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Arts and Letters

This category contains 187 posts

Then It Wouldn’t Be Sky Anymore.

“Someone asked me, ‘Do you think children born after, say, 1994, will ever feel the same things about 9/11 that people born before then feel? More and more, what we “feel” about collective history seems like something manufactured, and kind of pumped into us, rather than a real emotion. It’s all so framed by the sense that reality doesn’t exist any more, or at least not in a way that is alterable or questioning.”

In related news, Michael Stipe of R.E.M. talks about the art of Douglas Coupland and the legacy of 9/11. “Is that who we are now? Blind, unquestioning, warlike? Are we that violent, that childish, that silly, that shallow? Are we that afraid of others? Of ourselves? Of the possibility of genuine change? Are we that easily swayed, that capable of defending ‘American interests’, whatever ‘American interests’ means?

The Terminal. | And the Bridge.

“It speaks to the paucity of our civic imagination, and the small-mindedness of our politics, that simply to describe a project of such ambition is to invite the knowing smirks and raised eyebrows of those who will immediately recognize it as wholly incompatible with the current political and budgetary environment…At the same time, broader economic forces make Union Station expansion almost inevitable. As Doug Allen, the head of the Virginia’s commuter rail service, put it, ‘The question is how we do it, not whether we do it.'”

In a long and handsomely illustrated piece, WaPo’s Stephen Pearlstein looks into the reimagining of Union Station (or is it Truman Station), in light of both commuter needs and the burgeoning of NoMa, H-St, and the DC downtown in general. “This new Union Station would go well beyond the ambitions of Daniel Burnham’s original Beaux-Arts masterpiece. Its footprint would span 10 square blocks — two blocks east to west, five blocks north to south, from the foot of Capitol Hill to K Street.”

Update: “Make no mistake: Any of the finalists in the competition to design D.C.’s 11th Street Bridge Park is a winner. This is the savviest proposal for adapting outmoded infrastructure since the High Line. The four teams that made the grade as finalists to design the thing met the challenge.

And while we’re re-envisioning DC, CityLab looks at some intriguing “High Line”-style plans for the 11th Street Bridge. “Maybe the City Council could be convinced of the merits of the Southeast-to-Southwest Streetcar line once D.C. decides on a final design for the edgiest architecture project in the city’s history.”

Microscopic Monets.

“Each ovary of the female fruit fly houses multiple ovarioles or ‘assembly lines’ in which individual egg chambers develop into fully formed fly eggs…In this picture, cross-sections of ten ovarioles from different female fruit flies are arranged with stem cells and early stage egg chambers at the center, and the more mature chambers at the periphery. The nucleus of each cell is stained yellow/orange. The cell membranes are stained blue.”

As written up by Aatish Bhatia at Wired, the winners of Princeton’s annual Art of Science competition are announced. “Among the entries are some wonderful ‘oops’ moments, where an experiment goes beautifully wrong, revealing art where you might not have expected to see it…But most of these submissions aren’t accidents. Many of these pieces reveal form, structure, and beauty hidden at a scale that our eyes can’t perceive.”

The Monuments Met.

By way of Open Culture, the Metropolitan Museum of Art has put nearly 400,000 works of art online as of last Friday, free to use. Above is Edward Hopper’s “The Lighthouse at Two Lights” (1929), and there’s 398,240 more to peruse when the feeling strikes.

Birth of Diana.

“Worth1000 hosts a variety of photo-editing and illustrative contests. One of their contest series, Superhero ModRen, challenges users to incorporate superheroes into fine art pieces. It’s fun to see the contrast of modern characters we know and love placed in classic painting styles and poses.”

Superheroes added to classic art — click through for many more.

Gashlygame Over.

“Video game characters are always getting stabbed, burned, blasted, electrocuted, and crushed — when they aren’t falling to their dooms. So they’re perfect for this macabre poem in the style of Edward Gorey’s The Gashlycrumb Tinies.” (Via io9).

Wounded Giselle.

“[T]he fundamental key to embodying Giselle is to radiate purity and sensitivity. In the first act, she glows with an inner joy and with her love for dance and for Albrecht. She is so honest, and her feelings for Albrecht so wholehearted, that she cannot reconcile his betrayal with her soulful belief in the goodness of the world.”

