November 24, 2003 02:02 PM

And your little dog, too

So: two adults (being myself and my brother), two skeptical teenagers (being our progeny), and The Wizard of Oz. It turns out that my brother, my big, almost hulking brother, the man with the trailing goatee and extensive tattoos, this same man who used to move his Harley into the bedroom during the winter, has memorized the whole of the movie. As have I. A riotous evening follows, with both of us intoning every line and singing along to every song, while the kids go from tolerating us, to enjoying this, to laughing madly. Britney insists that Glinda, the Good Witch of the North, is played by Madonna. History lesson follows, and is ignored. Date of movie release, 1939, and Madonna's date of birth (is it '58 or '59?) are brought up for comparison; Britney refuses to do the math. The kids shriek when the legs of the Witch of the East shrivel away under the house; both of them agree that this is more horrific than most things they've seen in recent horror films. We all sing along with the Munchkins, and howl out the famous lines along with the Witch of the West. I start yelling, towards the end of the film, at Dorothy: why the hell does she want to go back to Kansas, fer crissakes! She's in frickin' Oz!

This part has never made sense to me.

But go back she does. Fine. Me, I would never have left. You would have had to drag me out of Oz, protesting furiously. None of this "send me back to where it's all black and white, there's no place like home" stuff.

Have I linked to the William Blake Archive? Even if so, it's well worth another visit.

Also: The Museum of London online picture galleries. Searchable.


Found this there; it's an ad for paint from the 1950s. There's a certain bleak discomfort that I see in this type of room, though I'm trying to look at it as being clean and elegant, the way a woman's eyes in the 1950s might have. Not being terribly sucessful, though.

November 24, 2003 in only connect | Permalink | Comments (4)

November 12, 2003 04:53 AM

Two turntables and a microphone

So Kevin takes me to see this. I stand in the line, realizing that I am probably the oldest person there by a good 10 years, if not more, though the guy at the door earns my undying affection by asking to see my ID. He looks a little closer, and tries to wave me through, but I am having far too much fun pulling out my driver's license. The venue is one of those places where it is obvious just how wretched it would appear once the lights go up; even in the dark the cigarette burns on the carpet are evident, and the whole place has an unscrubbed air, and a shabbiness which has nothing to do with actual grime and everything to do with coldness and the concrete floor.

But the performance is astonishing, like a kind of cultural lucid dreaming expressed through manipulated turntables and mixers and faders and samples, and the experience is coupled with the thrill of decoding the sounds as they are generated--not just recognizing the samples, but an almost physical sense of skipping or flying over the rhythms, of apprehending the direction in which the sound is going as it runs through its fractal changes.

Elsewhere, Computational Phonology, where one can download articles with titles like "Optimality Theory and the problem of constraint aggregation". I remember enough of my linguistics courses to puzzle out some of the content, but my real interest is in trying to figure out, as best I can, which it isn't possible to build some kind of AI function which will recognize spam as well as my reading brain does. I can spot a piece of spam within a split second and at twenty paces, and so can you, but in order to recreate or build that level of discrimination into an AI operation I'm guessing that you have to parse a whole unconscious sequence of decisions and interpretations performed by the human brain when faced with something like this:

and liable to much furtive persecution in spite of the monogamy the
Most Effective and Natural Sexual Enhancer Everand became rigid with watchfulness. Montgomery almost staggered
Stronger Bigger Harder Erectionsmy apartment, for he perceived that I had acquired a dislike
Safer and Cheaper than Viagra
All Natural Ingredientsowner kept three cows, one horse, and one donkey, and sold some hay
Stimulates Blood Flow
No Negative Side Effects No Increased Blood Pressureback as 597 B.C., these memorable words were uttered by Prince
Fix Premature Ejaculation and Impotencysun must be enormously larger than the earth; and this is the
Click to Be King of the Bedroom
the heavenly bodies would lose their centrifugal force, and

I don't know whether to cheer the lunatic found poetry of this or just curse the engines of spam. At any rate, I don't know much about the construction of AIs or computational languages, but I'm guessing that there are cognitive operations which we take for granted which are very difficult to duplicate...

It seems almost charming, at first, that so many of the links of the Virtual Computing Museum are dead; but there is a picture of a Difference Engine, a link to Memorials for Alan Turing, and photographs of extremely ancient, extremely large, and not very powerful computers from the earliest days.

