June 2002 Archives

Incident at Lace Gallery

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I was reminiscing about LACE Gallery in my last post, and I started thinking about an incident that happened at LACE many years ago. I used to stop in the LACE store often, they carried all the expensive art magazines I couldn't afford, and most of the magazines I had to have. I spent a fair amount of money there, considering I was a starving artist, living in a decrepit loft that cost every penny I earned.
So one day Susie and I are shopping in the store, they had a huge bowl up on the counter full of buttons. I love to collect buttons, and I have some particularly fine old buttons with punk band names, slogans, etc. No self-respecting punk rocker would be caught without a nice button on their jacket. So we rooted through the bowl, looking for some amusing buttons. I didn't find anything I liked so I went over and looked at magazines while Susie kept searching. As I was reading an article, Susie came over and gave me a button. I read it and laughed aloud, I thought she'd bought it for a quarter and given it to me. So I put it in my shirt pocket. I returned to reading and completely forgot I even had the button.
A few minutes later, as I finished selecting some magazines to purchase, the guy running the cash register came up to me and started yelling at me that he saw what I did. I didn't have any idea what he was talking about. He yelled at me about shoplifting. I said I intended to purchase these magazines. Without any explanation, he grabbed at me, so I pulled back and put up my fists. I told him that if he wanted to lay a hand on me, he better be prepared to put up a fight. The scrawny kid looked at me, a 6'2" 225lb punk rocker in a leather jacket, and decided against it. He yelled that he was going to call the cops, so I told him he better do it NOW, because I was leaving and I was not going to purchase these $25 of magazines either. The kid did not call the cops, so I stomped out of the gallery and got in the car to go back to my loft (yeah, I only lived 2 blocks away but nobody walks in LA, especially near Skid Row).
As soon as Susie got into the car, she burst out laughing. She told me what had happened. She merely intended to show me the button, and I pocketed it without realizing that she hadn't paid for it. She started the whole incident, and said nothing while it went down. Of course I was pretty mad, but mostly because I didn't get to buy my favorite art magazines. I still have the button:
I'm Easy, Getting Rid Of Me Isn't
I just returned from the Gerhard Richter show at the Art Institute of Chicago, I haven't seen such a fine exhibit in many years. I was astonished to learn The Lannan Foundation donated their entire collection of Richter paintings to the Art Institute. I caught several Richter showings at The Lannan Museum in Los Angeles, including the Baader-Meinhof exhibition. It has been a long time since I saw these paintings, and now they are collected and displayed with the most significant pieces of Richter's entire history. I will definitely have more to say about this exhibit, and I will definitely be returning to see it again.
I was also rather pleased to see a large Liz Larner sculpture at the Museum of Contemporary Art. I had heard that her retrospective would be at MCA but I was disappointed to find that it was not, only the one piece was on display outside the museum. Liz was part of the LACE scene in the LA Loft district where I lived, I especially loved her "LACE Bashing Machine." It was a long vertical pole with a heavy chain and a large steel ball attached, it looked like a tetherball made from solid metal. A motor would spin the pole, you could control the speed of the motor with a big knob. At slow speeds the ball would arc lazily through the air, but at higher speeds, the ball would hurl around at terrifying speeds, the chain would rise, and the ball would slam against the walls of the museum. You could easily knock huge chunks of drywall and wood out of the museum walls, and in fact, you were invited to do so. The whole museum would shake with a reverberating BOOM whenever the ball hit the walls, and it hit repeatedly, with a repetitive thunderous noise about two times a second. I could tell the LACE staff was absolutely frazzled from the noise. I lived near LACE so I loved to drop in and bash it around, and see how far the damage had progressed. I think that was Liz's last show at LACE.

Moveable Type Moves Forward

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Moveable Type weblog software has just been updated, and the upgrade I desired most has been implemented, MySQL. MT ran with the BerkeleyDB database package running under Perl, MySQL is much faster and more robust. This should also allow MT users to insert their own PHP/MySQL code into their MT templates that runs alongside the MT/MySQL content.

