Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Homage to Alexander Calder

Homage to Alexander Calder

Homage to Alexander Calder (1999)

To an engineer, good enough means perfect. With an artist, there's no such thing as perfect.
--Alexander Calder

From the National Gallery of Art:

Alexander Calder revolutionized the art of sculpture by making movement one of its main components. Yet his invention of the "mobile" -- a word coined in 1931 by artist Marcel Duchamp to designate Calder's moving sculpture -- was only one of Calder's achievements. In his early wire figures and in his "stabiles," static sculptures in sheet metal, Calder created innovative works by exploring the aesthetic possibilities of untraditional materials. As a major contribution to the development of abstract art, Calder's stabiles and mobiles challenged the prevailing notion of sculpture as a composition of masses and volumes by proposing a new definition based on the ideas of open space and transparency. With the giant stabiles of the latter part of his career, Calder launched a new type of public sculpture -- one which proved so successful that many of these works have become landmarks in cities around the globe.

And from the Joslyn Art Museum:

Alexander Calder, America's first abstract artist of international renown, is forever associated with his invention of the mobile. Born into a Philadelphia family of sculptors, he studied first as a mechanical engineer and then as a painter in the style of the Ashcan School. In 1926, Calder left for Paris, then Europe's cultural capital. There he attracted the attention of the avant-garde with his amusing performances with a partly-mechanized miniature circus of wire and cloth figures. By 1930 he had developed freely moving sculptures of arcs and spheres. Calder's mobiles were squarely within the spirit of the times, from their engagement with machine technology to their use of abstraction as a universal language of creative truth. Linked to Dada and Surrealism by playfulness and chance arrangement, his sculpture responded to Constructivism by energizing art's elements in the viewer's space.

Calder, fascinated by the mechanical possibilities of his materials, successfully merged engineering and art. His innovative, abstract work is industrial-tinged and aggressively modern. He saw sculpture as dynamic -- as filled with the motion of life as electrons gyrating around a nucleus.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Homage to Philip K. Dick

Homage to Philip K. Dick

Homage to Philip K. Dick (2000)

From that surreal universe in itself Wikipedia:

Foreshadowing the cyberpunk sub-genre, Dick brought the anomic world of California to many of his works, exploring sociological and political themes in his early novels and stories while his later work tackled drugs and theology, drawing upon his own life experiences in novels like A Scanner Darkly and VALIS. Alternate universes and simulacra were common plot devices, with fictional worlds inhabited by common working people, rather than galactic elites. "There are no heroics in Dick's books," Ursula K. Le Guin wrote, "but there are heroes. One is reminded of Dickens: what counts is the honesty, constancy, kindness and patience of ordinary people."


Dick's stories often become seemingly surreal fantasies, with characters discovering that their everyday world is an illusion, emanating either from external entities or from the vicissitudes of an unreliable narrator. "All of his work starts with the basic assumption that there cannot be one, single, objective reality," Charles Platt writes. "Everything is a matter of perception. The ground is liable to shift under your feet. A protagonist may find himself living out another person's dream, or he may enter a drug-induced state that actually makes better sense than the real world, or he may cross into a different universe completely."


As time went on, he became increasingly paranoid, imagining plots against him perpetrated by the KGB or FBI, who he believed were constantly laying traps for him. At one point he alleged that they had been responsible for a burglary at his house in which various documents had been stolen. He later stated that he might very well have committed the burglary himself, and then forgotten he had done so. This is echoed especially in the character of Bob Arctor/Agent Fred in A Scanner Darkly.

Dick himself speculated as to whether or not he may have suffered from schizophrenia, and themes of mental illness permeated his work, especially that of Jack Bohlen, an "ex-schizophrenic" in the 1964 novel, Martian Time-Slip. It was also prominently featured in his novel Clans of the Alphane Moon, which centered on an entire society populated from the descendants of a lunatic asylum. The topic of mental illness was of constant interest to Dick, and in 1965 he wrote an essay entitled "Schizophrenia and the Book of Changes."


The most famous film adaptation is Ridley Scott's classic movie Blade Runner (based on Dick's 1968 novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?). Dick was apprehensive about how his story would be adapted for the film; he refused to do a novelization of the film and he was critical of it and its director, Ridley Scott, during its production. When given an opportunity to see some of the special effects sequences of Los Angeles 2019, Dick was amazed that the environment was "exactly as how I'd imagined it!" Following the screening, Dick and Scott had a frank but cordial discussion of Blade Runner's themes and characters, and although they had differing views, Dick fully backed the film from then on. Dick died from a stroke less than four months before the release of the film.