Gentrification update for November: the second hand bookstore has closed, unable to make the rent, which I am told today by the owner of the cafe next door has gone up to 1600/month (and it's a small space, too). Replacing the bookstore will be an art gallery; the new hardwood floors were being polished the other day.

And herewith a grab bag of scraps for these newly chilly fall days.

November 12, 2003 in something for the wunderkammer | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 2, 2003 12:27 AM

Phonetic shadows

From Irving Layton, The Fertile Muck:

How to dominate reality? Love is one way;
imagination another.

Perhaps, perhaps. It may be the word 'dominate' here which stops me; it's that eternal human fantasy of controlling the real. But the facts of the real continue to accumulate, quietly, the way they do, like dust or dead leaves. I've been going through old papers, and came across a presentation I did on the Russian Formalists, four years ago, I think. Some quotes:

Shklovsky, from Art and Device (1917): "A work of art is the sum total of all sylistic devices employed in it."

Trotsky, from Literature and Revolution, published 7 years later in 1924: "The Formalists show a fast ripening religiousness. They are followers of St. John. They believe that 'In the Beginning was the Word'. But we believe that in the beginning was the deed. The word followed, its phonetic shadow."

From Karl Radek's address on "Contemporary World Literature and the Tasks of Proletarian Art" at The First Soviet Writer's Congress of 1934, regarding Ulysses: "A heap of dung, crawling with worms, photographed by a cinema apparatus through a microscope."

From "literature as a system of systems", and art as dynamic integration, to Soviet Realism in seventeen years. A final image, one which I have never been able to shake, is Bakhtin, using his notes and research to roll cigarettes during the Second World War. And what is the worth of a manuscript when weighed against the need of one man to have one more cigarette in such a time...

And speaking of the most implacable reality, that of the frailty and failures of the body, Robert Carswell's Pathological Anatomy: Illustrations of the Elementary Forms of Disease (1838), oddly beautiful illustrations of disease and damage. Also at this site, The Body Revealed: Renaissance and Baroque Anatomical Illustration.


From Anatomia del corpo humano, Antonio Salamanca et Antonio Cafreri, Rome, 1560.

This wasn't mean to be a memento mori, actually, but rather some kind of testament to human endurance in the face of all odds. Or something. Reality cannot be dominated, but it can be symbolically represented... leaving aside the highly problematic idea of reality itself, for the moment.

November 2, 2003 in poetics | Permalink | Comments (1)

October 14, 2003 12:40 AM

Mea Culpa

I know I've been sadly neglectful here, but in which circle of hell was hatched the very, very evil idea of spamming the comment function of weblogs? If you happened to buy that V***gra through the sites brutally and unfairly linked here over the last few weeks, please be cautious, and don't blame me if it doesn't work. I've deleted the comments, and also performed a species of cleansing ceremony (this involves muttered swearing and calling down curses upon spammers).

Updated recent statistics (since my last post):

Number of times I have stood 15 feet from the stage in the midst of a hyped-up, half hysterical crowd, all of whom (including me) were screaming at the top of their lungs "Ambition makes you look pretty ugly!": only once, unfortunately
Number of days my son just spent camping in the rain with friends: four
Number of sausages stolen from their cooler by raccoons: all of them
Number of days elapsed between complaining about the heat and the fire hazard due to lack of rain and complaining about the rain: approximately eight
Number of times I have tried out the joke "I'm living 'High Fidelity' backwards!" on friends: about five
Number who thought this amusing: not the same number, much to my annoyance
Number of CDs recently bought, thus giving rise to the above witticism: 9 (Elbow! Low! Elbow again!)
Number of Thanksgiving dinners attended: one on Saturday, and, if all goes well, one tomorrow
Number of students named Sarah in my first tutorial, expressed as a percentage of the class: 37

This following is a class outline, but contains some riches. The course was offered at Stanford, and is entitled Berlin: The City as Body, The City as Metaphor. See the Maps of Berlin; the image gallery for the work of Karl Friedrich Schinkel; the image gallery for Benjamin; and the image gallery for the Weimar Republic. There's a little bit of link rot, but still some nice things to look at.

I am shamefully behind on my email, and will get to it in the next couple of days; apologies if you have written or commented and I haven't returned the favour as of yet. I'm working on it.

