Saturday, August 31, 2013

Dexter Filkins' What Should Obama Do on Syria?

The best article I have read on America's limited options and the significant, in some cases catastrophic, downside accompanying each scenario.  My current reading of Martha Nussbaum on Greek tragedy is pertinent here.  Nussbaum makes the point that many tragic Greek heroes aren't tragic because they choose one of any number of bad options -- not every ethically complex scenario will have anything remotely resembling a positive outcome -- but because they either dishonestly simplify their decision-making criteria (Sophocles' Cleon) or, worse, get behind a bad decision, once made, with full animal spirits (Aeschylus' Agamemnon).  Food for thought for Obama, a thoughtful man but not thoughtful enough, at least to date, to elude the siren call of the Predators & Tomahawks' scary illusion of bloodless, "cost-free" asymmetric warfare.
9 Questions About Syria You Were Too Embarrassed to Ask (via BeZoWaPo)

"Syria has artificial borders that were created by European colonial powers, forcing together an amalgam of diverse religious and ethnic groups. Those powers also tended to promote a minority and rule through it, worsening preexisting sectarian tensions.

[W]hat we’re seeing in Syria is in some ways the inevitable re-balancing of power along ethnic and religious lines. . . .[A]fter the United States toppled Saddam Hussein [...] a long-oppressed majority retook power from, and violently punished, the former minority rulers. Most Syrians are Sunni Arabs, but the country is run by members of a minority sect known as Alawites (they’re ethnic Arab but follow a smaller branch of Islam). The Alawite government rules through a repressive dictatorship and gives Alawites special privileges, which makes some Sunnis and other groups hate Alawites in general, which in turn makes Alawites fear that they’ll be slaughtered en masse if Assad loses the war. (There are other minorities as well, such as ethnic Kurds and Christian Arabs; too much to cover in one explainer.) Also, lots of Syrian communities are already organized into ethnic or religious enclaves, which means that community militias are also sectarian militias. That would explain why so much of the killing in Syria has developed along sectarian lines. It would also suggest that there’s not much anyone can do to end the killing because . . .this is a painful but unstoppable process of re-balancing power.


[T]he Assad regime was not a sustainable enterprise and it’s clawing desperately on its way down. Most countries have some kind of self-sustaining political order, and it looked for a long time like Syria was held together by a cruel and repressive but basically stable dictatorship. But maybe it wasn’t stable; maybe it was built on quicksand. Bashar al-Assad’s father Hafez seized power in a coup in 1970 after two decades of extreme political instability. His government was a product of Cold War meddling and a kind of Arab political identity crisis that was sweeping the region. But he picked the losing sides of both: the Soviet Union was his patron, and he followed a hard-line anti-Western nationalist ideology that’s now mostly defunct. The Cold War is long over, and most of the region long ago made peace with Israel and the United States; the Assad regime’s once-solid ideological and geopolitical identity is hopelessly outdated. But Bashar al-Assad, who took power in 2000 when his father died, never bothered to update it. So when things started going belly-up two years ago, he didn’t have much to fall back on except for his ability to kill people."

Also: Bashar al-Assad op-ed for the Onion, as with many Onion articles more relevant & insightful than, say, the Globe or Sun.
Gassing civilians is a barbaric act, but a limited cruise-missile strike will not honor their memory & will not bring Assad to heel.

Friday, August 30, 2013


(Kiwi, Dru's polydactyl cat)
"My troubles are mine / And I am the only man alive who can sustain them."  (Aeschylus, Oedipus the King, trans. Robert Fagles)
Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Path through, 2013
15 Hottest Sideboobs at the VMAs

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Monday, August 26, 2013
Q:  Seven new pictures? Really?

A:  Part of being a non- "art market" participant is the luxury of working slowly.  There are probably only fourteen or fifteen people in the world who want one of my photographs, and maybe fifty to a hundred people who want to look at them, so, either way, no rush.

Q:  But there's lots of new pictures on Anodyne.

A:  Anodyne's a bar that's not particularly hard to step over.  It's a scrapbook.  But the pictures' finished form is as physical objects of a certain size on a wall, framed and lit in a particular way.   This isn't the only way to make photographs, but it's one that works for me.

Sometimes pictures that look good as backlit digital files don't look good as prints, and vice versa.

For my solo show at CSA Space I printed and framed three more pictures than I exhibited, then destroyed them.  I liked them enough to print and frame and tentatively light them, but Steven Tong was shaking his head, and Steven is very seldom wrong.  So those pictures won't ever surface in a different context.  They don't exist any more.  I'm always, contrary to popular belief, trying to judge my output.  I think this is part of, maybe the most important part of, "being a photographer."  Look at Evans' ruthless editing of his own output.  Or Robert Frank's.  Or the way that Fagen and Becker edit the setlist ever night.  The better drives out the less good.

