The Arts

Art and Tech Pt. 1: Known Knowns and Known Unknowns…

We live these days in a weird era where art and tech are linked in ways which I don’t believe we understand very well and don’t think about enough. Maybe we are in some transition to a culture in which tech is believed to be art and art is believed to be -I don’t know – tech…? Whatever the artist says it is…? Obsolete…?

This started out, as sometimes things do, with a conversation:

Claude Monet, technology freak (image courtesy Wikimedia)

Lea, my wife, and I were coming home from one of her art exhibition openings last night and somehow we got on the subject of Claude Monet.  The art opening was part of a series of events in which artists, writers, and craftsmen and women had simultaneously occurring book fest, art exhibition opening, and crafts fair.  This is the sort of event that arts groups hold more and more often in these same days of this our life. Artists hoped that book lovers would stop by the art exhibition, writers that art lovers would stop by the book fest, crafts people – well, people still buy crafts, kinda sorta (more than they buy fine art and books, at least), so the crafts people were likely simply being helpful.

I don’t know how well the whole series of events went off (I didn’t even go to the crafts fair because I – I don’t know – well yes I do: at least half the tables at the “book fest” were selling – crafts – yeah, I know). I hope that the artist and writer friends I ran into at the two events I attended made some sales. But at one point last evening Lea looked at me and noted, “I think everyone at this exhibit is an artist.”

Yeah. I know. This is all too common these days.

And yes, I’m rambling, but I’ll get to something in a minute. Bear with me.  Continue reading

Immigration

At the border, an arbitrary fate

Desert grasslands reveal a more nuanced view of illegal immigration

by Bruce Lindwall

A journal entry from a February day during an Expedition Education Institute semester in the Desert Southwest

I went out this morning and found some pictures down in the wash. This is how it happened and why it was so very important.

We were five altogether. Bill is the director of the grasslands research center here in southern Arizona; it’s his job to look after all 8,000 of the acres in his care. Four of us who had come to study up a bit on the ecology of desert grasslands: Thomas from my home state of New Hampshire, Antony from Montreal, and Khiet who was born in Vietnam but grew up in Pennsylvania. This morning we were all headed off a couple miles from the headquarters to pick up trash that falls by the wayside as immigrants slip across the border covered by darkness and becomes hidden in the folds and creases of the borderlands.

Bouncing along the dirt road we asked Bill about grassland ecology, successional stages, and alien species, thinking that we were pursuing the most important learning of the day. Little did we know how close that was to the truth. It was a short ride that ended at a seemingly random spot at the edge of the road. Our little crew outfitted itself with gloves, trash bags, and bottles of water.

It felt liberating to walk freely through the grassland. We had been limited to the roads these last few days for fear of trampling the many experiments laid out amongst the tawny brown stalks of sacaton and lovegrass. But now we were free to wander, and wander we did. Held together at first by habit and conversation, we gradually spread out to explore the small washes and gullies that so thoroughly wrinkle this land. Slowly our bags began to fill with the odd bits jettisoned by those who had come this way. There were empty food tins, torn trash bags, endless water jugs and lots of toilet paper, both used and unused.
Continue reading

CATEGORY: Journalism

Rolling Stone’s UVA story flogged as flawed — and rightly so

Magazine’s story on college assault claim burdened with shaky sources, biased choice of UVA

Critics are panning Rolling Stone’s 9,000-word account of a sexual assault, an account that preceded protests at the University of Virginia and vandalism of the fraternity house at which, the article claims, the assault occurred.

The chief complaints: First, Sabrina Rubin Erdely’s Nov. 19 story about a woman identified as “Jackie” relied too heavily on the woman making the accusation and failed to show attempts to interview those accused. Second, Erdely “shopped” for a context that best fit her own agenda in proposing and crafting the story. Here’s Washington Post media reporter Erik Wemple:

Rolling Stone thought it had found the “right” campus and the right alleged crime: Following her Nov. 19 story on Jackie’s alleged assault in a dark room at the Phi Kappa Psi house, the university suspended all fraternity activities and a national spotlight fell on the issue of campus rape. Continue reading

Music and Popular Culture

“Goodbye,” from The Well Wishers: Saturday Video Roundup

Greetings from the Pop Underground – here’s a track from one of my best CDs of the year…

Those who follow along know that I have a weakness for “Power Pop” – that retro, guitar-driven genre originally practiced by the likes of The Beatles, The Beach Boys, Badfinger, Big Star, The Who, The Raspberries, and others of that ilk. You don’t hear it much on the radio, sadly (although Foo Fighters have been on a roll of late) – we’re talking about a largely underground movement here – but that doesn’t mean it isn’t as dynamic as ever.

One of my favorite practitioners of the craft, The Well Wishers, released a new CD this year. It’s called A Shattering Sky, and like everything else Jeff Shelton has done in his various incarnations (WW, The Spinning Jennies, Hot Nun), it’s packed to the rafters with ringing guitars and melodic hooks and positively viral earworms – if you’re like me this disc will be buzzing around in your head for days. Continue reading

It's okay to be realistic with religious iconography. (Photo: Sharona Gott / Flickr Commons)

Three arguments against tattoos

Tattoos not only wear out their welcome, but brand their wearers as philistines.