October 14, 2003 in Life or something like it | Permalink | Comments (9)

August 30, 2003 02:20 PM


One of the things that charms about London (aside from the fact that all the white folks are luminously pallid and that everyone seems to share a certain type of sardonic humour, both of which make me feel gloriously at home) is mobile phone culture. No, really. With landlines billed per call, mobiles simply make sense, and everyone, but everyone, appears to own one. Tube stations echo with the sound of phones ringing, and people everywhere walk around talking, loudly, into their little handsets. I know the usual objections, and perhaps if I spent more time there I'd become less tolerant of people's pockets and purses and backpacks breaking into song at odd moments.

But it's the tunes themselves that interest me here: you can download just about anything. Your favourite song from the top ten, classics from the past, even things that one might think would be gloriously inappropriate (yes, that is Joy Division). So: has anyone taken advantage of this to create some kind of musical work or performance? Wouldn't it be possible to write a program to dial a bunch of numbers sequentially connecting with phones that have particular musical bits loaded onto them, and have them play, en masse, some kind of electronic symphony? Huh? Come on, somebody must have done this. I know about Dialtones (A Telesymphony), but I'm not sure whether it employs ring tones as anything other than sheer sound and texture:

Dialtones is a large-scale concert performance whose sounds are wholly produced through the carefully choreographed dialing and ringing of the audience's own mobile phones. Because the exact location and tone of each participant's mobile phone can be known in advance, Dialtones affords a diverse range of unprecedented sonic phenomena and musically interesting structures.

You can buy recordings of the performances now, through their site (which is extensive, and which includes samples in mp3 format). But I'm not sure if they use the actual melodies of the ringtones, as in having a mass of phones all playing, out of sequence, one particular piece.

At any rate, I'm off to the store to buy earplugs for the kids for tonight (yeah, like they'll use them). But it's worth a try. And next week, Tuesday, in fact, I start teaching Beowulf. This requires thought.

August 30, 2003 in Life or something like it | Permalink | Comments (4)

August 25, 2003 03:32 PM


In Euston Station, London, if, after you come up from the escalators, you head behind the information kiosk aiming for the West exit, you will walk towards and past a full length mirror. It's the last place you expect one, and it stands in full daylight, just beside the windows, and when you encounter it you are suddenly confronted with yourself, your whole self, and you are unprepared for the meeting. You see coming towards you an obviously middle aged woman, pale, frowning, the lines around her mouth very visible in the sunlight and with this mouth pursed into a little rictus of thought, looking not a day younger than her chronological age, and the big flowing dress she wears doing little to lessen the effect of the extra weight, and your first impression, for the microsecond before recognition is: hmmmm, no makeup, no hair colouring, a bit eccentric. And it's you. And you keep on walking.

Saw a fantastic Bill Viola installation at the Tate Modern, Five Angels for the Millenium, which honestly did feel like it was taking the top of my head off--it caused a genuine sense of physical reaction; and saw this wonderful exhibit at the British Museum: Medicine Man: The forgotten museum of Henry Wellcome complete with a video by the Brothers Quay.


And just around the corner from where we were staying, The Aquarium Gallery and Bookshop, which is showing The Situationist International and After until September.

August 25, 2003 in self-reflexive | Permalink | Comments (3)

August 13, 2003 11:48 AM

Out of earshot

Charlotte Mew.

"Find rest in Him" One knows the parsons' tags--
Back to the fold, across the evening fields, like any flock of baa-ing sheep:
Yes, it may be, when He has shorn, led us to slaughter, torn the bleating souls in us to rags,
For so He giveth His beloved sheep.
Oh! He will take us stripped and done,
Driven into his heart. So we are won:
Then safe, safe are we? in the shelter of His everlasting wings--
I do not envy Him His victories. His arms are full of broken things.

A biographical page with some samples of her poetry, and this from a NYRB review of Penelope Fitzgerald's Charlotte Mew and Her Friends from January of 1987 (unfortunately the full text is not available online):

She was admired, in her quiet and tragic lifetime, by Ezra Pound, Vita Sackville-West, and Siegfried Sassoon; Virginia Woolf referred to her as the "greatest living poetess" and Thomas Hardy called her "far and away the best living woman poet—who will be read when others are forgotten." A quarter of a century after her death, when her Collected Poems was published in America in 1954 Marianne Moore deemed her work "above praise." But Charlotte Mew appears today an all but forgotten figure, whose slender books of verse have been jostled off those cluttered, weight-bowed shelves on which we would preserve the best in twentieth-century poetry.

