum of Art has come to an agreement with the Italian government to return the Euphronios krater, which has been long controversial. You may remember this as a key ingredient from our earlier link, last month, on friend and rabble-rouser Oscar White Muscarella. The Met has negotiated to retain the krater on an extended loan.
• Whilst we were away, "Art+Auction" agreed with us on Saul Leiter. Their February issue "Ten Undervalued Masters of Photography." From Richard Woodward's profile, "Leiter's sfumato New York street pictures from the late 1940s and early '50s take a besotted romantic's view of the world. He photographs cities in a melancholy style that is more Josef Sudek than William Klein. Who else views New York's shadows not as menacing existential voids but as places of repose?"
• It's good to be back from the heartland. Somewhere we had a photo of master Ezra Tom Peter Jones who took us skeet shooting, but the internet is a cruel mistress and the photo probably wouldn't make anysense to anyone else anyways. There is also much to be said for the generosity of Levi Elder who ran PR at Sundance and showed us much that we might have missed without proper guidance. Thanks to all. We'd like to retain all of our friends, particularly now that we've ruined our Google rating (see below.)
• Andy Kessler (bit of a Silicon muckraker) writes in this morning's WSJ of Google's precarious "sell-out."
“Google Maps and Google Earth and gmail bring a kind of geek chic to the dull old media world. Plus, there are those lofty ideals: "to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful." It's why we all use them. Google should do everything to stay cool. GM is spending millions on ads that say "Just Google Pontiac" to get in on the zeitgeist.
‘…The U.S. government wanted search history to help fight child porn and Google said no way, to cheers from their Big Brother-hating constituency. But for its search service in China, Google caved to the communists, removing offending results for "Human Rights" and "Things that are Democratic." Tough choice. Founder Sergey Brin is quoted by Fortune as saying, "it will be better for Chinese Web users, because ultimately they would get more information, though not quite all of it."
‘…Google could have kept their cool and trusted image if they'd just worked with someone else in China, someone they could smash. Eggroll.com powered by Google. Someone else to blame for those unsearchable keywords. Users in the West may not desert them, but a billion soon-to-be-online Chinese will forever associate Google with lame and censored results -- search tools of the state. That's just dumb. And totally uncool.”
• I think you know that we would love to take you on vacation with us next week but then people would talk and we know how concerned you are with your "reputation", so barring that sit back and take a little web vacation on us: one part time warp, one part chew your arm off to get out of the trap. On Vacation
• Within a series of essays sparked by a recent symposium on the culture war, the New Criterion offers a sharp essay by Roger Scruton regarding the inherent failure in democracies. From his third point "How do we reconcile democracy with the values that it seems to threaten?" comes the following,
"Just as tyranny is the default position of government, so is vice the default position of human nature--the position to which we tend when the external force of judgment is removed. People sink of their own accord into sloth, lust, and gluttony and are confirmed in their degeneracy by the non-judgmental culture. As a result they lose the long-term vision of life and society, and their choices retreat into the present tense. Their short-term pursuit of sensual pleasure will be reflected in their voting habits, which will be governed by the desire to produce more for me, here, now."
In finishing, "It is a characteristic error of the times in which we live to confound the virtue of tolerance with the refusal to judge. To be tolerant and to be "non-judgmental" are in fact opposite characteristics. The tolerant person is the one who makes room for things of which he disapproves; the non-judgmental person is the one who disapproves of nothing, and therefore tolerates nothing. The refusal to judge is also a part of moral obesity, and the egalitarian culture, which is deeply hostile to any form of judgment other than the blanket condoning of human weakness, is therefore preparing the ground for a new kind of intolerance--the intolerance of virtue." - January 2006, New Criterion.
M.M. DeVoe came to us with a request to do an illustration for her next project, how could we resist? Even bad girls need to be drawn well.
• When people ask me why my place of employment often gives me a headache, I have to clearly explain that the art world is tenuous imbroglio of wealthy folks and personalities fighting over vessels of ephemeral and absurd import. My friend, and rabble rouser, Oscar White Muscarella was recently interviewed about his employment at the Metropolitan Museum, the Met’s history of acquisition and recent events surrounding the trial in Italy involving trustees of the Getty Museum. The interview with Oscar clearly outlines some of the complexities involved around the traffic of cultural heritage, and to some extent why I get headaches.