Street View sketch for the picture cited in the previous post.  Probably titled Copse, 2012-4.

Also, for those who asked: late spring 2014.  Three Los Angeles pictures, two from the American West,  one from Vancouver, one from the Pacific Northwest.
Alexander Oey, Jeff Wall, 1999

I saw a slightly different version of this documentary at the Vancouver International Film Festival in 1999.  Its impact was immediate and profound, esp. the sequence beginning at 18:06 ("Maybe here.  Maybe here. Maybe here. . .") which suggested a way of working that I had apparently been contemplating for some time.

I was very surprised to find the entire film online yesterday.  If anything, its relevance to me has only grown in the intervening decade-and-a-half.

At 7:05, in one of those weird coincidences that seem like deus ex machina in art but which, at least in my experience, crop up all the time in reality, the camera passes the site of one of my new "autonomous" photographs, just northeast of downtown LA.

(Film player takes a few seconds to load.  Documentary is in English, with Dutch subtitles)
Sunday, August 25, 2013
"Regarding sound check start time: if you hope to catch a sound check, I'd recommend showing up around 3 P.M. You'll probably be early, and might spend an hour listening to the support crew test mikes, instruments, and so on before the band arrives.

Eventually the band, minus Donald and Walter will show up and run through a few tunes (the ones rehearsed without D and W probably won't show up in that night's set list). If you're patient, D and W arrive and the full band goes through what amounts to a partial set list. Not all songs will be played in their entirety. You'll hear Donald doing some coaching and commenting on what's being played, and how. By 5 or so it's over."
Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Little travellers, Oregon.

Klamath, 2013
Monday, August 19, 2013

OH HAI. We heard you had Tootsie Pops.
Marvin makes the bed (via Bougie/Dart)
Seminar One (2013-4)

Like L., I miss going back to school in the fall.  This year, I thought I might inaugurate a little reading group of my own.  Criteria: "liberal humanities," understood however you want to, and somehow relevant to my photographs (I originally wrote "art practice," then deleted it, 'cause as Phillips says, "I'm not practicing any more, I'm doing it.").  So there is a through line, however obscure.  Seminar One will run from August to April, just like the school year, and each week's reading list, plus occasional writing and thinking about it, will appear here from time to time.

Some questions I am trying to answer:

• How are repetition and reproduction distinct from one another?

• How should a person be?  By which I mean, how should individuals act in a way that is congruent with their own beliefs and with some broader concept of the "public good"?  When individual beliefs and the "public good" clash, what should take precedence?  Why?

• Why are public institutions so dysfunctional in this particular historical moment?  (See Zadie Smith on libraries, or The Mainlander on the VAG, and public art galleries in general.  Or ask L. & my friend Don Mega about legal aid, an exemplary public institution).

Seminar One, Week One: 19 August - 26 August 2013

Martha Nussbaum, The Fragility of Goodness: Luck and Ethics in Greek Tragedy and Philosophy (Cambridge UP, revised edition, 2001).  Chapter 1, "Luck and Ethics," pp. 1-23, & Chapter 2, "Aeschylus and Practical Conflict," pp. 25-47.

Aeschylus, Aeschylus 1.  Oresteia: Agamemnon, The Libation Bearers, The Eumenides.  Ed. & trans Richard Lattimore (Chicago UP, 1953).

Sophocles, The Three Theban Plays: Antigone, Oedipus the King, Oedipus at Colonus.  Trans. Robert Fagles (Penguin, revised edition, 1984).
Sunday, August 18, 2013

Eureka, 2013
"An 'inner process' stands in need of outward criteria."  (L. Wittgenstein)
Saturday, August 17, 2013
Umpqua Hot Springs

Way out in the back of beyond, or so I thought, when suddenly, around a bend: hippie buses, topless pregnant chick with a bone through her nose, yak-herder-hat guys strumming ukuleles, back-to-the-land family with berserk naked toddlers and leashed rotties, leathery WSB clone, Brother Bear, huge overflowing pile of empties crusted with candle wax & etc.  I'm fine with being naked with strangers in public, but, fuck this.  I spun gravel and reversed a ways down the road.  A short list, in no particular order, of non-healing-water-related reasons to visit a hot spring, available at the link, really captures the congealed-fat-of-the-60s vibe of this otherwise beautiful place, and I recommend it to you.
Andre at the coffee shop puts on "Rikki" in honor of my safe return. Coffee shop clears out in five minutes flat.

Meanwhile, in more pressing news, Kato Cat transforms a baby-blanket-to-be into abstract, "gestural" art.  Photo courtesy Kato's mom.
Q:  So, what did you see?

