Aiming for Precisionism but Missing

When I was in Houston, I took perhaps my favorite photo-of-mine ever, this shot of the Houston Hyatt. It reminded me of some photos that the artist Charles Sheeler took. But he didn't leave his photos alone. He used them as models for his paintings. His paintings smoothed the images out, made them flatter.

I don't know how to paint. I'm not going to get good at it any time soon. As a lazy engineer, I'm always looking for shortcuts. If all I want to do is smooth some of the texture out of a photo, maybe I can do that in software. I tried opening up the photo in the GIMP, a photo-editing program. I told it to use a palette of just 16 colors. That looked--too flat. Too weird.

So I tried writing my own image-manipulation program. Python has an Imaging library; its API is nice; this was a fun thing to play with. What did I try? Consider the image, one row of pixels at a time. For each row, set up four levels each of Red, Green, Blue. Draw the photo, "restrained" to this palette.

[altered photo]

The result is... not so great. Not so precisionist; all to pointillist. It reminds me of an old GIF file, full of noise forced by its small palette. On the other hand, it's strange to look at this image, and to know why it's noisy, to understand the complicated filter I applied to it. It inspires other filters.

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Zine Report: Giant Robot #60

There's a photo of Ryohei Tanaka's equipment. Tanaka makes art by cutting paper. His equipment--an assortment of scissors and... dyes?

An article by a guy who photographed some film locations from the Star Wars movies--oh, wait, it's more interesting than that. These were in Tunisia. Some of that Tatooine stuff was real stuff found in Tatouine, some of it was movie magic.

An article about Peter Saville, the Factory Records artist who did the Joy Division album covers you remember.

An interview with the director of the movie Quick Gun Murugan (Behold: a clip from Quick Gun Murugan, I guess).

A fun read.

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Book Report: The Complete Annotated Oz Squad, Volume One

There's this comic book called Oz Squad. It's old. I read it long ago. At one point in the comic, one of the characters, Scarecrow, writes some graffiti:


That phrase stuck with me for years. It had to be a quote. Didn't it? It sounded so artsy, not so comic book-y. Every so often I'd try a web search, hoping to track it down. Nothing. But more recently, I tried a Google book search... and found out that Oz Squad's writer had released an annotated version of the comic book. And there in the book search window was the annotation for that phrase, which was indeed a quote:

52-5 All Art Must Perish: I saw this as graffiti on the remains of a demolished theater in Providence RI.

Well, that explained why I hadn't found the quote elsewhere. The rambling of some past theater major, perhaps. Anyhow, I was so happy to found out that there was an annotated version of the comic that I sent off for a copy. Here's another annotation:

I wrap up the story but can't resist talking about the existential futility of fighting for transient gains in the end. Why can't I write a simple action comic?

In hindsight, maybe I shouldn't have been so sure that "All art must perish" was a quote.

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Link: Help Get Sita out of Copyright Jail

The fun of watching cartoons plus the smugness of giving to a good cause: I encourage you to Help Get Sita out of Copyright Jail

You might remember the cartoonist Nina Paley. Or you might not remember her--you've had a while to forget her. She went off for a few years and made an animated movie, "Sita Sings the Blues". I hear that's it's pretty good. If I were to pass along a verbal description, it would sound artsy-fartsy--but it's by Nina Paley, so it's probably pretty funny. Roger Ebert liked it plenty. Yeah, I hear that it's pretty good.

But I can only tell you second-hand reports. I can't see the movie because if anyone were to try to distribute this movie, they'd get sued back to the stone age. There's some music in the movie, old old music that is nevertheless still under copyright. Nina is taking out a huge loan to pay off the copyright holders. And then she's going to make her movie available for free. You can donate to help her pay off the loan. Remember when I Twittered "So, what do religious fundamentalists and big media corporations have in common? They believe that they own culture."? I was quoting Nina, reflecting on her troubles getting this movie into the public eye.

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Zine Report: Giant Robot #57

The Obama posters say "HOPE", but when Obama himself picks people... well, he undercuts hope. It's like he scraped my old book reports, looking for books about USA politics with villains and chose those villains. He chose the viper Wade Randlett as a fundraiser. He chose the redbaiting Bill Richardson for his cabinet.

