Happy Birthday, Uncle Bert

19 May, 2009 at 3:54 am (uncategorized)

Shamelessly stolen from Paul Hornschemeier, I wish to celebrate the birthday of the great 20th century humanist philosopher, Bertrand Russell (no relation). I do this by stealing an image that I peered at and poured over whilst visiting Boston’s Fine Museum of Arts, as we used to call it in high school.

Bertrand Russell as photographed by Yousuf Karsh

It’s difficult to see if this small reproduction, but as Russell lights his match in the darkness, he and the flame are both out of focus. What is in focus are his spectacles on the table in the left-hand foreground. I have no idea what this says about the photographer’s take on the subject, or why he chose this image out of the undoubtedly innumerable other shots of the famed thinker, but I found it to be supremely fascinating as an aesthetic choice, and perhaps one of the more subtly profound works in the exhibit.

It can be hard to appreciate an exhibit of 20th century celebrity portraiture. It’s all too easy to say, “Oh, yes, I have a postcard of that image of Audrey Hepburn” or “Huhn. So that’s what Nikita Khrushchev looked like…” and to simply move on. Once one recognizes Paul Newman or Ernest Hemingway, what further is one supposed to look for in the image? Karsh tried to portray them as powerful in their own right, and in their own sphere. I liked to look for the incidental details that revealed both the passage of time and the humanity of the sitter. Thin, gold wristwatches with the unmistakable slimness that accompanies fine internal clockworks. Thick cable sweaters with worn holes and slipped stitches. A fine network of lines around the eyes and knuckles, so much easier to examine in black and white. How even the meticulous banzai topiary of a moustache or beard always has errant tendrils. How many of the subjects smoked. How many didn’t. And whether the smoke was conceit of the photographer, who surely acknowledged if not encouraged the wisps and curls which do so much to both catch light and contain shadow.

But even all that observation and catalogue of detail still doesn’t encompass the artistry that is portraiture. To do that, one must paradoxically see what is unseen, or perhaps only seen with the self and not the eyes. Which is part of what I love about the Russell image… a photograph that hardly shows the subject at all.

Further Reading
     + MFA exhibit page
     + Time magazine slideshow of featured images
     + Boston Phoenix article about the exhibit

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Digital

31 March, 2005 at 3:14 pm (uncategorized)

I’ve been meaning to do this for two years now.

The choreographic digitial accompaniment of Kieron Gillen:

Kieron.  And his hands.

Someone should make a set of Sign Language-slash-Taking With One’s Hands emoticons from these. Gillen can put one at the end of each of his posts to indicate how strongly he feels about whatever it is he’s saying. As a professional writer, he shouldn’t feel that he can convey such things through his words alone. No, the proletariat require visual confirmation. Click on the image for video (now hosted on YouTube!) of the conversation.

EDIT: What timing! Mr. Gillen’s national import has just been reported, albeit with some fairly weak writing, in The New York Times. The link may require registration.

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Journals: Live and Otherwise

7 December, 2004 at 4:26 pm (uncategorized)

If I had a LiveJournal, today’s header would look something like this:

Feeling: ice-encrusted floating cat head Cold.
Listening to: “Like the Weather” by 10,000 Maniacs, In My Tribe

Fortunately, I keep myself to merely blogging, which is slightly less touchy-feely. The lack of comments and drama is really what appeals to me; I understand that many people feel that the greatest potentiality of the graphic interface computer is one of interactivity, but I’d rather not interact with every house-ridden emotional basketcase available simply in order to fulfill my computer’s potential. And, as a Konfabulator widget cheerfully informs me, I am using between seventy-three and ninety-one percent of my CPU capactity at the moment, so I feel like potentiality is pretty damn close to being acheived. Or perhaps I simply need a new computer. First, however I need a graduate degree and a job.

One more thing about journals: after being asked by a fellow student about what a high school freshman might enjoy reading, I pulled out my sophomore-year diary, in which I recorded each book I read over the course of my sixteenth year. I was pleased to find a vaguely practical use for the contents, for — as with every time I pull the journal out every few years, once the previous pain has receded — I re-experienced my usual response to reading the facile writings within: Why haven’t I set this on fire and scattered the ashes?

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Morality Vs. Ethics Map

4 November, 2004 at 2:46 pm (uncategorized)

The 'Morality'-based majority

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Planet of the Goddamn Monkeys

3 November, 2004 at 7:06 am (uncategorized)

My reaction to the election:

Join the NRA and prevent those damn, dirty apes from taking over the White Hous... oh, whoops.

“YOU MANIACS! YOU BLEW IT UP! DAMN YOU! GOD DAMN YOU ALL TO HELL!”

Also, in accordance with the predictions of John Titor, I am going to start buckling down and preparing for the great Sepratist Civil War of next year. Liberals in the Northeast who wish to separate to form their own union should start taking advantage of the recent assault rifle law lapse and stock up on munitions. The God-Botherers in the Heartland are all better-armed than we, and we therefore need to made sure that the Minutemen are ready for 2005.

