Archive for January, 2012

22 January, 2012

Art and Curses

I love urban legends. I also love art. Hence, when they come together, it’s a good day for me. A Certain Fellow brought this to my attention earlier this evening and I actually thought it was entertaining enough to share, especially because there’s a sequel to the painting, which is really interesting in terms of both form and content. The transformation and reiteration of characters in space is interesting, especially considering how much the style has changed. So, here’s the haunted painting, along with its sequel:

space

space

The original with the little boy, is called “The Hands Resist Him” and the sequel painting is “Resistance at the Threshold.” The urban legend suggests that the figures in the first, known also as the “haunted eBay painting”, get out and/or move around the painting at night. Thanks for the nightmares, right? There’s more to the legend, too–apparently there are a couple of deaths associated with it. The Wikipedia page is pretty informative to that end.

The artist, Bill Stoneham, has a pretty great gallery. He’s a surrealist, and a lot of his work his heavily loaded with myth and symbolism.

Similarly, I ran across the “Curse of the Crying Boy”, which is urban legends at their most ridiculous– tabloids and painting burnings. Apparently, kitschy paintings in the UK have been blamed for house fires. I legitimately like “The Hands Resist Him” as a piece of art, though– it’s creepy, it’s uncanny valley territory, it’s unsettling, and it’s compelling to look at. The legend grows out of a very interesting, creepy painting with an interesting provenance. The legend is almost better because the artist is contemporary, and able to respond to and contribute to the painting’s myth. There’s an indulgent goofiness there that I really find charming.

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20 January, 2012

A quick note on current media events and the nature of intellectual property

I have a lot of thoughts about what’s going on with SOPA and PIPA right now, mostly focusing on the way this impacts me as an artist, and the way it impacts things such as Creative Commons licensing and “copyleft.”

First, here’s a great TED talk that outlines both the history of media and law, and what we actually need to be worrying about. This is bigger than shutting down sharing websites like MegaVideo and MegaUpload, Clay Shirky suggests.

I also want to take a moment to highlight “copyleft.” We are very much entrenched in the idea that creative property is the creator’s and the creator’s alone. We also tend to believe that that is the natural way of things, when actually, “copyright” as a concept is very new, coming only with the advent of the printing press (even then, at that early juncture, it was sort of trampled on).

We’re so interested in the worth of intellectual property that we lose sight of the power of copying. Dissemination is the best way to become known. Sharing achieves what, ultimately, should be the goal of any creator who publishes their work in a public forum: to have their creation be known. Am I saying copying is right, always, and screw proper attribution? No. But that’s what worries me with the current high-profile pieces of legislation– they seem to be criminalizing dissemination, even accidental or fully attributed dissemination.

According to Wikipedia: “Copyleft is a form of licensing and can be used to maintain copyright conditions for works such as computer software, documents and art. In general, copyright law is used by an author to prohibit others from reproducing, adapting, or distributing copies of the author’s work. In contrast, under copyleft, an author may give every person who receives a copy of a work permission to reproduce, adapt or distribute it and require that any resulting copies or adaptations are also bound by the same licensing agreement.” (Copyleft)

The way I see it, this is a much healthier–much less grabby, at least– of looking at intellectual property and rights. It will, of course, never be taken up by the producing industries (to borrow a term from Shirky) because it has little or no potential for direct financial gain, and the loss of absolute control over the intellectual property, is a decided financial loss. As producers, I think it’s incredibly important that we know our options, however. Creative Commons and Copyleft are great things, and by participating in them, we strengthen them.

As both consumers and producers, however, it’s very important to know your rights. If you take one things away from this long-ish, rambly post, let it be this: fair use. We cannot let fair use be eroded. Exercise your rights regarding fair use. By doing so, keep them safe.

17 January, 2012

Running All Over Town Before Grad School Runs Me Down

So I cleverly bought myself a week and a half before the semester slammed into me where I could just explore Boston and play and have a grand time before the soul crushing academic grind began again. Of course, I squandered most of my time catching up on TV shows and revisiting old haunts (I really didn’t need three new used books from Raven Books…), but I also continued my quest for the perfect Boston coffee spot.

So, with no further noise on my part, here is how I spent my time:

January 7

My parents are horrific creatures of habit (so am I), so, despite my whining and wincing, we ended up eating at the same places while they were here. My dad didn’t want to know anything about Little Italy or my favorite Turkish diner. New England = sea food. Period. Thus, Legal Seafood. However, Legal serves their tea in these incredibly cool cast-iron teapots. All was well. By the way, the wealth of plaid in the background is my mother’s outerwear.