It's okay to be realistic with religious iconography. (Photo: Sharona Gott / Flickr Commons)

It’s okay to be realistic with religious iconography. (Photo: Sharona Gott / Flickr Commons)

I appreciate tattoos as much as the next person. I’ve even considered getting one — a target painted on my head to guide incoming interballistic missiles in the event of a nuclear war that I have no interest in surviving. But I have some serious reservations, aside from face or neck tattoos, which, unless you’re a genius, pretty much kill your job prospects. Or the sag factor as you age. Or paranoia that the ink will somehow become absorbed into your bloodstream and organs and slowly poison you (okay, that’s just me). Continue reading

Journalism

NYT links crumbling like a cheap levee

What I find when I search Google for “like a cheap levee”

In Runoff Election, Lousiana Senator Landrieu Labors to …

That’s the first search result, accompanied by the following text:

3 hours ago – pilloried at home for voting with the president, and has watched helplessly while her Democratic base has eroded like a cheap levee.

It’s 6:55 PM MT, so that’s about 1:55 Eastern, for whatever that’s worth. Continue reading

Book-Review

Being There…or we knew the bride when she used to marry rockers….

Pattie Boyd’s autobiography is a fascinating and messy piece of memoir that offers sometimes illuminating, sometimes banal insights into the private lives of two of the rock era’s iconic figures – George Harrison and Eric Clapton...and raises a slew of bigger questions…

Wonderful Tonight: George Harrison, Eric Clapton, and Me by Pattie Boyd (image courtesy Goodreads)

When Tom Snyder asked John Lennon in the famous Tomorrow Show interview why he became a musician and formed a band, Lennon replied slyly, “For the birds, Tom. That’s why every guy does it. To get girls….”

Pattie Boyd was one of the most famous of “the birds….”

A few years ago Boyd published her autobiography which I just re-read as part of my 2014 reading list. It should be a riveting read for anyone interested in rock music, rock history, or rock stars in our popular culture.

But it isn’t.

Before we go into why, exactly, Boyd’s autobiography causes arguments, it might be useful to talk a little bit about reasons why people are famous. Continue reading

Republican lawmakers such as John McCain and Lindsey Graham seek further sanctions against Iran. (Photo: Jeffrey Richardson / U.S. Navy / Flick Commons)

By pushing for more sanctions, U.S. hardliners play into hands of Iranian hardliners

New sanctions legislation against Iran would alienate Europe, Russia, and China.

Republican lawmakers such as John McCain and Lindsey Graham seek further sanctions against Iran. (Photo: Jeffrey Richardson / U.S. Navy / Flick Commons)

Republican lawmakers such as John McCain and Lindsey Graham seek further sanctions against Iran. (Photo: Jeffrey Richardson / U.S. Navy / Flick Commons)

“Buoyed by the failure of the US and five other powers to reach a comprehensive agreement with Iran over its nuclear program,” writes Jim Lobe for Inter Press Service, “pro-Israel and Republican hawks are calling for Washington to ramp up economic pressure on Tehran even while talks continue, and to give Congress a veto on any final accord.” But, he continues,

Most Iran specialists here believe that any new sanctions legislation will likely sabotage the talks, fracture the P5+1, and thus undermine the international sanctions regime against Iran, strengthen hard-liners in Tehran who oppose accommodation and favour accelerating the nuclear programme.  Continue reading

Who is ISIS? Time for an airlift.

So picture this scenario. A leader in a fledgling democracy creates a space for himself, a perch above it all from which to tame the beast. Sounds reasonable? Except, wait. No it doesn’t. Remember when George Washington turned down the crown? Remember when he set the two term precedent? That’s a leader. What we’re dealing with is a king. Let’s hope he’s not a tyrant. Continue reading

Business

Bob Garfield takes Jane Seymour and Kay Jewelers to the woodshed

I rarely post recommendations encouraging you to go check out a business writer. And by rarely I mean never. Today I’m making an exception, though, because it turns out that one of my favorites, MediaPost’s Bob Garfield, hates those motherfucking Jane Seymour Kay Jewelers ads as bad as I do.

Awww. Every kitsch begins with Kay.

But wait. Open your heart? No, unless by “heart” they mean “wallet.” Ladies and gentlemen, I give you open-heart sorcery: the black art of combining celebrity, cheap sentimentality, self-delusion, greed and borderline consumer fraud.

The practice exploits consumers’ emotions and invites them to delude themselves into thinking a product purchase is an act of charity. But it is not charity. Continue reading

CATEGORY: TunesDay

Dave Bidini attacks Joni Mitchell…why…?

Dave Bidini’s critique of Joni Mitchell seems smilingly petulant in a way that is way too familiar…and reminds us that maybe generational differences make us too readily divisible….

Joni Mitchell (image courtesy Wikipedia)

A recent essay reprinted from The National Post at Crooks and Liars by Canadian indie rocker/writer Dave Bidini (most well known for his work with The Rheostatics) takes folk-rock-jazz icon Joni Mitchell to task for being “difficult.” Bidini’s chief complaints seem to be that Mitchell is critical of another icon (John Lennon), is troubled that her fans don’t always “get” her songs, and struggles with having grown old and fragile in health.

What Bidini believes (or at least gives the impression he believes) is that Joni Mitchell doesn’t have the right to be cranky about her struggle to achieve her artistic goals in spite of the bias against her as a woman artist, her numerous and complex health problems, and her sometimes complicated and difficult personal life because – well, it seems because she’s had great commercial/critical success.

Why Bidini feels the need to make this attack is what puzzles one most in all this.  Continue reading