I Knew QWest DSL Would Suck

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This server was down for most of the day while I tried out my new QWest DSL line. I ordered it on July 20, QWest promised they'd have me online in 9 business days. The hardware arrived almost immediately, but nobody ever called me to tell me when the phone line went active. So I called QWest and asked them when I could start configuring. The rep checked and said my DSL was active, so I should call my ISP and get connected. After working all day with the ISP, I learned that the line has not been activated. So I call QWest back, they say I'm not scheduled to be turned on for two more weeks. Oh great, I've already started paying for ISP charges that I won't be able to connect to for two weeks, that's $15 thrown in the garbage.
This situation is intolerable. This is absolutely typical of "DSL Hell" that people get into when trying to use an independent ISP instead of the heavily subsidized MSN. QWest is teetering on the brink of bankruptcy, they made a deal with BillG to infuse some cash, and BillG slavers with anticipation of the next company he drives to bankruptcy so he can gobble up their old assets and customer base. I contacted the Iowa Attorney General's office and filed a complaint. I have to do some paperwork, once it is refiled, QWest will have 14 days to respond to the Attorney General's inquiry. Maybe I can bust up this anticompetitive local telecom market.

Arts Funding Stolen

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Public funds intended for purchasing artworks is being wasted and stolen. Money intended to support artists and the arts community is being paid to government bureaucrats.
The University of Iowa Hospital has an agressive public art program. Under state law, a fixed percentage of all construction funds must be spent purchasing art that can be viewed by the public. The U of I has an impressive collection of work by internationally famous artists as well as many local artists, these works are seen by tens of thousands of people every day. Even the busiest museums cannot hope to present art to such a large audience.
Today, I took my mother to an appointment at the U of I Hospital. I passed familiar favorite artworks by Sol LeWitt, Andy Warhol, as well as several works by my favorite art school professors, artists I studied with. I walked through the new hospital wing, wondering what new works were selected. To my astonishment, the works were aerial photoreconaissance images of our city, maps produced by the US Geological Survey, and photographs of Earth from space provided by NASA. Certainly these images are fascinating, but they just are not art, they're maps. Even worse, these images were prominently labeled that they were purchased with public funds for the arts. But these images are available free from the Government Accounting Office, for merely the costs of reproduction (which is insanely low ). The GAO provides prints of publicly owned artworks by famous artists like Ansel Adams. For the same cost of reproduction, they could have bought great art.
So I immediately went up to the hospital's Project Art office to ask them why they are spending big money to purchase and frame US Government maps that they could get for almost free, instead of purchasing work by local artists. They said that their exhibits are intended to represent a diverse set of points of view. I retorted that these artworks represent no point of view except maybe LANDSAT, and they were chosen precisely to work around their desire to present diverse artworks. The maps were chosen specifically because they were not art and would not offend anyone. These works were hung in the Eye Clinic, which is a Lasik mill. Lasik is the hospital's cash cow, and most of their patients are older rural Iowa residents, presumably with conservative (if not philistine) attitudes towards the arts. In order not to offend their clients, they have relegated real art to the corners, while technical images take center stage.
But most infuriating of all was their protestation that purchasing these maps did not deplete art purchase funds. They refused to believe these maps were purchased with funds from their own project. I told them to go down and look at the labels, they were all prominently labeled with the message required when public taxpayer money was spent.
It appears that funds have been misappropriated, spent on junk that the project was never intended to be involved with. Even worse, the money was given to bloated Federal bureaucrats instead of struggling artists. I am going to get to the bottom of this. At best it's misappropriation of funds, at worst it's a felony.

Victory Over Spam

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I am declaring victory in my war against spam. Monday morning is the battleground for spammers, they want to choke your mailbox with their ads when you get to work on Monday. But today, I fired up my mailbox and there was not one single spam, and nothing in my spam trap. I win.
My MacOS X Anti-spam document is a wild success, it's the most popular thing I've ever written. I am pleased with the response, and hundreds of hits continue each day. But the document is obsolete since SpamBouncer was updated last week. The improvements are substantial, and the installation procedures are different. So I am in the process of revising the document right now. I am also producing a second document with some advanced strategies against spam. I use SpamBouncer to trap spam, then I analyze the kinds of spam I get and put in special filters to kill the most persistent spammers. It works great.

Tiny Comix Vol. 2

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tiny comix 2

Tiny Comix

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I have produced a tiny comic for your amusement. Painted by hand specifically for reproduction at this scale, and scanned for the final artwork.

tiny comix

Goal Displacement

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Things could get messy around here, I have to completely overhaul my office. I'm about to switch from cable modem to DSL, but unfortunately my phone socket is behind some bookcases, in the most inaccessible corner of my tiny 10x20 office. I have to move about 1500lbs of books and bookcases out of the way so QWest can access my phone jack.
One of my old bosses used to lecture me endlessly about this problem, he said it was my biggest time management problem, he called it "Goal Displacement." You have a simple goal, but instead of expending work towards that goal, you get diverted into some completely irrelevant task that's blocking you from achieving your real goal. I just wanted to install DSL, QWest says it's easy, they'll rewire the wall plate for me at no charge. Unfortunately it's going to take me 2 or 3 days of hard work moving books and furniture just to get to the wall plate.