Another biographical sketch with samples of poetry; and a bibliography is available here. There is less information on the web than I had expected. Mew's work is gathering a lot of attention in the English/Cultural Studies corner these days; stay tuned for the dissertations which I am sure are being written at this very moment...

I'm off for a week, to a place that has just experienced its highest one day temperature since record keeping began. Wish me luck. I'm back, assuming all goes well, next Friday, but before I go, three musical links.

The first: The page is entitled "Gutsy experiemental electronic music soundscape MP3", and has some material available for download. Distributes music by local composer Hildegard Westerkamp (a more up to date page is found here; and an interview here). Enter at your own risk: the design adds insult to injury by throwing up a popup link to a software installation page that is 404, and there's an applet of some sort which runs text along the top of the page and which gives Netscape the heebie-jeebies.

Next, Epitonic's Experimental Music page, and their 20th Century composers page. Samples available for streaming or download. The 20th Century composers page is a bit heavy on the usual suspects, but there were some names I wasn't familiar with, which is a good thing. From their FAQ:

Do I have to pay to download a song?
No. The artists and labels make the music available for free in the hopes that your enjoyment of the free tracks will motivate you to go buy the record.

So go and do just that.

Finally, Other Minds: new and unusual music in all its forms. I had no idea that Ezra Pound composed, but it's really not that suprising, I suppose; he had a hand in just about everything. There's more at Other Minds than I could possibly summarize, so wandering is probably best. A good place to start might be the list of composers. Samples available for download. Enjoy.

August 13, 2003 in something for the wunderkammer | Permalink | Comments (4)

August 2, 2003 12:38 PM

In a little row boat

There are days on Metafilter when everyone is screaming at each other over Iraq, or same-sex marriage, or why the foundations of civilization are crumbling, and then there are other days which remind me of why I go there, and what this weird medium is capable of in terms of play and invention. Meet the Acronym Thread, "where the last word of an entry must be used as an acronym for the next entry". Currently at 500+ comments.

Elsewhere, you have to love an indie band which rhymes "Derrida" and "Antarctica", as Winnipeg's The Weakerthans do in "Our Retired Explorer". ("Thank you for the flowers and the book by Derrida/But I must get back to my dear Antarctica.") The video for this song features a guy dressed up as Foucault, an intrepid explorer, and the line "I could tell you how shadows colonize snow". Winnipeg is also, of course, the home of the drawing collective The Royal Art Lodge. From an article in broken pencil ("zine culture in canada and the world"), a description of a phone interview with the group:

Are Neil Farber and Micheal Dumontier the two members of the depressing rock-band Eyeball Hurt and the Medicine? Is it Drue Langlois who writes the infinite-character, nonsequitur storyline superhero comic Protoprize, or his brother Myles? Is the new 16mm movie "Micro Nice" by Myles and Michael about the kitten who gets trapped in a grocery store and meets a vampire or is that the short story by Hollie and Michael? Which one does the sound sculptures? Who built the kite with a free-swinging microphone and a speaker, so that as the wind blew it around, the thing would make screeching feedback? Is it Hollie's brother Marcel that paints with root beer ("It should last forever because it is a non-acidic root beer base.")? Who had the show in Dusseldorf, who's in LA next month, when was the Padova, Italy show? And who am I talking to right now, again?

From Zing Magazine, The Royal Art Lodge's Christmas Story; examples of work from Ask the Dust, the show seen earlier this year at both Toronto's Power Plant and New York's Drawing Centre (see the review in The Brooklyn Rail); and a collection of recent drawings.


There's a lovely faux-naive quality to the drawings and videos and music and dolls; it is work which seems free of intellectual agendas, something which might account for its freshness (and current success). Charming without being precious, both inventive and prolific, the RAL produce work which is purposely small, extant miniatures of thought, and though I appreciate the impetus felt by some critics who want cohesive and "bigger" work from the group (such as Jennifer Coates, who writes in the Brooklyn Rail Review that "The group has all the spontenaity and improvisation of an indie band. The only problem is that the smash hit album never materializes; it's just riffs, outtakes, and snippets of potentially great singles. The show is evidence of spirited, generative behavior that culminates in winning fragments") I still find in its paradoxical working method, that of the excessive amount of production of the small and the ephemeral, a great deal of the compelling attraction of the group's work. The Royal Art Lodge is currently exhibiting in the Netherlands; a photograph of a recent performance can be found here.