Giant Robot #57 has a painting of Obama on the cover, and cover article is about Obama. But it's not about evil appointees; it's mostly about art. You know that Shepard Fairey Obama poster? OK, this article is about artists like Shepard Fairey, making Obama-themed art, putting up posters. It's about a guy named Yosi Sergant, working for the campaign, reaching out to artists. It was interesting, inspiring even.

Maybe Obama's going to turn out to be just another politician, a demagogue who threw the word "HOPE" on a wall and let each American latch onto whatever... whatever they hoped for. But it's inspiring to see so many people working for change. Maybe it means that Americans are ready to make their country a better place in spite of their politicians. And we need that--and would have needed it, no matter who we elected.

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Book Report: Chiaroscuro: Patchwork Book #1

It's a graphic novel about a whiny artist who hangs out in cafes and goes to parties. Occasionally, something strange happens. It's pretty; some of the banter is witty; I'm glad I read it. The plot advances slowly, but it's a fun ride.

There's more than one comic book out there called "Chiaroscuro"--no doubt this is a hazard in the comic book industry, populated as it is by artists. "Hey, let's name the book after a term of art of art." How many romance comics are titled "Two-Point Perspective"? Uhm, hmm. Now that I look, I don't find any. So much for that theory.

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Link: Steven Pitsenbarger at Alternative Photography

Apparently, "anthotype" is a photographic development system which uses dyes from plants. I never would have heard about it if it wasn't for this guy:

"Pitsenbarger has had a lifelong fascination with plants. ... The anthotype process allows him to ditch the camera and make images of plants using their own juices."

Alternative Photography (emphasis mine)

Remind me to never allow Steven Pitsenbarger to take a photo of me.

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Link: Nina Katchadourian's Sorted Books Project

Unlike books juxtaposed = laughs. Sorted Books Project. Also: Sorted Books Project

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Site: Tauba Auerbach / The Alphabet Variations

You may recall that I went to a gallery a couple of weeks ago. It was some art by Tauba Auerbach, including two that featured an alphabetload of overlapping letterforms. I'd wondered what they would look like rendered in other fonts. It turns out that's pretty easy to automate; last night I did so. Check it out: T.A. Variations

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Book Report: How to Spell the Alphabet

A while back, I pointed out some not-exactly-puzzle-ish-but-not-exactly-not-either images by Tauba Auerbach. I finally broke down and sent away for a book of her work, How to Spell the Alphabet.

Today, that book showed up and I looked through it on the bus ride home. It's making me think. It's giving me ideas for puzzles. Unfortunately, I do not have the artistic talent to render these puzzles. This book makes me want to drop what I'm doing and practice calligraphy for a couple of years.

I got home and, being an internet nerd, checked my feeds. One of those feeds is a blog search feed on Tauba Auerbach. And it just found mention of a Tauba Auerbach gallery show opening in San Francisco tomorrow evening. I'm not really the kind of person who goes to show openings. I have to wake up early on Saturday. I'm not sure whether I'm trying to talk myself into this or talk myself out of this. I guess I'll find out tomorrow.

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Link: Tauba Auerbach images

Good visual design, by tautology, is enjoyable to look at. I stumbled upon some letterformy designs by artist/designer Tauba Auerbach. (I was trying out the new MSN Live image search. In Dirk Gently fashion, it didn't show me what I was looking for, but did show me something that I needed to see. In this case, I needed to see some works by Tauba Auerbach.) You look at them for a while and think that if you ever received a word puzzle that was laid out by Ms. Auerbach, you'd never settle for a plain grid again. Apparently, she likes ASCII, Morse, Braille, and LEDs, too. Oh, and maybe cipher machines.

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Book Report: Little Star

It's a family drama about new parents making tough choices between family life and career. Ah, it's OK. It has pretty Andi Watson art, which helps a lot.

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Book Report: Robotika #1

This comic book makes no sense, but it's so pretty that you don't mind. Huge swaths of black, good lines suggesting graceful motion. OK, it depicts a future world in which cyborgs fight by means of katana. And that's pretty silly. But the pictures are sooo pretty. I'll keep picking this comic up.