January 8

Despite my vow that they would not haunt Fanueil Hall (it’s a dangerous addiction) on this trip, we ended up down that way for dinner, anyway, because we spent our day at the aquarium, where we spent a gloriously long time looking at fish, and remarking upon how ugly shark’s teeth were.

January 9

You may not know this (or maybe you’ve sensed the trend) I love shop windows. Especially late at night, when the light gets a little spooky.

January 10

Wandering around Brookline Village it occurred to me that it was January, and there were still green things. Green. These tiny mosses are still alive.

January 11

If you thought this was snow, you’re wrong. It’s baseball diamond sand, which I’m pretty sure is frozen with these footsteps in it.

January 12

Thus begins the frantic travels part of my vacation: two friends and I (yes, I spend time with other humans, hence why I take a lot of late night photos– it’s usually the only time I have a moment to do so) went to the MFA to attempt to finish what a Certain Fellow and I began in October (we failed. A third trip is necessary.) So a Certain Lady, a Certain Fellow, and a Certain Villain went cavorting about the Asian and Buddhist areas of the MFA. Certain Partners in Crime are certainly not in this first photo. Later photos: the funniest thing I saw all day, followed by collection of creepy shadows around a really nifty Japanese Buddhist idol.

YAHHAAAA! I AM AMAZING.

January 13

This is the inside of a great coffee shop whose name I have now forgotten.

January 14

Toured around Newbury St. Signs in stores, sunsets, and other trivial bits. The second one is somewhat hard to read (curses on my tiny camera phone’s screen, which made it look very clear indeed) but it says “keep this little button safe, though humble he could be of great use one day…” Oh, Anthropologie…

January 15

I also love wires and wire intersections. Reservoir Station has a marvelous collection. Plus, sitting down to pleasantly friendly graffiti is always a bonus!

January 16

In the department of new haunts/old haunts, I found a great cafe in Cambridge that I’m now rather partial to (Cafe Crema, to the curious), where I took no photos. Then I prowled around the same stores I always prowl when up in Cambridge. Then a Certain Fellow called to inform me it was snowing. I supply the photographic evidence. All my complaining about the lack of tangible winter has paid off! But first! A picture of feet at the Park St. Station.

15 January, 2012

Book Reviews: Autumn – Winter 2011

God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy – Fantastic
This is one of the most poetic, beautiful novels I’ve read in a long time. It was delicate, it was nuanced, it was layered, and it was a deeply cultural experience that dealt with both national and imperial ideas, as well as struggles with identity, history, family, and loyalty. I highly recommend it.

Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga – Great
This reminded me somewhat of Ngozi’s novel Purple Hibiscus. I was struck by the sense of space and food in this novel, and the way they reflect relationships and reinforce power dynamics and roles within the family. I really enjoyed this one.

Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys – Fantastic
I wrote on WSS this semester, and I really enjoyed it. Rhys’s writing is spot-on. It’s gorgeous, and I have a special respect for it because of the research and time I put into the writing I did. Rhys’s connection to Jane Eyre was so personal, so vibrant, and so fearless, and I really admire that. There’s this incredible sense of urgency in this novel– an urgency to exist, an urgency to be heard, an urgency, on a broad scale to legitimize not just the character of Bertha Rochester, but the whole Caribbean world and its cultures. I highly recommend reading it– it’s a fantastic, literary response to a book that I think really earned one.

The Colonial Harem by Malek Alloula – Great
A great expose of colonial-era French Orientalizing postcards. I know that sentence sounds weird, but that’s what this book is. It looks at a body of 50 or so images that romanticize Moorish and North African women for a French market. The essay that Alloula has composed to go with it is thoughtful and insightful– I really admire the job he has done looking at colonialism and exploitation through a different but very concrete lens. Can you tell I did a lot of my work around Orientalism and Colonialism this semester?

The Wretched of the Earth by Frantz Fanon (French) – Good, at times great
This book is an anthem of sorts. A revolutionary cook book. It’s fascinating to look at as a literature student– I do have some issues and questions with the particular translation I read. The best part, I believe, is the last chapter, where he goes through case studies of people he has worked with as a therapist. I found that chapter both terrifying and heartbreaking. Fanon is really at his strongest, I think, when he’s showing you the effects of imperialism and colonialism, showing you why it’s mutually destructive and should be abandoned.

Terrorist by John Updike – Nope.
Nope. That’s all. Oh? More? Updike can’t talk about a woman– any woman, for any length of time, in any context– without mentioning boobs. I’m not exaggerating. His characters are flat, and the affair between the guidance counselor character and the mother wasn’t just distracting and irritating, it was extraneous. If Lifetime Movies ever drafted a team of writers to construct a movie about terrorist cells in America, this book would be the backbone of their plot. Don’t get me wrong, Updike can write very lovely sentences– he’s a stunningly lovely writer when he wants to be. But read a different Updike book. It’s not one of his best.

