Monday, March 31, 2008

One more quote from Errol Morris

"If everything was planned, it would be dreadful. If everything was unplanned, it would be equally dreadful. Cinema exists because there are elements of both in everything. There are elements of both in documentary. There are elements of both in feature filmmaking. It's what makes, I think, photography and filmmaking of interest. Despite all of our efforts to control something, the world is much, much more powerful than us, and more deranged even than us."

If Othello had been in Hamlet's place

Errol Morris, in conversation with Werner Herzog, talking (at first) about a serial killer:

"That's the way Werner described him at the time. An elephant with the soul of Mozart. I'm not sure that most of the prison authorities would have described him in the same way, but at the time I found Werner's description very interesting. I thought for a long time about it. It made it situational, as if God in his infinite perversity had somehow mismatched Kemper's various attributes in order to produce some kind of nightmare, some kind of tragedy. I remember thinking, Yeah, if Othello had been in Hamlet's place, and vice versa, there would be no tragedy."

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Studying semiotics at Brown

I think this is something I would like to do.

List of people who studied semiotics at Brown:
Ira Glass
Jeffrey Eugenides
Todd Haynes
Christine Vachon
Rick Moody
Steven Johnson

I also love the fact that when Steven Johnson graduated and began writing, it sounded as though he had just translated his own text from French.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Joo Youn Paek

Pillowig lets you nap on the go! It was tested on subways, airplanes, laundromats, and libraries.

Besides the Pillowig, I particularly like the the Polite Umbrella.

Pretty wine bottles

The Second Bakery Attack

Whenever my wife expressed such an opinion (or thesis) back then, it reverberated in my ears with the authority of a revelation. Maybe that's what happens with newlyweds, I don't know. But when she said this to me, I began to think that this was a special hunger, not one that could be satisfied through the mere expedient of taking it to an all-night restaurant on the highway.

A special kind of hunger. And what might that be?

I can present it here in the form of a cinematic image.

One, I am in a little boat, floating on a quiet sea. Two, I look down, and in the water, I see the peak of a volcano thrusting up from the ocean floor. Three, the peak seems pretty close to the water's surface, but just how close I cannot tell. Four, this is because the hypertransparency of the water interferes with the perception of distance.

From "The Second Bakery Attack" by Haruki Murakami

Monday, March 24, 2008


The first episode of the Showtime TV adaptation of This American Life focuses on the theme of reality checks. It's pretty incredible. You can get more info here. What an interesting theme.

The book Banvard's Folly deals with failure and flawed genius. This is another theme I gravitate toward - for example, the Glass family and Wes Anderson's films, including the one inspired by the Glass family. A review of the book calls John Banvard's life "the most perfect crystallization of loss imaginable." At least Wes Anderson's films provide some hope of redemption.

I like making connections between otherwise unrelated stories and people to greater themes like the two examples above. I also like it when those connections are organized and articulated clearly. Maybe that's why I love Lawrence Weschler's Convergences and the beginning of Magnolia so much. Please recommend similar things.

Pere Formiguera

This work is titled "Father."

Secret Fauna

Please follow the link. I love this. One person wrote that this exhibit "calls into question the nature of truth and the infallibility of scientific reason." It basically deals with perception and mystery.

The intro to the Joan Fontcuberta book Twilight Zones states that "Reality changes... Art and science are two ways of approximating to reality. In both cases, one starts from the same occupation: reality, or one or other of its parts, is infinite in register and the mind can only transmit finite objects. To know is to deal with the anxiety of not knowing by reducing the infinite to something finite."

Highly Suspicious

Yet another YouTube post, I know. But this song is awesome. It's from the new My Morning Jacket album, which Shane has, and I guarantee this song is going to be a hit. The Times says it's "a cross between Styx’s “Mr. Roboto” and Steve Miller’s “Abracadabra,” but with a tougher beat."

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Japanese finger piano

I know this blog is supposed to be about cool things we like, but this is not one of those things. We are getting farther and farther away from reality.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

On cities

"People who know well such animated city streets will know how it is. People who do not will always have it a little wrong in their heads - like the old prints of rhinoceroses made from travelers' descriptions of the rhinoceroses." Jane Jacobs

I believe she is referring to this:

I bet it smells wonderful

A California home is so infested with bees that honey literally drips out of the walls. But the family doesn't mind.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Larry David on the election

"Here's an idea for an Obama ad: a montage of Clinton's Sybillish personalities that have surfaced during the campaign with a solemn voiceover at the end saying, "Does anyone want this nut answering the phone?"