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Book Report: Giant Robot #38

I read the latest issue of Giant Robot magazine. There were photos from the opening party of the new Giant Robot store in New York city. One of the photos was of ace reporter Claudine Ko. And I thought, "What are the editors keeping her out late at parties? Instead, they should encourage her to stay in the office and write more." But I needn't have worried--she has an article a few pages later. It's a trip down memory lane about various men who have masturbated in her presence, but she makes it interesting.

There was also an interview with conceptual artist Tobias Wong. This was informative to me because I'm an ignoramus who had never heard of him. But he's made some interesting inventions/works: a smoking mitten, a transparent candle. Do you remember the time when I drained a lot of glitter into my toilet? It didn't flush out for several days, and tended to stay behind even though other, uhm, articles did get flushed. Anyhow, for a few days, everything in my toilet bowl was sparkling. Tobias had another approach to this: pills containing glitter so that your poo will sparkle. Actually, I doubt that the glitter pills are very efficient. A lot of glitter would be wasted; the only visible glitter would be that in the "bark" of the "log". However, with glitter floating free in the toilet bowl, some of it will cling to the "bark"--and none of it will be wasted on the "xylem and phloem".

Whoa, that thought stumbled along a little farther than it should have. Anyhow, this magazine has plenty of material that has nothing to do with wee-wees or poo-poo. Check it out.

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Arms and the Man, Canoe

Following up on my recent trip to New Zealand, I read Two Voyages to the South Seas, a summary/translation of the memoirs of Captain Jules S.-C. Dumont D'Urville. This guy was a French ship's captain and navigator. He did some impressive exploring around New Zealand, Australia, and Antarctica. In these memoirs were the things you'd expect: encounters with natives; encounters with colonial powers; disease; discovery of new lands; paddling of small boats.

But I didn't expect one thing I found in the introduction (written by Helen Rosenmann): art history. This story takes place before d'Urville was a captain.

Twelve days out of Touloun the ship was anchored off the island of Melos. Ashore, d'Urville and [fellow officer] Matterer met a Greek peasant, who a few days earlier while ploughing had uncovered blocks of marble and a statue in two pieces, which he offered cheaply to the two young men. It was of a naked woman with an apple in her raised left hand, the right hand holding a draped sash falling from hips to feet, both hands damaged and separated from the body. Even with a broken nose, the face was beautiful. D'Urville the classicist recognized the Venus of the Judgement of Paris. It was, of course, the Venus de Milo. He was eager to acquire it, but his practical captain, apparently uninterested in antiquities, said there was nowhere to store it on the ship, so the transaction lapsed. The tenacious d'Urville on arrival at Constantinople showed the sketches he had made to the French ambassador, the Marquis de Riviére, who sent his secretary in a French Navy vessel to buy it for France. Before he could take delivery, French sailors had to fight Greek brigands for possession. In the mêlée the statue was roughly dragged across rocks to the ship, breaking off both arms, and the sailors refused to go back to search for them.

Plundering is best left to the nimble.

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Happy National Library Week

Today there was art in the central stairway/atrium area of Doe Library: dozens of books suspended in air by wires. Meanwhile, there's a book I want which is currently unavailable because it's in the hands of the "cataloging" department. I tried reading the titles of the suspended books to see if my desideratum was amongst them, but I couldn't tell.

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Found: Postcard

At the back of this copy of Jane Eyre that I checked out of the UC Library, there was a postcard. Names changed to protect the whatever.

Dear Ver,

It sux to write a postcard instead of the nice long email I've been meaning to write. But it sux more to fall out of touch 4Ever. [The 4E was rendered as a ligature.] Plus it's cool to get mail, no? Brief update on me: (1) JOB: NYCLU (ACLU of New York) Development Associate. (2) BOYFRIEND: Single, Tho I was dating Joel Steadman (from Amhurst) for a brief spell (he sux to date, too thinky + self-centered. Rilly liked him, tho. Damn shamed. No Good prospects. (3) Art: Making little books + MASKS. Also some printing. Hope you're well + looking foward to School starting. <3 Sophie. P.S. Give my love to all the folks I met while I was there! They're great!

Though she had been making little books, she sent a mass-produced postcard. Maybe she should have been making postcards.

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