Saturday, April 03, 2010

Recent reading:

Fred Kaplan, Lincoln: The Biography of a Writer
Thierry de Duve et al., Jeff Wall: The Complete Edition
David Herbert Donald, Lincoln
Lydia Davis, Collected Stories
Michael R. Taylor et al., Marcel Duchamp: Etant Donnes
Bill Willingham, Mark Buckingham et al., Fables #6 (comic book series)

Professional Photo-Editing Software Wants to Be Free

So I'm making a picture which, for various complicated reasons, is a composite image, made up of bits and pieces of six different exposures. At first I thought I'd have to save up for a professional version of Photoshop ($800+ CDN) to complete it, but then realized, wait! This is 2010! Digital toolkits want to be free! And promptly downloaded and installed the latest stable release of GIMP, a very powerful image editor, with which I am currently cutting-and-pasting my little architectural composition together. Eat your heart out, Oscar Rejlander.

(Speedy, below, also lightly GIMPed -- parallel foreground lines, contrast, yellow sign's pebbly textured surface, etc. But this technical stuff isn't too interesting, and I won't refer to it that often)
Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Speedy, 2010

Waste My Time, Please

GUY: Hey there.

CJB: Hi!

GUY: These books of yours.

CJB: Uh-huh?

GUY: They're for sale?

CJB: Yup. Every one.

GUY: Huh. [Leaves]
Remember Descent -- it's teabonific!

New William Gibson short story, "Dougal Discarnate," in Douglas & Macintyre spec-fic anthology Darwin's Bastards, set in Kitsilano & vaguely reminiscent of Tim Powers' better efforts. WG's recent novels don't do that much for me, but his all-too-infrequent shorts and essays continue to exert a lasting hold, with their concision, lyrical pessimism, and perfect pitch. I always smile when I see that tall, stooped, totally unmistakable silhouette peering in through the shop's big front windows at books on pirates, or military insignia, or weird-ass otaku-grade Japanese plastic toys.

From "Dougal":

"Another time, a sunny spring day at the top of 4th, the sunlight changed in a long smooth blink, and he saw deep snow, filthy with the soot of coal-burning furnaces and fireplaces. A mostly residential avenue, lawns where the stores are now, the white frame houses darkened with that same smoke, and an electric tram ascending the hill, like something out of some shabbier, more realistic version of Disneyland.

Then blink again, everything reversing."
Tuesday, March 30, 2010
Via dru, browsing yesterday's Fountain:

Poor Folk Love Their Cellphones!

"In his speech, [Bruce] Sterling seemed to affect Nietzschean disdain for regular people. If the goal was to provoke, it worked. To a crowd that typically prefers onward-and-upward news about technology, Sterling’s was a sadistically successful rhetorical strategy. 'Poor folk love their cellphones!' had the ring of one of those haughty but unforgettable expressions of condescension, like the Middle Eastern gem 'The dogs bark, but the caravan moves on.'

'Connectivity is poverty' was how a friend of mine summarized Sterling’s bold theme. Only the poor — defined broadly as those without better options — are obsessed with their connections. Anyone with a strong soul or a fat wallet turns his ringer off for good and cultivates private gardens that keep the hectic Web far away. The man of leisure, Sterling suggested, savors solitude, or intimacy with friends, presumably surrounded by books and film and paintings and wine and vinyl — original things that stay where they are and cannot be copied and corrupted and shot around the globe with a few clicks of a keyboard."

Lee Bacchus on The Art of Hoarding

"'As though with eyes drained of tears, they stare out silently out of his sentences,' Adorno said of Beckett.

The hoarders, too, stare silently out through the crevices amid their horrible creations, confined by the very 'freedom' and 'control' they compulsively sought through collection, consumption and accumulation. But alternatively, their hoards help bridge (or dam) the vast chasm between a fragile psyche and an overbearing society. Their 'chaos' is the illusion of an order that re-connects them: photographs and clothing to lost loved ones or the past itself; commodities to a promise of happiness perpetually broken. Even the filth — the dust, mold, cobwebs and in one case the skeletal remains of a litter of kittens — is a testament to deep-seated and futile desire (like that of Miss Havisham’s petrified monument to her tragically interrupted wedding in Dickens’s Great Expectations) to stop the inexorable flow of time in its tracks."
Monday, March 29, 2010

Zoo Magnolia, 2010

Not many magnolia pictures have worked out so far this year. This is one of the better ones.

Fountain, 2010

This picture's other subject is taking a break from panhandling to check his email. This is the second time I've been surprised by technology's reach down the economic ladder in America's larger cities. In January, in Los Angeles, I stopped at a Starbucks on the way back from making Sleeper and, not really paying attention to where I was going, almost stepped on a guy cozied up to a lamppost and ringed by a sandbag fortress of junk-filled boxes and bags. His big broken hands were making complex pecking gestures that puzzled me, until I realized that he was using the coffeehouse's free Wi-Fi to surf the net on his iPhone. Scenes like these are a valuable corrective to the prevailing notion that people below one's own rung on the economic ladder just can't "get with the times."

(For the record, I don't own a cell phone, iPhone, or personal communications device of any kind, and can barely work the camera app on L.'s old pink Blackberry)

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