"How can you employ people, encourage people to destroy a tomb? A site? I have been walking around the Near East for years. And I can tell you in Turkey, in Iran, Greece, wherever you go, you see holes in the ground. Dynamite. Battering poles. Bulldozers. All the objects are removed, sent to the various dealers who smuggle them out of the country of origin, all to be sold to these museums you mentioned and many others, including university museums.' ...'There's no difference between Punchy Sulzberger and Le Comte Philippe de Montebello and all the others on the Met board of trustees who've been supporting theft and plunder for years. And all those collectors. The object should stay in the ground until it's excavated scientifically where people spend years on a site and document every single object found and its context. That's how we know about our ancient history." highly animated, classically handsome and somewhat excitable Muscarella
• "I remember once imagining what my life would be like...what I'd be like. I pictured having all these qualities-strong, positive qualities-that people could pick up on from across the room. But as time passed, few ever became any qualities that I actually had. And all the possibilities I faced, and the sorts of people I could be all of them got reduced every year to fewer and fewer until finally they got reduced to one - to who I am. And that's who I am."
- Dave Spritz's (Nicholas Cage) monologue from "The Weather Man"
• Give a crazy kid with a Parson's degree in design and technology lots of spare time and he'll come up with a heavily rationalized, yet loving tribute to the evolving display of complex systems (think John Maeda.) Manuel Lima's Visual Complexity should be a good resource for information architects, systems hounds, and map buffs alike.
• "He liked being an actor and a spectator and from his chair to take part in other men's dramas and decisions, until it came to his own turn to say that vital 'yes' or 'no', generally on a fifty-fifty chance.
'Above all, he liked it that everything was one's own fault. There was only oneself to praise or blame. Luck was a servant and not a master. Luck had to be accepted with a shrug or taken advantage of up to the hilt. But it had to be understood and recognized for what it was and not confused with a faulty appreciation of the odds, for, at gambling, the deadly sin is to mistake bad play for bad luck. And luck in all its moods had to be loved and not feared. Bond saw luck as a woman, to be softly wooed not brutally ravaged, never pandered to or pursued. But he was honest enough to admit that he had never yet been made to suffer by cards or by women. One day, and he accepted the fact, he would be brought to his knees by love or luck. When that happened he knew that he too would be branded with the deadly question-mark he recognized so often in others, the promise to pay before you have lost: the acceptance of fallibility." - p.42, Casino Royale, Ian Fleming.
• "It doesn't take a genius to grasp that a diet of chicken nuggets and Oreos will lead to weight gain. Simply ask yourself: Do your pants still fit?
'Under normal circumstances, most grown-ups would resent the implication that they are morons. But there seems to be an appeal to blaming one's ballooning weight on a corporate plot rather than on weak self-discipline. And it's easier to leave the solution in someone else's hands, too -- the government's or even God's (hence Christian books like "The Maker's Diet").
'Every few years we herald another FDA food pyramid or the news that some hitherto overlooked ingredient will be added to the labels on the back of our frozen dinners. (Starting next month, calorie counts must be printed in larger type.) But none of this matters: The poundage is still pachydermical. So tomorrow, when it comes time to make our New Year's weight-loss resolutions, why don't we resolve to leave Uncle Sam out of it?" - Todays's WSJ, "Big Brother Is (Weight) Watching.
• Dartmouth professor, Jeffrey Hart, offers an essay updating Edmund Burke for the 21st c. Within, the following quote caught my eye: "Ideology is always wrong because it edits reality and paralyzes thought."
• When youth cultures collide: "One night she went out with another Montrose mom and stitched a pink-and-purple cozy onto a boutique's door handle. It was an act of artistic defiance, a soft, warm tag in a part of town dominated by aerosol arrogance. Other swaths began appearing on street signs, car antennae and park benches, and word soon got around there was a new crew of taggers in town." Knit Graffiti.
• Over the ten years or so that i've been living in New York i've considered myself thankful and somewhat streetwise for having not yet been mugged. Of course, crime statistics being made out of gum-drops and candy canes around these parts in recent history hasn't greatly tested my mettle. I wasn't exactly mugged last night as i was threatened to be mugged by an clearly crazy guy outside the liqour store. A fifty-cent donation to the urban blight seemed the better part of being gunned down before my big dinner party this weekend. It's this type of behavior which reminds me of why there's not more Clarence in Harlem.