I’m only half-kidding at the moment. In a week or so, I’ll be all-kidding, but hopefully by that time I should have some Minutemen 2005 apparrel in the CaféPress store, so check back.

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Election: Don’t Panic

2 November, 2004 at 5:01 am (uncategorized)

When you vote today, make sure you actually hit the right button.*

Don't Panic!

Actually, the above image has nothing to do with electioneering, but is instead from Sony’s Official HITCH-HIKERS’ GUIDE TO THE GALAXY website, which is currently scant on content. However, the initial Macromedia Flash presentation has a sparkling eight humorous animations. Don’t just click the button twice, reload and keep clicking and reload again to get the full sampling. I’d also point you towards the teaser trailer, but it’s mostly just special effects and spacescapes (a word that is achingly close to being a palindrome), and features no prominent Kenny Baker or Zooey Deschanel, so I won’t bother.

*There are a number of ‘blogs quoting a story about Texas voter fraud, which claims that it is “for real”. However, I have yet to delve into the professional news reportage about it, so I’m choosing to believe that this is grass-roots party paranoia-mongering at the moment. Be careful what down-to-the-wire decisions you make in the heat of worry and adrenaline, and don’t believe everything you hear in the next twenty-four hours.

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Hybrid Vehicles, Part 2

8 July, 2004 at 9:48 pm (uncategorized)

I don’t do this very often, but felt that after my recent post about comparative mileages of various Ford vehicles, I should at least acknowledge an article pointed out by astute New Medievalism reader Ian Gould about Ford’s terrible report card in terms of overall petrol consumption.

From The Environmental News Network: “…[A] broken promise Americans heard when [Ford] pledged in 2000 to improve its SUV fuel efficiency 25 percent by 2005. Ford can’t escape its abysmal fleet-wide EPA ranking by producing a few thousand token hybrid SUVs and one green roof.”

More in link.

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Hybrid Cars

21 May, 2004 at 1:04 pm (uncategorized)

After a few weeks of being snooty and outraged by advertizements on National Public Radio for the new Ford Escape Hybrid SUV, I decided to find out whether my disregard was founded. Because my ‘blog reading is limited to a mere eleven sites, I don’t know if this is an issue that has been roundly discussed in the blogosphere. Ehn. My analysis will not be excessively in-depth, anyway, as for the purposes of this entry I will be solely comparing gas mileage.

I drive a 1993 Ford Taurus wagon. Which structurally has very little to compare it to either an SUV or the previous Hybrid entries onto the market. However, I shall not let this elementary fact dissuade me from drawing inaccurate conclusions.

Model Mileage City Mileage Highway
Ford Escape Hybrid 38 MPG 23 MPG
Toyota Prius Hybrid 52 MPG 45 MPG
Honda Civic Hybrid 46 MPG 51 MPG
Ford Taurus (non-hybrid) 19 MPG 26 MPG
2001 Ford Escape (non-hybrid) 18 MPG 24 MPG
GMC Envoy (non-hybrid SUV) 15 MPG 20 MPG

The stats on the Taurus are the official Ford numbers from the most recent model. I don’t isolate my city and highway driving, but I tend to get about 23 MPG, which is not bad for a ten year-old vehicle.

Still, my first thought was how silly it was to have a hybrid SUV in that the improvement in gas mileage would be minimal. However, Ford claims that the Escape has approximately a 70% increase in fuel efficiency. And while I will still hold reservations that such numbers are likely to change dramatically in a laden vehicle, that is very impressive. Early reports on the Prius from Scott O. Brown were that the gas mileage would alter significantly with number of passengers, whether the wheel covers were in place, etc., so I find the above numbers, even in terrible New York City traffic, to be speculative. Impressive, though. Impressive enough to make me worry that our national appetite for ugly vehicular behemoths will continue unabated.

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I am not making her up.

5 March, 2004 at 3:22 pm (uncategorized)

I have solid, incontrovertable evidence that when Dave Barry tells his weekly readers that he is not making this up, he is — in fact — not making it up. Friend and former colleague Claudette Knieriem was namechecked as someone who sent in a ludicrous advertisement that appealed to Mr. Barry’s “Mr. Language Person” persona.

I just want to note, because I never get tired of mentioning this, that the ad originally appeared in Manchester’s The Union Leader, which was called by Hunter S. Thompson “America’s worst newspaper.” (p54.) Quite a claim to fame, say I.

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All of a sudden, I have in-laws.

27 October, 2003 at 11:10 pm (uncategorized)

No, she actually IS happy about marrying this guy...

And all of a sudden, I have in-laws.

Congratulations, Matt and Vee. By the way, the general populace hope that Matt will dress a little more formally for his next wedding, as he looks like he just got off work at THE GAP or something. Well, except for the corsage.

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