Eclogues two years ago, and about one year ago.

(Note: are these links working? They sometimes, maddeningly, seem to work perfectly well and other times only approximately. I have no idea why.)

August 2, 2003 in Life or something like it | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 30, 2003 10:56 AM

Snap crackle pop

A little grab bag of stuff:

Woke up early in the heat and switched on the news, to find ongoing live reportage about today's concert in Toronto, the one which some have taken to calling Sarstock. An interview was in progress with a Rock Critic, who quickly demonstrated his credibility by referring to "Jason Timberlake" when discussing the possibility that "Jason" might join the Rolling Stones for one number as a backup singer. But the best rumour, said the Critic, and one sadly proven to be untrue, was that Anne Murray was going to sing "Snowbird" with Rush.

I think he was serious.

At least he honestly seemed to be, and so did the interviewer, who said that the thought gave him "chills". Me too, but in a different way. Such a moment would be so beyond absurdity, such a gravitational suck of Canadian Uncool, that the entire city might well disappear down a black hole... The New Forum gives a much more coherent and measured run down of the problems with this concert, so I defer to them. I haven't got much past bilious contempt, a contempt increased by every second of watching the once-proud CBC busily and unquestioningly fellating Celebrity.

On to the grab bag:

From the Gallery of Data Visualization: The Best and Worst of Statistical Graphics at York University, Milestones in the History of Graphical Statistics. See the Worst and the Best, this being of course Charles Minard's (1781-1870) illustration of the disastrous result of Napoleon's failed Russian campaign of 1812.

Rachel Whiteread's wondeful and 1993 Turner Prize winning House, from Artists in East From the Introductory Essay:

The site will be a 'curtain-raiser' for the historical survey to follow. It will provide an introduction to the artists and organisations involved and to the history of the growth and development of their community in East London. The web site is structured around ten significant buildings, iconic places which at different stages artists came to inhabit and develop their art: The Whitechapel Art Gallery, St Katharine Dock, Dilston Grove, Butlers Wharf, Devons Road, Martello Street, Beck Road, Rachel Whiteread's House, Copperfield Road and Hoxton Square.

It is also today, of course, Emily Bronte's birthday. From Jack Lynch's wonderful Literary Resources on the Net, a list of sites and information to do with British Victoriana.

Finally, I am so looking forward to reading this (in all seriousness):

"'We've got Heads on Sticks/You got Ventriloquists': Radiohead and the Improbability of Resistance." by Davis Schneiderman, forthcoming in Strobe Lights and Blown Speakers: The Music and Art of Radiohead, edited by Joseph Tate.

And: Eclogues two years ago and one year ago.

July 30, 2003 in anecdote | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 27, 2003 09:21 AM


In this week's New Yorker, a fascinating article by Oliver Sacks about blindness, perception, and the mind's eye. Unfortunately it's not linked at their site, but alone is well worth the cost of the magazine (you can just skip past the spectacularly unfunny piece by Woody Allen). What I particularly enjoy in this article -- besides Sacks' exquisite prose -- is a reminder of the idiosyncratic quality of the nuances of thought and understanding, and how some things that we might, individually, take for granted, do not in the least describe or model other people's experience of consciousness. Sacks writes about being approached by a man after he had delivered a talk on visual imagery and memory:

... a man in the audience came up to me and asked how well, in my estimation, sighted people could function if they had no visual imagery. He went on to say that he had no visual imagery whatever, at least none that he could deliberately evoke, and that no one in his family had any, either. Indeed, he had assumed this was the case with everyone, until he came to participate in some psychological tests at Harvard and realized that he apparently lacked a mental power that all the other students, in varying degrees, had.
"And what do you do?" I asked him, wondering what this poor man
could do.
"I am a surgeon," he replied. "A vascular surgeon. An anatomist, too. And I design solar panels."
But how, I asked him, did he recognize what he was seeing?
"It's not a problem," he answered. "I guess there must be representations or models in the brain that get matched up with what I am seeing and doing. But they are not conscious. I cannot evoke them."