• In a little, wordy war over the vaunted Toyota Prius in the editorial pages of the WSJ over the last few weeks, comes an interesting article today articulating the economics of dreaming green. Holman Jenkins Jr. writes: "Edmunds.com, the auto shopper site, guided us to Honda's Civic and Toyota's Corolla as conventional alternatives to the hybrid Prius. This was the source of our claim that the Prius retails for $9,500 more than comparable vehicles. In its own research, Edmunds concluded a Prius owner would have to drive 66,500 miles per year or gasoline would have to jump to $10 for the purchase to pay off. ...Q. But doesn't saving oil have benefits beyond the dollars saved -- for instance, postponing the doom of civilization? A: No: If Prius owners consume less, there's less demand, prices will be lower and somebody else will step up to consume more than they would at the otherwise higher price. That's the price mechanism at work. Oil is a fantastically useful commodity. Humans can be relied upon to consume all the oil they'd be willing to consume at a given price."
• If you've ever had one of those dreams where you've been chased by something and can't wake up... is exactly how i feel about the following. One part technological feat, two parts catastrophe movie setting: Skywalk. Can anyone confirm that this isn't a hoax? Wait, there's more EyeWitnessNews coverage.
• like Pinocchio, you know, only more... wooden.
• Just back from Art Basel Miami Beach. So much to see - Generally more of the same, only better. A number of friends have posted better reports than I have the time or audacity to share. My date and I were stalked relentlessly by the paparazzi at the MOCA opening but it seems we just missed the society pages of the Miami Herald. Artblog has a nice photo walk through of some favorites paintings at ABMB, including our Davis "Fin", unfortunately he missed our Helion which is better than the one illustrated: Artblog ABMB. It was also really nice of Plus Ultra Gallery to stop by with their posse and say hi. Ongoing coverage through the eyes of the AQUA Fair via Edward Winkleman, and of course coverage of the NADA fair by La Dauphine.
We stayed at the Shore Club in Miami Beach. If I never stay in another Ian Schrager Hellhole again it'll be too soon. At $750 a night, the room looked like a cross between a Howard Johnsons and Bellevue. Criminal and sad. After the first evening, the "S" burnt out and the rest of my trip was spent at the Hore Club. Did I mention I hate Ian Schrager hotels?
• I will be at Art Basel Miami Beach for the remainder of the week. After three years of applying, we've been granted access to the "ice palace". I know some of you will be traveling to Miami for at least one of the three art fairs going on this week. If you have the time and inclination, please stop by the Salander booth (J14, Hall D) and introduce yourself. I'll be the one asking you to purchase the Braque .
• Excellent, albeit dry, investigation into mapping Toponymy: Placenames.
• Either an interesting historical marketing resource on the origination of corporate names or nefarious and banal advertising. Both? Company Etymologies.
• "The sentence "One thing is not another" may, according to context, mean almost anything; yet to an Ahuan, the precise meaning in any particular context will always be crystal clear. Those who first studied the Ahuans at first took vagueness and ambiguity to be the central features of their language, and this misconception is still widely accepted. However, it is a misconception. An Ahuan utterance is always precise and clear, to another Ahuan. It is we who lack the necessary context to disambiguate what to us looks like impenetrable fog." (via Anne at Space and Culture) further reading in Journey Into Ahua.
• Fujifilm has perfected the concept of armchair ecotourism with a gallery providing "tours" of the forests of the world. All shot, quite logically, on Fuji film: Forever Forests.
• Punitive Architecture. An article in today's WSJ by Gautam Naik, looks at a new trend in building design that is intended to induce physical activity over expeditious arrival.
“Most of the 3,000 students now at the Richmond, Va., business school take elevators to reach classrooms. But in the new structure, the elevators will be especially slow-moving. They will also be tucked away at the rear, while the atrium will feature a prominent set of stairs -- 28 to get to the second floor, and a total of 76 to get all the way up to the fourth floor.” …”Buildings have long been designed so people can get from one place to another with minimum physical effort. Now, in a bid to fight a rising tide of obesity, companies, universities and other institutions are embracing the opposite idea: buildings that force employees to move around a lot more.”