MacOS X Imagemagick

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One of the few problems running Moveable Type on MacOS X is that the Imagemagick perl module does not run. This is a minor bug, MT runs fine without it, but you can't use the neat automatic thumbnails feature. But it appears the problem is solved. A note appeared on the MacOS X Perl list about a fix to Imagemagick, it suggests using the Fink unstable-branch install of Imagemagick, and recompiling with a minor change to the makefile. I don't have time to test this due to a crush of work over the next few days, so I'll post this here as a reminder to myself to get busy and get this Perl module installed, and also so other people might get a look at this fix and try it out for themselves if I don't get around to it. Special thanks to both Randal Schwartz and William Ross for nailing this one.

BlogTV: Bowie's Strange Request

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Tonight A&E presented a live concert with David Bowie, with call-in requests. I was immediately struck by the similarity to some recent blogger blather. Prominent blog pundits have been raving recently about an incident that occurred at a conference. One of the panelists was surfing the web and discovered someone was writing continuous comments on his live presentation, and commented about it in that same presentation. The bloggers gushed about how the barrier between the audience and the presenter was broken. These self-important pundits declared this a watershed event, one declared it was the end of journalism as we knew it. I hear this sort of ridiculous crap every day.
Tonight as I was watching the live Bowie concert, an interesting thing happened. One of the call-in requests came via cel phone from the audience. Bowie discovered the caller, and invited him onstage, interacting with him both by phone and in person.
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What struck me most about this incident was that Bowie pulled the guy right out of the audience and brought him right on stage. This is in stark contrast to the blog conference panelist who imagined himself to be interacting directly with his audience, while he was really many layers of abstraction from that person who was sitting right in the audience. It's the difference between reality and illusion. The blog pundits are fooling themselves.
On a different note, I was surprised at Bowie's new band. He dumped the cute backup singers/percussionists and replaced them with a woman with a deep voice. Sometimes you can't tell when it's her singing and when it's Bowie. And his new guitarists suck. But boy do they have some nice instruments. I saw a guitar just like my college roommate had, an 1950s Les Paul SG with triple pickups and a Bigsby. Plus a nice vintage Gibson Explorer. Either of those guitars would sell for well over $20,000. Too bad these rare instruments are wasted, the band doesn't have synergy. The Bowie at the Beeb concert from 2000 was much better.

President-For-Life George W. Bush

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Nixon crony John Dean is writing an amazing series of articles on the constitutional abuses of the Bush administration. His recent article on the possibility of George Bush imposing a Constitutional Dictatorship is positively chilling.

MacOS X 10.1.5 Update DHCP Bug

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I discovered bug in the new MacOS X 10.1.5 release, I passed it along to MacFixIt and they published it at the top of the Friday page. My comments were edited and not so clear, but the problem is simple. Some machines connected via cable modems will lose their DHCP settings when they wake from sleep. The new updated OS incorrectly drops the DHCP lease when it sleeps.
Now that I've been tracking the problem, I've noticed it is not consistent. I lose connectivity on my Powerbook about 80% of the times it wakes from sleep. This is the worst type of problem to diagnose, an intermittent problem. I'm not sure what the problem is, or why it didn't get caught in beta testing. The problem is widely reported but not particularly common. I hope we get a fix from Apple soon.
Update: Apple released a fix within 48 hours of the problem's discovery.

Jomon Idol

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Here's an intereresting postcard I picked up at a museum in Japan, showing a Jomon icon. I love the abstract grooved patterns, which are a distinguishing feature of Jomon pottery.

Jomon Idol

There is no particular point to this post, I mostly wanted some other material to push that hideous Chris Reeve picture down off the home page.
The Art Newspaper is reporting that Texan stock swindlers have stolen $43 million dollars from the Museum of the Art Institute of Chicago. The AIC filed suit in Dallas county court for the return of stolen funds, plus $50 million in damages.
The artworks in Museum of the AIC are donations, and the financial endowments of the donors ensures that the museum continues to exist and maintain that collection. This swindle is a threat to the continued existence of the museum, it undermines the financial stability of the museum.
I note that the Bush administration is rushing to put more federal law enforcement effort behind terrorism, by taking agents from other duties like white-collar crime. It's open season for swindlers and their Enronomics.