Later Sacks notes:

I have a cousin, a professional architect, who maintains that he cannot visualize anything whatever. "How do you think?" I once asked him. He shook his head and said, "I don't know." Do any of us, finally, know how we think?

I remember trying to think without words when I was a child, but it wasn't something that came naturally: for me everything has to be expressed in language, words in my head. This tends to result in a kind of continual chitter chatter of narrative thinking, like an old fashioned telex machine spitting out yards of paper. But when I write, the words become almost material. I construct sentences depending on weight and rhythm, and do the same with paragraphs and, finally, entire papers, the writing of which always feels like making things on a potter's wheel. Adding in bits, weighing it more heavily here, more heavily there, spinning it up, smoothing it down. And good prose sings, giving off a pitch or frequency that creates a certain kind of harmony in reading... bad prose just doesn't even get off the ground; it's sensorially painful to experience. I aim for the serene harmonic tones, the music of the spheres that lives in good writing, and some days, in some projects, I think I have come close...

The other marvellous part of this article is further evidence of the plasticity and adaptability of the brain, its capacity to reroute and relearn. Sacks quotes Jacques Lusseyran, blinded at the age of eight: "A blind person has a better sense of feeling, of taste, of touch", he writes, and speaks of these as "the gifts of the blind." And all of these, Lusseyran feels, blend into a single fundamental sense, a deep attentiveness, a slow, almost prehensile attention, a sensous intimate being at one with the world which sight, with its quick, flicking, facile quality, continually distracts us from.


FIG. 884: The crystalline lens, hardened and divided. From Gray's Anatomy, which can be accessed in its entirety at (note: popups). Via Lee Potts' excellent The Eyes Have It, a blog "devoted (mainly) to visual communications in the pharmaceutical, biotech, and healthcare sectors."

It is also, once again, time for the goddam Vancouver Indy. I nurture a deep and poisonous hatred for this race, which is, even as I type, going on virtually outside my front door (okay, six blocks down the hill, but it sounds like it's outside my front door). It sounds like a hive of demented mechanical wasps. Giant insect-overlord type wasps. Why the Powers That Be think that it is appropriate to close off city streets for three days and run superpowered fuel guzzling machines around these same streets is beyond me.

Okay, that's my kvetching for the day.

July 27, 2003 in Life or something like it | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 26, 2003 06:27 PM

Four things

1. This is a joke, right? Or have I heard about this project and ignored it? (Via Z Review. Note: popups.)

On The Road
Cast: Billy Crudup as Sal Paradise and Brad Pitt as Dean Moriarty.
Director: Joel Schumacher
On The Road Written By: Russell Banks
Producers : Francis Ford Coppolla

Joel Schumacher directing On the Road? As notes of 1997's Batman and Robin:

This is the film that gave Schumacher the title, "The Man Who Personally Destroyed the Batman Franchise". This movie is sooo bad. [...] All due respect to Mr. Schumacher and his movie making skills, but there is no way that this is the same man that directed The Lost Boys and Flatliners. It leaves one dumbfounded.

So... okay then. We'll see.

2. I've been cruising through publishing and literary weblogs in the last few days, including Nitric Boy, Robin Hinchcliffe's literary blog. His archive of freelance articles contains an interview with DJ Spooky, among other luminaries.

3. Photographs of London. Prints made from early 20th century postcards. This is a commercial site, but there are still a number of images to browse. Below, St. James Park, circa 1910.


4. And then, of course, there's Trans-Am Apocalypse No. 2, by Canadian artist John Scott.

Materials: car with primer and latex paint, incised with text from the Book of Revelations [sic] of Saint John the Evangelist, fuzzy dice.

And if you are a bit rusty on the Book of Revelation, feel free to refer to this handy flowchart.

July 26, 2003 in Life or something like it | Permalink | Comments (4)

July 20, 2003 08:48 PM

Looking closely

Radiolarians. From Molecular Expressions: Exploring the World of Optics and Microscopy.