• Alex at Pruned has some excellent images of the Dugway Proving Grounds in Utah: "More sublime (in the true sense of the word) than Spiral Jetty. More relevant than Double Negative." Dugway.
• When the internet works, it can be a very interesting animal. An enlightening interview with Harold Bloom: aesthetic splendour, cognitive power, and wisdom.
• Associate Satisfaction. Enjoy the cultivated ethnography on the well-cared-for Wal-mart employee. Further from the memo:
¶ Our workforce is aging faster (0.50 years per calendar year) than the national average (0.12 years per calendar year).
¶ Our workers are getting sicker than the national population, particularly with obesity-related diseases. For example, the prevalence of coronary artery disease in Wal-Mart’s population grew by 6 percent compared to a national average of 1 percent, and the prevalence of diabetes in our population grew by 10 percent compared to a national average of 3 percent. (That said, our workforce is no sicker at present in absolute terms than the national population.)
¶ A segment of our workforce consumes healthcare inefficiently, in a pattern similar to a Medicaid population. Our population tends to over utilize emergency room and hospital services and underutilize prescriptions and doctor visits. This pattern is most evident among our low-income Associates, and one hypothesis is that this behavior may result from prior experience with Medicaid programs.
Satisfaction varies significantly, however, by benefit and by segment of Associate, creating an opportunity to rebalance the benefits portfolio to improve satisfaction while reducing costs. In particular, the least healthy, least productive Associates are more satisfied with their benefits than other segments and are interested in longer careers with Wal-Mart.
Halloween comes early this year. The rest of the horror story can be downloaded via Eyebeam/ReBlog at Memo.
• Another fiery testimonial from Andy Rutledge: “It is my experience that design seldom can do much good for most second- and third-tier companies and organizations. The reason for this is that these sorts of entities almost always fail themselves before they even enlist the services of a designer or a design agency.
More often than not, companies and organizations first need business consulting before they need design–else all the design in the world can do little good for them.” From How Design Fails. To the greater questions in the essay, I wonder if it’s a matter of opportunity or responsibility on behalf of the contracted company. Personally, I regularly see this problem when it’s subcontracted out to me and the Creative Director has already caved in.
• Your friendly, neighborhood Wal-Mart recently went on record not only stating that the minimum wage is archaic and not instep with inflation, also touting an agenda to become a more Green-conscious company – both PR steps to make the giant appear more accessible and feeling -- but has also been kind enough to leak an inner-office memo proposing that they discourage unhealthy people from working there.
As many major companies are trying to deal with expensive insurance costs, Wal-Mart has decided, “It will be far easier to attract and retain a healthier work force than it will be to change behavior in an existing one,” … “These moves would also dissuade unhealthy people from coming to work at Wal-Mart.”
• Bless the Britts and the Children. Branders bypass television and go directly to children's hospitals and schools. "The result is that today's average British child is familiar with up to 400 brand names by the time they reach the age of 10. Researchers report that our children are more likely to recognise Ronald McDonald and the Nike swoosh than Jesus. One study found that 69% of all three-year-olds could identify the McDonald's golden arches - while half of all four-year-olds did not know their own name. …Meanwhile, childhood obesity has tripled in the past 25 years. Nearly one in six British kids is overweight; 6% are obese. For the first time, children are being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, a disease previously thought to be confined to the over-40s." More at the Guardian: Toddler Consumer
• "For years, I've been waiting for the advent of location-based applications -- apps that use your location as a key data point in delivering services. Up until now, the main appeal of the Internet is that it erases geography; it allowed the model-train freaks and Linux freaks and libertarian freaks and first-edition-of-Spiderman to find one another, no matter where they were located." Phone stalking just got easier thanks to new social software Mologogo,
• “It's hard to eliminate ‘unnecessary driving’ if the store, school, and work are miles away through pedestrian-unfriendly highways. It's hard to eat healthy when you're surrounded by fast-food restaurants, the nearest supermarket is a long bus ride away, and local/organic food is nowhere to be found. Most people, particularly poor people, live in environments that make unhealthy and eco-unfriendly choices the path of least resistance,” David Roberts writes at Gristmill, regarding a recent study linking obesity and environment.