I still remember the first time I read Philip K. Dick. I picked up a copy of Ubik just after I turned 20, and the phrase blow your mind suddenly made sense to me.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Homage to Niels Bohr

Homage to Niels Bohr

Homage to Niels Bohr (2004)


In the autumn of 1911 [Bohr] made a stay at Cambridge, where he profited by following the experimental work going on in the Cavendish Laboratory under Sir J.J. Thomson's guidance, at the same time as he pursued own theoretical studies. In the spring of 1912 he was at work in Professor Rutherford's laboratory in Manchester, where just in those years such an intensive scientific life and activity prevailed as a consequence of that investigator's fundamental inquiries into the radioactive phenomena. Having there carried out a theoretical piece of work on the absorption of alpha rays which was published in the Philosophical Magazine, 1913, he passed on to a study of the structure of atoms on the basis of Rutherford's discovery of the atomic nucleus. By introducing conceptions borrowed from the Quantum Theory as established by Planck, which had gradually come to occupy a prominent position in the science of theoretical physics, he succeeded in working out and presenting a picture of atomic structure that, with later improvements (mainly as a result of Heisenberg's ideas in 1925), still fitly serves as an elucidation of the physical and chemical properties of the elements.


Bohr also contributed to the clarification of the problems encountered in quantum physics, in particular by developing the concept of complementarily. Hereby he could show how deeply the changes in the field of physics have affected fundamental features of our scientific outlook and how the consequences of this change of attitude reach far beyond the scope of atomic physics and touch upon all domains of human knowledge. These views are discussed in a number of essays, written during the years 1933-1962. They are available in English, collected in two volumes with the title Atomic Physics and Human Knowledge and Essays 1958-1962 on Atomic Physics and Human Knowledge, edited by John Wiley and Sons, New York and London, in 1958 and 1963, respectively.


During the Nazi occupation of Denmark in World War II, Bohr escaped to Sweden and spent the last two years of the war in England and America, where he became associated with the Atomic Energy Project. In his later years, he devoted his work to the peaceful application of atomic physics and to political problems arising from the development of atomic weapons. In particular, he advocated a development towards full openness between nations. His views are especially set forth in his Open Letter to the United Nations, June 9, 1950.

As a Danish Jew, Bohr barely escaped being arrested by the Nazis. Later, when he came to Los Alamos to work on the atomic bomb, he hoped that the weapon would prevent future atrocities by other would-be Hitlers. He also hoped the terrifying nature of atomic weapons would destroy not nations but the very possibility of war itself.

From Richard Rhodes' The Making of the Atomic Bomb:

The weapon devised as an instrument of major war would end major war. It was hardly a weapon at all, the memorandum Bohr was writing in sweltering Washington emphasized; it was "a far deeper interference with the natural course of events than anything ever before attempted" and it would "completely change all future conditions of warfare." When nuclear weapons spread to other countries, as they certainly would, no one would be able any longer to win. A spasm of mutual destruction would be possible. But not war (532).

Paging Dick Cheney. Please carefully re-read that last paragraph.

Oppenheimer had a different view -- especially as he watched the Trinity Test. The atomic bomb would not eradicate war; instead, it was "the destroyer of worlds."


On the lighter side, I remember an episode of The Simpsons where Bart is drawing a comic book based on Homer's funny antics when he becomes angry. In one bit, Homer is watching television and flies into a rage when he learns that a show he enjoys, When Dinosaurs Get Drunk, is being replaced with one called The Boring World of Niels Bohr.


The image was originally rendered in Sterling-ware and post-processed with mad abandon until its physical structure was first decimated, then reconstituted.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Homage to Hayao Miyazaki

Homage to Hayao Miyazaki

Homage to Hayao Miyazaki (2003)

From draw your own conclusions Wikipedia:

Miyazaki is the creator of many popular anime feature films, as well as manga. Although largely unknown in the West outside of animation circles until Miramax released his film Princess Mononoke in 1999, his films have enjoyed commercial and critical success in Japan and East Asia. Miyazaki's Spirited Away is the highest-grossing film of all time in Japan; Princess Mononoke held the same title for a short period until the release of Titanic later in the same year.

Miyazaki's films are distinguished by recurring themes such as humanity's relationship to nature and technology, and the difficulty of maintaining a pacifist ethic. The protagonists of his movies are often strong, independent girls or young women; the "villains" are often ambiguous characters with redeeming qualities.

Miyazaki's films have generally been financial successes. His success has invited comparisons with American animator Walt Disney. However, Miyazaki does not see himself as a person building an animation empire, but as an animator lucky enough to have been allowed to make films with his own personal touch.