SPECIAL GUEST BLOGGER ROSE T. CAT REPLIES:  A coyote.  And chukars.  Antelopes.  RATTLE SNAKE!  Marmots.  Red tailed hawks.  Bubo buboCalifornia condors. Peregrine falcons.  Wild rabbits.  Lizards. Pigs, cows (lots!), sheep, llamas, goats. Ground squirrels.  BIG BEARS.  And an Alley Gator.

CJB interprets:  The BIG BEARS were all those carved wooden statues that proliferate throughout the Pacific Northwest and the desert West, like the ones clustered in front of the Black Bear Diner in Madras, Oregon, or advertising the Brown Bear Carwash in Lake Forest Park, Washington.  The rattlesnake was asleep but very real, and we left it as we found it on its toasty rock in the sunshine, unmolested.  Antelope are hugely muscled animals.  Bubo bubo looks like my cat.  And Rose got the likely imaginary Alley Gator from her evil stepmother, who claimed to see lots while we were in Florida.

I Got The News.  Boise, 8/11/13. I'm standing about ten feet to the left of the bald guy in the blue shirt at the far left edge of the frame, four rows of happily bobbing people back from Walter Becker.  Thanks, general admission!  The closest I have ever gotten to my favorite band; kind of like seeing them perform at the Biltmore or the Commodore, and, conservative, "hit" oriented setlist notwithstanding, the very best performance of theirs I've seen.  Other folks, such as those in the foreground, seem much less excited to be there; it's like they're at the livestock show, or killing time in a ferry lineup.
Wood River (Oregon)

"The Wood River flows through Klamath County, Oregon with headwaters emanating from a large natural spring located in Jackson F. Kimball State Recreation Site. The aquifer that feeds the spring is believed to originate twenty miles (32 km) to the northwest in the east side drainage of Crater Lake National Park. The Wood River meanders through pine forest and agricultural land for 18 miles (29 km) before flowing into Agency Lake. The drainage around its headwaters is forest county dominated by ponderosa pine and lodgepole pine with some quaking aspen in meadow lands."
Saturday, August 10, 2013
On the road for a week in the American west.  Back soon.
Foster Flat, Oregon
Q: How do you find locations?

A: Other people open up a computer and know how to navigate it. I know how to read land and know what is or is not on the other side of a hill I have never seen before. You ask locals and do a lot of driving, but instinct leads me around the corner and around the corner.
When they reached the summit of the mountains they camped on a meadow, and while there some Warm Springs Indians came to camp. One of the Indians could speak a little English. He told them that if some of them would go with him to a high ridge near by they could see down into the Deschutes and Crooked River valleys. He showed them some buttes that lay south of Prineville and said that they would find water there, but no water between there and the Deschutes. He also showed them what is now called Pilot butte, and told them if they would steer straight for that butte they would find a place in the bend of the river where a man could cross it, go down on the west side, through by way of the Metolius and Tygh valley and that they would eventually reach The Dalles.

Sites to See in Oregon's Outback

On the road for a few days, visiting some old friends, and making some photographs in a place I've never been.

(Jeff Wall, David Hockney, John Carpenter, Scott McFarland & now Kelly Reichardt.)
Friday, August 09, 2013

Round 2? Seriously? Are you new?  Anodyne is mine.  Its content is whatever I choose.  It differs from a magazine or newspaper in that those cultural forms are produced by paid creators who at least are theoretically interested in satisfying a known audience.  Anodyne, on the other hand, is produced by me, for free, in my spare time.  Sometimes it will be my writing, and sometimes other people's writing.  Sometimes my photographs and sometimes other people's pictures. Sometimes cat photographs and/or pornography and/or climbing trip write-ups and/or Steely Dan setlists.  All of these things are interesting; all of these things are equal.

But, but, but! The customer-service stories are so funny!  I suppose.  Unless you have to do customer service sixty to eighty hours a week.  Then the last thing you might want to do in your spare time is reflect on the week's psychological outliers.  Because that's what these transactions really are.  It may be tempting to believe that everyone lacks rudimentary social skills or basic cultural knowledge, especially if you've never worked a retail job, but the truth is otherwise.  Customer-service horror stories don't unfold every day because, your expectations notwithstanding, most folks interact with retail with little or no trauma.  PFB sways creaking in the wind like Howl's Moving Castle, but it moves along steadily enough over the economy's rocky ground with significantly less drama than it used to, and hopefully more satisfaction on the part of staff, customers, and me, too.

But the stories--!

Don't like what's on offer?  FUCKING LEAVE.  Problem solved!