In Pointe Magazine, my sister Gill explains her process for embodying (and mastering) the psychology of Giselle. (Hint: Dancing well helps too.) “[E]ven death pales in the face of her eternal compassion…Her inner joy is now a quiet sadness, but more than ever she exudes love.”

Backstream Color.

“Typically one might think of a ‘colorized photo’ as being kind of garish and tasteless, with broad one-color strokes with no regard to detail or any attempt at subtlety or nuance…But a newer generation of colorizers, such as the community of artists at r/ColorizedHistory, approach colorizing with a real reverence towards history, using their skills to eliminate the distraction of the “colorization,” ultimately bringing these scenes to life with a natural realism that hopefully connects the viewer to the past in a new way.”

A follow-up to this post: Paleofuture‘s Matt Novak discusses the art and craft of colorizing historical photos with colorizer Dana Keller. “If done well, the addition of color can help “connect” people to history. It can bridge the gap from a seemingly distant event and make it more immediate and relevant.”

Conjurer of Nightmares.

“A thread running through Mr. Giger’s work was the uneasy meshing of machines and biology, in a highly idiosyncratic blend of science fiction and surrealism…He kept a notepad next to his bed so he could sketch the terrors that rocked his uneasy sleep — nightmarish forms that could as easily have lumbered from prehistory as arrived from Mars.”

R.I.P. Swiss surrealist H.R. Giger, best known as the creator of the Lovecraftian Xenomorph from Alien (which, along with The Shining twins, Freddy Krueger, and the final shot from Carrie, is responsible for a goodly percentage of my nightmares over the years), 1940-2014. “My paintings seem to make the strongest impression on people who are, well, who are crazy. A good many people think as I do. If they like my work they are creative…or they are crazy.”

Gone with the Whiskey.

“The memo..[is] candid in its assessment of the writers’ strengths and weakness. Of William Faulkner, who had written a few screenplays in the early 1930s, the anonymous memo author notes that he was now living in Mississippi but ‘can fly anywhere in his own plane.’ On the downside, Faulkner was ‘not very reliable in his plane nor his habits.'”

But has he taken a stab at the rasslin’ form? Rebecca Onion of Slate birddogs this memo to David O. Selznick on possible Gone with the Wind screenwriters. The quip above reminded me of Mencken’s review of Lewis’s Elmer Gantry, from the dissertation: As good as Babbitexcept the last 30,000 words, which you wrote in a state of liquor.”

Arkham Aquarium.

“Criminals are a superstitious cowardly lot. I must be a creature. I must be a creature of the night…I shall become a shark.” Iconic Batman villains reconceived as cartoon sharks, by artist Jeff Victor. Mr. Freeze’s goldfish is a nice touch.

Mr. Toad’s Cantankerous Contraption.

“For her Steam in the Willows illustrations, Brennan takes as her inspiration the industrial era in which Grahame was writing, but chooses to celebrate artisanal technology in lieu of mass production.”

Lauren Davis of io9 offers some glimpses of artist Krista Brennan’s forthcoming steampunk rendering of The Wind in the Willows. Makes sense. Mr. Toad is as steampunk as it gets this side of Jules Verne.

Not in Houston Anymore.

“The artist Scott Listfield has a fixation for astronauts, painting them over 130 times since the early 90s. You’ll typically find them gazing in blank-eyed wonder at pop icons like Optimus Prime, Mario’s coins twinkling behind a cloud, and the Queen in Aliens…Perhaps there’s a statement in this, something about the decline of the Space Age and the cult of culture. Maybe he just likes painting astronauts.”

I feel like I may have blogged this at some point in the past, but couldn’t readily find it. At any rate, and Killscreen points the way to Scott Listfield’s AstronautDinosaur, where NASA’s finest find themselves on all manner of adventures.

My God It’s Full of Stars.

“I’ve seen the Big Dipper thousands of times, perused it by eye, with binoculars, and through a telescope. And yet, even in a wide-field picture like this, there are still treasures to be found there. Just because something is familiar doesn’t necessarily mean you truly know it.”