Flight by the characters is a very common occurrence in Miyazaki's films, lauded for their ability to often look very natural and not "forced". Examples include Nausicaä piloting Mehve, Kiki riding her broomstick, Totoro carrying Satsuki and Mei across the night sky, Howl and Sophie floating majestically above the town of Market Chipping, or Chihiro being borne by Haku in dragon-form back towards the bathhouse of the spirits to find her parents.

His films are visual stunners. When my daughter was young, I remember watching My Neighbor Totoro with her over and over again -- and each time new pleasures and secrets were revealed.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Homage to Tsui Hark

Homage to Tsui Hark

Homage to Tsui Hark (2002)

From Senses of Cinema:

You'd think a guy like this would be sitting behind a desk with his feet up, puffing on a big cigar, but Tsui Hark struggles. He believes that he is the only person who understands the wonders of Chinese culture and history and that with his great understanding comes great responsibility: he must save it. Tsui looks at Chineseness and sees a neverending source of ideas, a river of strength that will never run dry. People dismiss this and it drives him crazy. He wants to knock off the dust and kick out the jams. And he's been surprisingly successful. He's revitalized almost every major trope of Chinese popular culture and, if background counts, he's barely even Chinese.


But while offering the stability of historical continuity with one hand, he takes it away with the other. His movies exist in a perpetual state of flux, where the only constant is change. Immigrants know the bitter taste of premature partings and the absurdity of keeping a place in their hearts for a homeland they barely remember. They know that borders make all the difference and that citizenship is destiny: a chemical engineer in Bombay is a cab driver in New York; a screw-up in London is a bank manager in Hong Kong. A Better Tomorrow III (1989) takes place in Vietnam and never has so much apocalyptic angst been unleashed in an airport departure lounge. Dragon Inn wrings 88 minutes of pathos and paranoia out of a single attempt to cross a border without a passport. Tsui's characters are neither here nor there, subject to sudden, traumatic changes in status and identity. Demons become human, men become women, swordsmen become monks, criminals become heroes, and heroes become villains. Shape-shifting aliens become bangable pinball machines, robots turn into sexy sirens, human bodies are pulled apart, hung from hooks, deflated, de-faced, skinned alive, castrated, amputated, and exploded. Twins and endlessly replicating time travelers proliferate exponentially.

Hark proved movies could also have a manic punk energy.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

March of the Cooling Towers

March of the Cooling Towers

March of the Cooling Towers (2000)

From how's our back-up system Wikipedia:

Another very important reason for using biocides in cooling towers is to prevent the growth of Legionella which is a Gram negative bacterium, including species that cause legionellosis or Legionnaires' Disease, most notably L. pneumophilia. The various Legionella species are the cause of Legionnaires' Disease in humans and transmission is via exposure to aerosols -- the inhalation of mist droplets containing the bacteria. Common sources of Legionella include cooling towers used in open recirculating evaporative cooling water systems, domestic hot water systems, fountains, and similar disseminators that tap into a public water supply.


Do not operate the tower unattended.

Hey. Homer. Where ya going? Get your mind back on your work...

Love is mutating in the air...


[Image seen on]


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Saturday, November 18, 2006

Tattoo Artist

Tattoo Artist

Tattoo Artist (2002)

You may lose your most valuable property through misfortune in various ways. You may lose your house, your wife and other treasures. But of your moko, you cannot be deprived except by death. It will be your ornament and companion until your last day.
-- Netana Whakaari

Now that the election is mercifully over (and ended so very nicely), I think I'll take a break from politics and just put up some odds and ends images for the next week or so.

This one initially came out of Sterling-ware before I post-processed it in Photoshop until it took on a quality of (what Bob Dylan once called) hypnotic splatterness.


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Friday, November 17, 2006



Man-of-War (2000)

From "A Farewell to Rumsfeld" by Molly Ivins as seen on

Meanwhile, let us bid farewell and adieu to Brother Donald Rumsfeld, who is so full of wisdom he does not seem to be able to apply it. As a parting gift, here are some of his classic quotes:

1. "If you develop rules, never have more than 10."

2. "Don't think of yourself as indispensable or infallible. As Charles De Gaulle said, the cemeteries of the world are full of indispensable men."

3. "Needless to say, the president is correct. Whatever it was he said."

4. "I don't do quagmires."

5. "I don't do diplomacy."

6. "I don't do foreign policy."

7. "I don't do predictions."

8. "I don't do numbers."

9. "I don't do book reviews."

10. "Don't divide the world into 'them' and 'us.' Avoid infatuation with or resentment of the press, the Congress, rivals or opponents. Accept them as facts. They have their jobs, and you have yours."

11. "Don't say, 'The White House wants.' Buildings can't want."

12. "If I know the answer, I'll tell you the answer. And if I don't, I'll just respond cleverly."