Typo, but, yeah. Don't like the band? Lots of other blogs out there to follow. I don't need your shade, nor your presumptuous multiple requests for customer-service horror stories.  Don't send me any more.  KTHXBAI!

Our Denver Correspondent Writes

"Wow - the evening at the storied Red Rocks was like no other. One tune in, heavy Rockies rain - blowing rain - hit hard and stayed for 2/3 of show. Us hearty and wet fans toughed it out. The blowing cold rain got the band too. I was told after the show by band members that all guitars got wet. DFs Rhodes had to be wiped down twice, sheet music blew all over, tarps put over amps and WB personally wiped down two of his guitars and you could hear the towel going over the strings. Despite it all, the band played a great show. I heard the Fez at sound check, too. Going to thaw out now!!"

(Photo courtesy SD's Keith Carlock)
Thursday, August 08, 2013

The Ecuadorian Library, or, The Blast Shack After Three Years
by Bruce Sterling

"[T]he electronic civil lib contingent is lying to themselves. They’re sore and indignant now, mostly because they weren’t consulted — but if the NSA released PRISM as a 99-cent Google Android app, they’d be all over it. Because they are electronic first, and civil as a very distant second.

They’d be utterly thrilled to have the NSA’s vast technical power at their own command. They’d never piously set that technical capacity aside, just because of some elderly declaration of universal human rights from 1947. If the NSA released their heaps of prying spycode as open-source code, Silicon Valley would be all over that, instantly. They’d put a kid-friendly graphic front-end on it. They’d port it right into the cloud.

Computers were invented as crypto-ware and spy-ware and control-ware. That’s what Alan Turing was all about. That’s where computing came from, that’s the scene’s original sin, and also its poisoned apple.

There’s not a coherent force on Earth that wants to cork up that bottle. They all just want another slug out of that bottle — and they’d rather like to paste their own personal, prestige label onto the bottle’s glass. You know, like your own attractive face, pasted on the humming planetary big iron of Facebook."
Monday, August 05, 2013
CAR Model Rocket Safety Code

"11) ANIMAL PAYLOADS. I will never endanger live animals by launching them in my model rocket.

12) TARGETS. I will never launch my rocket so that it will fall on, or strike, ground or air targets. Nor will I include any explosive or incendiary payload."
UAV FAQs for Canada - DIY Drones

"The most important in preparing your SFOC application is that you prove to Transport Canada that you will not be putting the public in danger nor will you be disrupting air traffic...."

Facing NE above SS 194.
"We drove up to the gates on Friday evening and camped at [the] beautifully decorated campsite. Beer cans, discharged munition[s], food wrappers and plastic utensils gave the site that warm feeling: people were here."
Sunday, August 04, 2013

"CreepyDOL, the Creepy Digital Object Locator, is a distributed tracking system that uses low-cost hardware sensors, a robust communications system, and simple observation to give near-real-time identification of humans and tracking capabilities to anyone."

“To be great is to be misunderstood; and remain, as I do, incomprehensible.”

BRAD PHILLIPS:   What did you think I was going to say? That’s a wonderful quote by Wilde. Okay, well one, I have no fucking interest in the discourse of contemporary art. I don’t even like to use the word “discourse.” These “investigations” are what make Canadian art so provincial and boring. And secondly, historical painting really moves me and I think it’s a beautiful thing but referencing it has been done enough by now. Jeff Wall alone has done enough. I don’t see the need to keep referencing historical painting. I think it’s a crutch and operates as a sort of hook to hang weak work on. Yeah, that Wilde quote – I aspire to that. I like confusing people. The work appears so simple but it’s not at all, and at the same time I’m not trying to trick people or talk down to them. It’s a delicate balance, really. Punk rock was how I grew up, and Saul Bellow is a favorite writer. So it’s positive that you see that relationship. I like to write love letters to people like Wilde, Salinger, Sexton, Plath in my work. I’m a romantic. Women collect my work much more than men, and again, since women are so obviously superior to men, this is also evidence that I’m doing the right thing. It’s like people who describe their work as their “practice” – I’m not practicing anymore, I’m doing it.

A partial solution to a particularly vexing "NYT Sunday Crossword" level problem.  Looks like the full solution requires an airplane, a rental car, an International Driving Permit, and lugging some heavy photo gear about a hundred yards off to the right.

The foreground poppies are a nice touch; licks of red, like kittens, only improve pictures.

EDIT:  Maybe not.  Wrong number of arms on rear power tower, though everything else looks approximately right.  But this is certainly a site I plan to check in person.

EDIT: Close, but wrong side of the valley. Most likely above SS194.
Saturday, August 03, 2013
"I myself prefer Boulder Dam to Chartres Cathedral."  (Elizabeth Smart)

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