Armageddon Forecasting

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An engineering firm is producing live updated fallout distribution maps. You can see the prevailing wind patterns above potential Pakistani and Indian targets, and where the wind will carry the fallout over 72 hours. Whenever the bombs fall, you can check the live update and see where most of the radioactivity will go. But some of it will end up in your body, even if you live in Antarctica.
I just received this extremely strange piece of junk mail, a wall calendar attached to another Pity Marketing pitch. I opened the calendar and this full-page image greeted me.

I can't decide which is creepier, Reeve, or the Borg Queen's rippling cleavage. Better loosen those retaining clips..

Fake Economics

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Ever since that day, I've been reading a continual stream of fake economics statistics like this NYPost story that claims New York City will lose $83 Billion due to the 9/11 disaster. This is a blatant lie. Let me explain a few basic economic facts.
Imagine we own a corner lemonade stand. Our booth is a table and some glassware we bought for $1 at a garage sale. We sell $2 of lemonade a day, and it costs us $1 in materials, so our profit is $1 per day. If the neighbor kid comes over and smashes our stand to bits, our total economic loss is $1. If he comes over and steals our sugar and lemons for that day, our loss is $1. But under no stretch of the imagination is it legitimate to say that since you are out of business, you've just lost $365 for the next year's lost lemonade sales. Nobody ever guaranteed you an income.

Dee Dee: Born to Die in Berlin

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Dee Dee Ramone is dead. I haven't been this upset since Wendy O. Williams' suicide. There seems to be an impenetrable barrier at about age 50, and all the punks hit it and go splat.
Silk is a new gadget for MacOS X 10.1.5 that enables Quartz rendered fonts in general Carbon applications. It's amazing, now Mozilla and IE can render fonts like OmniWeb. I use my monitor at 1600x1200 and it makes a huge difference in legibility. If you're running 10.1.5, you should get Silk, you'll love it. It's freeware, I love freeware.

More Site Revisions

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I'm experimenting with changes to the site's appearance, I've just figured out how to put tables into a CSS layout so I'm experimenting with a few of my favorite tricks, like that split left right graphics gadget at the top of the page. I'll refine it and get things set up properly.
I also got Dreamweaver MX working to a minor degree, so I can do some WYSIWYG editing of the main templates without trashing them totally. Now I can do a few more layout tricks. If only I could get Dreamweaver to recognize my linked CSS style sheets, I'd be really happy.

Two More New MacOS X Web Badges

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I've released two more MacOS X web badges. These say "Served By MacOS X." I wanted a separate badge to indicate the site is not just created with MacOS X, it is served by MacOS X as well. I found a way to tone down the type so I've released two separate versions. The second badge has a softer tone I think is more in keeping with the Titanium look.

Dilemma: My Life as Open Source

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I am pondering a problem, or perhaps it is an opportunity, but I cannot decide how to proceed. What I am considering is a radical departure from everything I've ever done as an artist, so I must consider it deeply.
For over 25 years, I have been researching antiquated photographic processes. I have found certain processes that are basically lost arts, and with the application of some computer technology, I can compensate for the flaws in these processes. I am now profitably exploiting the very problems that caused people to drop the process.
I have accumulated research going back over 25 years, I've consulted with artists and photographers, some of them freely shared their information, some will not divulge it at any price. The ones who freely shared their information believed that anyone who made anything from it would do so on their own accord. I know that the teacher who originally showed the process to me had no idea I'd continue to develop it for 25 years. I actually met my old professor a few years ago, I thanked him for teaching me the process, and briefly told him of my work. He asked me if my work was successful, I told him I thought it was successful, but nobody had the least interest in it and certainly nobody wanted to buy it. Then he grabbed my hand and shook it vigorously and said "congratulations!"
The process is extremely labor intensive and costly, with a high failure rate. It can take a week to produce a really good print. I have taken prints to local galleries, they offer to sell them at about half what it costs me to make them. They don't seem to understand that alternative process prints are much more expensive. My prints are true archival art, in an era where galleries rush to sell nonarchival inkjet prints at fine-art prices.
So there's the crux of the matter. I'm not making a cent with my printing. I can't even get galleries interested in selling them for reasonable prices, even in the $800 to $1200 range which is the low end for alternate process photographic prints. So I am considering opening up and publishing my entire research as an open source project. To do so would reveal all my most closely guarded trade secrets. However, some other authors have started to publish related information they have discovered on their own. So I feel compelled to publish fully, in order to establish my work. Perhaps if I cannot gain recognition for my work, I can gain recognition for contributing to the photographic arts. Ironically, my own university has shunned my work. Their printmaking department has a fancy mechanical process they've patented and licensed, I can do the same thing with a few pennies of chemicals and some paintbrushes. They hate my process.
So, what should I do? Should I reveal everything, or continue to go it alone? I decided I would publish everything once I had a major showing of my work. Perhaps I can spur a gallery to show my work by publishing. Probably not.