13. "I believe what I said yesterday. I don't know what I said, but I know what I think, and, well, I assume it's what I said."

In fact, I'm rather going to miss Rumsfeld's Zen-like nuggets of wisdom, the most famous of which is probably about the known unknowns and the unknown unknowns:

"As we know, there are known knowns. There are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns. That is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns, the ones we don't know we don't know."

Donald, we hardly knew what the hell to make of ye...

Saturday, November 11, 2006



Unspun (2000)

Boy, you've to carry that weight
Carry that weight a long time

--The Beatles, "Carry That Weight"

But the way I feel is this: I feel liberated, and I'm just going to tell you as plainly as I can why. I no longer am going to have to carry the water for people who I don't think deserve having their water carried. Now, you might say, "Well, why have you been doing it?" Because the stakes are high.
--Rush Limbaugh, 11-9-06


I openly lie to my listeners. I praise and pump up people (and policies?) I do not personally believe in, even knowing that my "dittohead" listeners soak up and parrot my lies views -- which really aren't my views because my convictions are merely expedient -- thus, I am a hypocrite and a phony who will say absolutely anything to advance Republicans -- even if I personally find Republicans unworthy of my support.


Because the end justifies the means. Republicans can do anything they want -- lie, cheat, steal, spy, smear, torture, murder, anything -- no matter how unethical or immoral -- because the greater conservative good trumps petty concerns like ethics and morals.

So, obviously, Rush and other situational Rovians are apparently down with trickery like this:

I'm glad to see Rush welcome the Democrats as liberators, but I'm not counting on white noise to blot out his ongoing fecklessness. Perhaps now his listener-drones will smoke him out and see his barbs sting less because the sincerity of his every utterance could never can no longer be trusted.

Rush, lay your burden down. Remember the old saying. If you can't say something nice true about someone...

Well, you know the rest...


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UPDATE: This image, seen on BartCop, fits the tone today.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Cut It Out

Cut It Out

Cut It Out (2001)

If a faction consists of less than a majority, relief is supplied by the republican principle, which enables the majority to defeat its sinister views by regular vote. It may clog the administration, it may convulse the society; but it will be unable to execute and mask its violence under the forms of the Constitution.


It may be concluded that a pure democracy, by which I mean a society consisting of a small number of citizens, who assemble and administer the government in person, can admit of no cure for the mischiefs of faction. A common passion or interest will, in almost every case, be felt by a majority of the whole; a communication and concert result from the form of government itself; and there is nothing to check the inducements to sacrifice the weaker party or an obnoxious individual. Hence it is that such democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths.
--James Madison, Federalist 10

There is a cancer on the presidency.
--John Dean

You've got to cut it out...
--Elvis Costello, "Lipstick Vogue"

Please vote.

Unless you prefer fewer rights -- more royal smirks and mandates -- and much more torture and death.


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Sunday, November 05, 2006



Technocrat (2001)

Hangman, hangman, hold it a little while,
I think I see my friends coming, riding a many mile

--"Gallows Pole", Led Zeppelin

I mean, [Saddam Hussein] is a torturer, a murderer, they had rape rooms. This is a disgusting tyrant who deserves justice, the ultimate justice.
George W. Bush, 12-13-03





Laugh it up...

One big joke(r)...

And as for rape rooms....

From Editor&Publisher:

A federal judge ruled today [10-23-06] that graphic pictures of detainee abuse at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison must be released over government claims that they could damage America's image. Last year a Republican senator conceded that they contained scenes of "rape and murder" and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said they included acts that were "blatantly sadistic."


What is shown on the photographs and videos from Abu Ghraib prison that the Pentagon has blocked from release? One clue: Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told Congress last year, after viewing a large cache of unreleased images, "I mean, I looked at them last night, and they're hard to believe." They show acts "that can only be described as blatantly sadistic, cruel and inhumane," he added.

A Republican Senator suggested the same day they contained scenes of "rape and murder." Rumsfeld then commented, "If these are released to the public, obviously it's going to make matters worse."

The photos were among thousands turned over by the key "whistleblower" in the scandal, Specialist Joseph M. Darby. Just a few that were released to the press sparked the Abu Ghraib abuse scandal last year, and the video images are said to be even more shocking.

The verdict's in...

Meet the new boss...

Same as the old technocrat...

This Tuesday, will America get fooled again? Or have we -- finally -- had enough?


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Friday, November 03, 2006

Hold That Thought

Hold That Thought

Hold That Thought (2002)

Keith Olbermann using "The Shining" to channel Edward R. Murrow and put the Kerry botch into perspective:

No botch here. Olbermann nails it.


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