Bad Astronomer Phil Plait offers up a very high-resolution image of the Big Dipper by astrophotographer Rogelio Bernal Andreo. (Best to see it enlarged.) “Andreo’s photo shows remarkable detail. Of course there are thousands of stars, but I was able to see dozens of galaxies as well. A few of them are quite famous, like the huge and beautiful M101, the Pinwheel Galaxy.”

Hues of History.

/r/ColorizedHistory is dedicated to high quality colorizations of historical black and white images, and discussions of a historical nature.” Reddit’s endlessly browsable History in Color, with some choice selections collected here.

“In those years, photographer Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii (1863-1944) undertook a photographic survey of the Russian Empire with the support of Tsar Nicholas II. He used a specialized camera to capture three black and white images in fairly quick succession, using red, green and blue filters, allowing them to later be recombined and projected with filtered lanterns to show near true color images.” Along related lines, and making the rounds again because of the Ukraine situation, “real” color photos of Russia from 1909 to 1912.

Rdng is Fndmtl.



“[W]hat Spritz does differently (and brilliantly) is manipulate the format of the words to more appropriately line them up with the eye’s natural motion of reading. The ‘Optimal Recognition Point’ (ORP) is slightly left of the center of each word, and is the precise point at which our brain deciphers each jumble of letters. The unique aspect of Spritz is that it identifies the ORP of each word, makes that letter red and presents all of the ORPs at the same space on the screen. In this way, our eyes don’t move at all as we see the words, and we can therefore process information instantaneously rather than spend time decoding each word.”

Whoa…I’ve read about kung-fu. An intriguing new app aims to turn everyone into speed readers. “Spritz is about to go public with Samsung’s new line of wearable technology.”

The Bayou of Madness, Pt. II.

“Much has been made of the connections between True Detective and the cosmic-horror tradition…and rightly so. But what’s largely been missed is that the cosmic-horror genre — rooted, as it is, in humankind’s subprime position in the pecking order of the universe — is deeply entwined with the character of Louisiana’s physical and cultural landscape.”

In Slate, Adrian Van Young delineates True Detective — and Lovecraft’s — debt to Louisiana, one of the cultural crossroads and borderlands where shadows linger and tricksters thrive. “Lost cities, liminal realms, and cosmic fear come more or less naturally to Louisiana…The chief-most horrors of the show are not voodoo curses or tentacled monsters or consciousness-destroying plays, but environmental slippage, religious perversion, badly mangled family trees. True Detective wears the cosmic-horror genre and its lineage, in other words, not unlike the Mardi Gras masks being worn today all over its native state. The mask is scary, sure enough, but what’s underneath can be even more frightening: one place in the U.S. where anything, it seems, can happen.'”

Also, for a more prosaic take on HBO’s current hit, see the credits for Law & Order: True Detective, below.

Constructing the Shot.

“‘I love to document everyday things and build them into mini-series,’ Whyte says…As soon as my kids discovered the camera accessory at the Lego store, which fits in the hand of a mini-figure, I worked out a way to start placing the character in my day-to-day shots and he became a cohesive element.'”

Fast Company‘s Joe Berkowitz and photographer Andrew Whyte chronicle the adventures of an intrepid Lego photojournalist. “Despite his diminutive size, this little guy seems to have had some big adventures. He scales buildings, he’s chased by a hermit crab, and slips on a giant (to him) banana peel.”

Across the Face of Arda.

“After taking 150,000 photos over the course of three months, photographer Shawn Reeder ultimately whittled the number down to 8,640 in order to complete this incredible visual expedition.” Via The Atlantic and “timelapse cinematographer” Shawn Reeder, a lusciously-shot time-lapse journey through New Zealand.

Brevity Ate the Soul of Wit.

“My daughter won’t stop crying and screaming in the middle of the night. I visit her grave and ask her to stop, but it doesn’t help.”

By way of sententiae et clamores, some terrifying tales for the time-deprived: twenty two-sentence horror stories. “I can’t move, breathe, speak or hear and it’s so dark all the time. If I knew it would be this lonely, I would have been cremated instead.”

Omsbudsdog Emeritus

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