Radiolarians are single-celled protistan marine organisms that distinguish themselves with their unique and intricately detailed glass-like exoskeletons. During their life cycle, radiolarians absorb silicon compounds from their aquatic environment and secrete well-defined geometric networks that comprise a skeleton commonly known as a test. [...] When observed with an optical microscope, radiolarian tests are found to be low contrast light-scattering objects that are best viewed using Rheinberg illumination, darkfield illumination, phase contrast, or differential interference contrast (DIC) microscopy techniques. The diversity and beauty of radiolarian tests was first captured and revealed in 1862 by Ernst Haeckel's monograph, Die Radiolarien (Rhizopoda Radiaria), based on specimens gathered from the ocean by the Challenger research cruises of Alexander von Humboldt. The work features 35 exquisite copper plates illustrating hand-drawn radiolarians that still have not been surpassed in quality by modern optical and electron microscopy techniques.

View the very beautiful plates from Die Radiolarien here.


The thumbnails enlarge to huge, detailed jpegs (850 by 1246 pixels in this case) and are well worth lingerering over. Absolutely gorgeous.

Returning to Molecular Expressions, see their microscopic examination of burgers and fries, and the fantastic Museum of Microscopy, including microscopes of the 16th and 17th centuries, the 18th century, and the 19th century. There's far more on this site than I can even begin to describe, so please do explore. I'm off to consider the effect of science making this invisible world manifest in the 17th and 18th century... and to see if I can piece this together, in some way, with some of the many wonderful lines in Swimming Pool, which I saw yesterday, and am enjoying more and more in retrospect:
"It's a stew of bacteria."
"No, it's just some dirt and leaves."

July 20, 2003 in | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 18, 2003 03:53 PM



Studio Interior, 1933
Gustav Seiden, Hungarian, 1900 - 1993
Gelatin-silver print

Google, thou hast failed me. I can't find any further information about this photographer except what is available at the V&A website linked above...

Neighbourhood gentrification update for July: The dance studio, which once offered Friday night waltz and tango lessons, has reopened as an art gallery entitled AION. See pictoral evidence here. Another coffee bar has opened across the street from AION, but this is one of those instances where I can't really remember what used to be there (the cheap electronics store, perhaps?). Next door to AION, the 35 millimeter porn theatre is still holding on.

The other day stopping by Pulp Fiction, the excellent used book store on Main Street, and finding there a hardback copy of Benjamin's complete correspondence for only 40 bucks. Oh yeah. While I was looking through the shelves a man was talking at the front counter about neurons and cities. "Have you ever noticed", he said, "How a city at night, from the air, looks like a circuit board?" He was working the metaphor hard, brains lighting up with thought, neurons travelling along wires, highways and neurotransmitters, brain connections modelling cityscapes, and on and on. We're so used to thinking of the brain as a meat computer: what will be the next metaphor, I wonder, and based on what construction?

Randomly paging through Benjamin's letters turns this up, written to Adorno, December 1938:

You state, "The consumer actually venerates the money he himself spent on the ticket for a Toscanini concert." Empathy with their exchange value turns even cannons into a consumer good that is more gratifying than butter.

July 18, 2003 in | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 15, 2003 08:12 AM

Flat, stale and unprofitable

My current mood. Though in retrospect, writing Kevin about the sudden and terrible feeling that art and culture and religion consist only of accidentally sentient monkeys making noises against the inevitability of death and oblivion might have been a little over the top. Sorry, dear.

The World of Dante, "a hypermedia environment for the study of the Inferno", and Renaissance Dante in Print. Yes, there are pictures, many of them, gloriously reproduced. These are from the 1502 Inferno printed in Venice by Aldus Manutius.



July 15, 2003 in Life or something like it | Permalink | Comments (3)

July 14, 2003 08:54 PM

In Joke-a-rama

It's Metafilter's birthday today. Four years of Mefi goodness, tastelessness, and online train wrecks.

To celebrate (...or, uh, something), Manuel Camblor's Death's Joy Ride: David Cronenberg's Crash, which I bookmarked a while ago after catching a late showing of the last two thirds of the film and then wandering on the web a bit to try and understand what I'd just seen. From the University of Pennsylvania's Other Voices of January 1999. I recommend the current issue (March of 2002): much to browse and read, including essays on film, audio files of lectures on theory, reviews, and The Auschwitz Memorial Museum and the Case of the Gypsy Portraits by Dora Apel, which fits in nicely here as this story was the first thing I ever posted to Metafilter, back in March 22 of last year. (Was it only last year? Yes, I suppose so.) So there's a nice circularity there.

Crash is not, however, in itself, a Metafilter injoke. Just thought I should mention that.

July 14, 2003 in Life or something like it | Permalink | Comments (0)