"How is it that she became the one who's perceived as more equipped to answer that 3 a.m. call than the unflappable Obama? He, with the ice in his veins, who doesn't panic when he's losing or get too giddy when he's winning, who's as comfortable in his own skin as she's uncomfortable in hers. There have been times in this campaign when she seemed so unhinged that I worried she'd actually kill herself if she lost."

Full article here. Thanks, Shane.

Martine Franck (Part 2)

Shane, this is in Donegal.

Memoiry, coincidence, and synchronization

"Why, for all of us, out of all we have heard, seen, felt, in a lifetime, do certain images recur, charged with emotion, rather than others? Such memories may have symbolic value, but of what we cannot tell, for they come to represent the depths of feeling into which we cannot peer.

"Is the coincidence merely a coincidence? Or has the coincidence been arranged? Elements of this supernatural innuendo emerge repeatedly in Nabokov's Speak, Memory . General Kuropatkin is showing the young Nabokov tricks with matches on a sofa, when he is summoned away: "the loose matches jumping up on the divan as his weight left it." Fifteen years later, the disguised, fugitive general asks Nabokov's father for a light... Nabokov says the true purpose of autobiography is "the following of such thematic designs through one's life"."

From a Guardian article Meghan sent me a couple months ago.

More on music

Steven Mithen says that "musicality is deeply embedded in the human genome, with far more ancient evolutionary roots than spoken language." That made me think about when I saw Oliver Sacks speak, and he told a story about how a spider in Rachmaninoff's music studio used to descend from its web every time Rachmaninoff played a certain song.

Sacks also talked about the visual blind, blind people who have a heightened sense of visual imagery, and expained that a deaf people can develop extraodinary musical abilities, like Beethoven. He said that by looking at an MRI, you can identify a musician's brain - but that's not the case for any other profession or hobby, obviously. You can also have amusia, an inability to recognize music.

Thinking about this makes me really want to read Musicophilia.


New Scientist had this really interesting feature on music, but it's only available to subscribers. They do have samples of auditory illusions that are pretty cool. I found some quotes from the articles elsewhere:

"Carp can distinguish between baroque and John Lee Hooker and Java sparrows not only distinguish between Bach and Schoenberg but can apply what they've learned about these styles to distinguish between Vivaldi and Elliott Carter; they prefer to listen to the "prettier, more harmonious excerpts" than to silence. Songbirds and humpbacked whales apply sets of notes into phrases and larger themes and rearrange these as humans do; the longest recorded whale cycle lasted 21 hours.

"Endorphins are involved in reinforcement for songbirds, humans and bonobos; after music sessions by the latter (Kanzi on drums and Panbanisha on keyboard) with their keepers, the bonobos "look different for days afterwards"."

Martine Franck (Part 1)

Marc Chagall

Jean Gaumy

Meghan, this one is for you.

Cristina Garcia Rodero

ITALY. Canossa di Puglia. 2000. Holy Saturday. Group of women marching on the streets and singing their grief at the death of Christ.

GEORGIA. Tbilissi. 1995. At a psychiatric hospital.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Sideways Stories from Wayside School

I must have read this book a hundred times when I was a kid.

Remember Sammy? Who was actually a dead rat underneath a whole bunch of raincoats?

Well, do yourself a favor and when you see the new animated version on Nickelodeon, don't look. It's a little upsetting.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

News from Nowhere

In 1844, the Baltimore Patriot reported on the first demonstration of the telegraph. The article ended, "We are thus enabled to give our readers information from Washington up to two o'clock. This is indeed the annihilation of space."

I read about this in Neil Postman's book Amusing Ourselves to Death.

There She Goes, My Beautiful World

OH MY GOD, I love this song.

Stream Nick Cave's new album here. I recommend "Dig Lazarus Dig," "Albert Goes West," "We Call Upon the Author," "Lie Down Here," and "More News From Nowhere."

Shadow Puppetry by Raymond Crowe