The Art of Writing Headlines

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Headline writing is a neglected art, as I observed today reading my local newspaper. It seems that today's generation of editors just does not know how to write a good headline. There was a time when headlines conveyed much of the tone of a publication, and some papers had such a distinctive style that you could instantly know a headline came from that particular source. A good example would be the staccato Hollywood alitterations of Variety magazine. I think the best headline I ever saw was a parody of this style in a Rolling Stone magazine in the 1970s, it read "Lax Styx Wax Clicks." The headline is incomprehensible unless you read the article, where it is revealed the band Styx had not produced an album in several years, and the new album is a hit.
Headline writing has a long tradition of stylistic conventions. I remember my first training in headline writing in a journalism class. We got handouts of long lists of common verbs, with synonyms sorted by length in ems. You'd find a word like "win" and you'd find a list of dozens of synonyms that you could choose to shorten or lengthen the head to fit the space. It took quite a bit of skill at copyfitting and some artistic ability to say as much as possible in a short headline. But the average hack just used the list to rotate verbs once in a while to keep the headlines from sounding stale. Unfortunately, your average hack will also drive those synonyms into the ground. Look at your average sports page and see how many times you see relatively disused and odd synonyms for "win" or "defeat."
I particularly began paying attention to headlines when I started reading Japanese newspapers, the styles are entirely different. Headlines often omit verbs, leaving the reader to complete the sentence. Long complex word structures are often abbreviated with a string of even more complex kanji. The main headline may not be the primary focus, a subhead may be the core story. I remember reading a headline of an airline crash in the US, the top of the page had a massive bold headline, "No Japanese Killed." The secondary, much smaller headline said "250 People Killed in Airliner Crash in US."
I've found that as I read more Japanese, some of my English writing skills deteriorate. My essays tend to be written in kishotenketsu style, which is not really very straightforward. My headlines are dull, they start with dull words like "the" and use cliches like "The Art of.." I haven't decided on proper capitalization rules. So I'm going to go back to school and dig up my 25-year-old papers on the art of headline writing. Some research in Strunk & White and the AP Stylebook seem to be in order.
The world has surely gone mad when I find myself agreeing with conservative nutcases like Pat Buchanan. He argues that the terrorists will win, and that the US should give them what they want: an end to US support for the corrupt Saudi dictators.

The Whole Warhol

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Bravo channel is running an amazing documentary at this very moment, The Whole Warhol. It's replaying later tonight so be sure to catch it if you can. This show has everything, but my favorite part is the tour through Warhol's personal archives.
I'm especially a fan of Warhol's earliest works when he still painted everything himself, his later mass-produced Pop works don't interest me as much. I used to live down the street from the LA MOCA Temporary Contemporary museum, they had a nice collection of early Warhol paintings, one of my favorites is an odd painting of shoeprints with numbers on them, as in a diagram of a dance step. Warhol didn't really return to this style of working until he collaborated with Basquiat, shortly before he died.
My all-time favorite Warhol image is a photograph my sister showed me in a Parsons School class catalog. It shows Warhol attending a drawing class at Parsons, there is a row of drawing tables with students working in the background. In the center, Andy with his black clothes and shock-white wig, is standing next to the model: a partially dissected cadaver, hanging by chains from a huge metal tripod.
When I used to live in Downtown Los Angeles, I used to walk a lot and I'd encounter random documents that blew around in the streets. I had a habit of picking up and reading almost anything, but I never found a document quite like this one.
One day my girlfriend Susie and I were walking from Traction Avenue in the Loft District towards Little Tokyo. I remember we were in a horrible mood of gloom and despair, some major disaster had struck. I can't remember what the disaster was, but since we were starving artists it probably had something to do with money. We were walking in the blazing hot sun along a disused industrial street when I found a brochure stuck in the weeds. I picked it up and read it, and I couldn't stop laughing. Susie thought I'd gone crazy, then I showed it to her, and she couldn't stop laughing either.


MacOS X Web Badge

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I decided to make a proper MacOS X web badge, since even Apple didn't have one that fits their own usage guidelines. Apple had a nice badge for "Mac OS X Server" so I chopped it apart and fixed it up. It's a little wider than it needs to be, but I decided that it should match the width of the Moveable Type badge. If anyone wants to use the badge, go ahead and grab it.