The Seattle Times covers the issue quite thoroughly in this article: “Across King County, researchers such as Rehm are studying everything from the clusters of fast-food restaurants to the number of run-down sidewalks, trying to explain high rates of obesity. And the Exploratory Center is right in the thick of it, one of only two federally funded programs in the country that are looking at how economics and the environment affect obesity. …For starters, healthy food costs more. The price of produce has skyrocketed in the past two decades, according to a study by the Rand Corporation. At the same time, the price of sweets and soft drinks has stayed about the same.”
• In this morning's WSJ, Robert W. Poole, Jr. offers and oped directed at specialized High-Occupancy Vehicle lanes already in trials in Houston that create a specialized commuter toll lane. Already dedicated to buses the new toll lanes would offer an incentive to taxpayers and possibly create a new status lane. First class driving?
As Poole, Jr. writes,"A single lane can handle 1,700 vehicles an hour without congestion. In every metro area but New York, however, it would be very difficult to fill enough buses to operate more often than one per minute (60 per hour). There's room for about 1,600 additional -- paying -- cars per hour without interfering with the high-speed flow of buses and vanpools. That's a lot of toll revenue -- in some cases enough to pay the cost of building an additional lane."
• Action at a distance. The CommonCensus Map Project is a flexible online survey illustrating metropolitan influences far greater than regional boundaries.
• It's a joy when something that you enjoy walks up and introduces itself to you. Such was the case when BldgBlog came knocking on our door recently and the world of Geoff Manaugh opened to us. In Nova Arctica, Manaugh takes a brief look at the ghoulish and gleeful new opportunities of a northern sea passage. It's commentary that we wish we had the time or perspective to cover.
• When Tina Roth recently sat up and proclaimed Andy Rutledge's site her favorite new design writing find, we were of course very intrigued - what a fine pedigree indeed. Not only does Mr. Rutledge not disappoint, presenting us with cunning CSS and clean layout but the writing is considered, independent and downright willful. It's refreshing to once again see somebody able to critique the design profession.
• Juse has just launched round three at I Have Pop. Just go. It's really good. This time the site specific works are subverting graffiti. ...Just go.
• A point we were going to bring up in the recent "Nowhere in Particular" essay was the good work the people at Terra Nova and Non-Games were doing about addressing the issue of real-world vs. cyber space. Logging in at four pages, we were already in danger of losing you after the transition to macro-sociological boundaries. Last weekend we missed the "State of Play III" conference. Thankfully it is now in part available as streamed video, Compliments of the New York Law School. Currently we're sitting through the "Great Debate."
• Contributing author Jennifer Hamm and I had a chance to visit the fully restored Museum of Modern Art yesterday. I must admit that it’s the first time I’ve visited the site since its massive restoration. I’d expected the worst having read the Times and New Criterion pan the new facility. Its greatest failure for me is in its lack of originality. The new structure is too crowded with work (fixable) and somewhat labyrinthine but it suffers the most in that’s trying too hard to be: a little bit Whitney Biennial; dragging some PS1 to midtown; and a dash of Guggenheim and a pinch of Tate. Last summer when I visited the Tate, I was appalled at the garish transom that seems to occupy more room than the galleries. The Modern, caused me to reconsider the Tate and enjoy that narrative flow of its galleries and stark simplicity. Rachel Whiteread, space/place-sensitive sculpture darling, is next to contribute to the Tate’s entryway with a work entitled “Embankment” which consists of 14,000 polythene boxes.
• "A village's character erodes slowly, and you don't realize it right away. It's rarely one project. It's a series of small decisions - a gradual erosion of what makes a place special." - Elizabeth Chetney says in a recent article in the "Buffalo News" of the township of East Aurora's fight for identity and their ongoing battle against "nameless, faceless architecture:" Last of the Little Villages [Now, sadly, a pay link]
• I can't lay claim to Bronsteen's success or notoriety as anything more than self made but his 100 tips on how to succeed in the art world is pretty amusing with more than just a shade of accuracy. Earl Bronsteen's "How to Become a Famous Artist"
• Which is the righter right? Further studies in morality ask questions about whether or not there is a core to morality that is cross cultural. Rebecca Saxe takes a good look at the structure of morality: "In a world of religious wars, genocide, and terrorism, no one is naive enough to think that all moral beliefs are universal. But beneath such diversity, can we discern a common core—a distinct, universal, maybe even innate “moral sense” in our human nature?" Do The Right Thing