Islamophobia by Peter Gottschalk and Gabriel Greenberg – Good
This book focused on the treatment of Islam in political cartoons at several key junctures in history. The argument here that I thought was both different and worthwhile was that Islamophobia is not new and is not an isolated reflection on the events of 9/11– it has a history reaching back to the Crusades, according to the authors. They do a rather nice job outlining this history, identifying the key places where visual Islamophobia and Anti-Islam stereotyping have run rampant, and outlining national and cultural symbols which have been weaponized in the process. It’s a niche read, but it’s very interesting, and very approachable. It probably honestly deserves a better rating than I’ve given it here.

Jihad Next Door by Dina Temple-Raston – Good
Written like a novel, but it’s not a novel– it’s an account of the Lackawanna Six. It has its good parts and its bad parts. Her characterizations become annoying in places, and I happen to be from about an hour away from Buffalo, so I have my own set of opinions. Overall it was very readable, and does a reasonably good job humanizing a group of men who became villainized very quickly in the wake of 9/11. It’s an interesting read.

Missing by Sunaina Marr Maira – Good
Maira might have broken my heart a little bit. She interviews a group of young Muslim-American immigrants from a variety of countries, and the sense of struggle they have, reconciling their culture with their new country, is staggering and heart breaking. It reminded me of a lot of students that I’ve worked with. I was also particularly taken with her concept of immigrant time. I think she really has something meaningful and important to contribute to the conversations about immigration happening in the United States and other Western countries. She’s dealing, very effectively, with the impact that our politics and our international maneuvering has on the next generation.

Guantanamo Boy by Anna Perera – Okay
I wanted more from it. There were parts of it that I thought had so much potential. One chapter slides sideways into experimental fiction, reflecting an altered mental state after torture. That chapter was striking and effective, but it was so isolated. I would have loved for her to have played more with form and genre to reinforce emotional resonance. As far as story line goes, it’s okay, if formulaic. Certain things, like uncertainty about his cousin and his father while he is in Guantanamo, and who exactly reported him and got him sent there, were very well handled.

Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris- Good
I fracking love the Santaland Diaries. I listen to it every year on NPR. It’s a personal Christmas tradition. I also have a well-documented writer’s crush on Sedaris. I actually treated myself at the end of the semester by reading this book. I’d read about half of it before, between the Santaland Diaries and Dinah, the Christmas Whore, but I still thoroughly enjoyed it.

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens – Fantastic
My favorite thing about Dickens is his villainesses. Madame Defarge is one of the most sinister ladies in literature. Similarly, Miss Havisham is awesomely crazy. She’s just great. She’s sinister, she’s tragic, she’s ridiculous, and she’s just in an alternate dimension about half of the time. Estella, also, is a pretty spectacularly-played bitch. Also, this might tell you a bit about my personality– I liked the original ending better. John Irving wrote a really nice introduction to the edition that I read, and he made a few points that I really agreed with. Particularly, that it was harder to deal with the kindnesses Pip receives from Joe, Biddy, and Magwitch than it is to deal with the horrible cruelties wrought on him by his sister (who never actually gets a first name), Estella, and Miss Havisham. Also, you could have a field day with the names in this book, from an analytical perspective.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte – Great
I do have a certain pronounced soft spot for Victorian and Romantic Gothic novels. I do count Jane Eyre in that group. I re-read a fairly long portion of this book for a paper, and I was reminded just how well-crafted and how carefully nuanced this book is. There so many details that become so important. She handles dramatic irony so well that the book is almost better as a re-read– now you know what the cause of Rochester’s incessant brooding is, and you ALMOST feel badly for him. Mostly not, though. Then again, Jean Rhys sold me pretty hard on loving crazy Bertha Rochester.

  A Suitable Enemy by Liz Fekete – Great
Fekete is writing about the immigration detention centers and “deportation machine” in Europe. This is the kind of book that really elucidates and complicates the problems presented in novels like Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits. Like Missing, Fekete is really interested in delineating actual effects of Islamophobia and its politics. If you’re at all interested in racial profiling, immigration, or international politics, I highly recommend this book.

Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole – Okay
I’m struggling to really judge this one because it’s attempting to be medieval instead of 18th century, and because it was freaking hilarious. I will definitely give Walpole props for being creative– of all the ways to begin a book, I would never have thought of DEATH BY SUDDEN AND INEXPLICABLE GIANT HELMET. How big? Big enough that they use it for a prison. I love the ridiculous. I have a well-documented love of the ridiculous. I also loved the giant GHOST!SMASH at the end. Also, there was a portentous nosebleed. Now, outside of all of these beautiful absurdities, it managed to drag through the middle as the scheming prince tried to figure out how to marry his son’s bride, given the sizable obstacles of 1) already being married himself, and 2) her thinking he’s groady. Overall, I’d say read it for the ridiculous, wade patiently through fifty pages of UGH WHERE ARE MY GHOSTIES?! and then be amused by the ridiculous ending.

Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro – Good
This is one of those books that, for no quantifiable reason, read really quickly for me and was really enjoyable. Not a lot happens– actually, the book is more about what doesn’t happen, or what Stevens doesn’t want to admit is happening. Dripping with quiet ironies and crippling English mannerisms, it’s the kind of thing I would definitely recommend to Anglophiles and Austen addicts.

Imagined Communities by Benedict Anderson – Great
This is one of those seminal texts that really holds up. Anderson is examining ideas of nationalism and loyalty, nation-building and identity formation. We accept, almost out of hand, that nations exist and have always existed. He has a lot of very marvelous observations, and my one major critique is one of the things I also admired– his cases studies and examples are extremely broadly based. He jumps around everywhere– Europe, Asia, Africa, North America, South America– and it shows that the trends are pervasive, but it also remains difficult to follow an isolated nation’s thread.

The Boys Vol. 1 & 2 by Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson – Good, at times great
This series was loaned by a friend, who thought the idea would appeal to me. Other than the occasionally repetitive and gratuitous sex scenes and fixation on perversity and homosexuality in super heroes, the series reads smoothly. It moves pretty quickly, and while there are no great reveals, certainly not this early in the series, it manages to be both tragic and funny, which is the kind of line that interests me. It also manages to engage with the idea of super heroes in an interesting and pointed way. Also, I love the Frenchman. The art style leaves me somewhat cold, there’s nothing really special about it, and I’m not a huge fan of the Butcher’s design.

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, illustrated by Gustave Dore – Fantastic
Dore’s work is beautiful, and this is one of his last literary illustrations– second to last, if I remember correctly. The two pieces lend themselves to each other. The compositions Dore creates are really daring and beautiful, and the depth and variety of shade is breathtaking. I’m a printmaker, also, so I’m somewhat biased. However, I also have yet to meet a person who is not taken with the power and precision of Dore’s illustration.

8 January, 2012

So much work to do!

I have, for your viewing pleasure, Boston in an example of Extremely Persistent January Greenness. It simply refuses to be winter, which is extremely frustrating (says the idiot whose commute involves a minimum of ten minutes walking).

My dating system has totally disintegrated in the highly acidic mental environment of the end of the semester, so I will generalize this set as “something in the neighborhood of Dec. 10-19th.”

Something in the Neighborhood of Dec. 10-19th.

Celebrating the season (in spite of snow, or other indications of the season), the cake store put out a gingerbread house. It was actually really lovely, and this picture doesn’t do it a lot of justice.

fabulous Cleveland Circle graffiti doodle, which I have been trying to take a photo of for weeks. My phone likes to die on me before I can be in the right place to take the photo. In a rare display of my prowess over technological demons, I finally got a photo of this dude.

Free medieval opera up in Cambridge. Orientalism and faux antiquity for the win. Some of the costumes were really fabulous. There was one prop I loved– a bedraggled fan that had four really stubborn pink feathers still clinging on. Unfortunately, however, I’m too polite to take camera phone pictures during a performance. So… this is a recital hall.

Porch-roof sitting Santa. What do you do if you have a second story apartment and a plastic Santa you’re dying to display? You put him on the roof of the porch and laugh in the face of gravity.

The cranes above my desk. Read also: a day I didn’t go outside because I was bent double writing papers.

One of many days that I left campus embarrassingly late. I liked the shadows on the sidewalk. This is your brain on grad school finals.

Please note: rain. Not snow. Inappropriate weather. Go to jail. Go directly to jail. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200, Mother Nature.

Harvard Square. Please note the guy wearing an entire orchestra… or something. 😀

baseballs + December = why is there no snow yet? I don’t get it.

Finally, my favorite part of finals: the detagging of library books, and the deconstruction of the terrible devices I make to keep my brain functioning and fully sensible in the face of sleep deprivation.

More to come– I have book reviews and more recent pictures to put up, too. I took a break from pictures while I was home for the holidays, but now that I’m back in Beantown I’m back at it.