July 27, 2010


…a.k.a. link dump / linkage /clickage from the past month; more to come…

  • Very Bushwick and very fabulous (NYT)
  • You know how we do in Brooklyn (Inc.)
  • Pitchfork is Times-worthy.
  • I managed to avoid reading any commentary on Inception until I actually saw it for myself yetserday, though at this point, I cannot possibly hope to catch up with all of the bandwidth that has been spilled (not to mention plot spoiled)—in theory and in practice, for example—over Nolan’s polarizing masterpiece. Also: A.O. Scott on film criticism in the digital age in theory and in practice; Dileep Rao (who plays Yusef) gives us the straight dope; Jonah Lehrer speculates on the neuroscience behind the film. Plus, Jonah Lehrer on LSD (in a manner of speaking)
  • Am I guilty of “a breezy writing style”? (The Economist; related: China’s microblog macro-crackdown)
  • Amid all the talk of his new book Imperial Bedrooms, Bret Easton Ellis also finds time to reflect on American Psycho (The Guardian)
  • Sasha Frere-Jones endorses music in cloud form (The New Yorker)
  • Tom Vanderbilt included a link to Dave Horton’s unabashedly self-righteous five-part essay on the fear of cycling in his own musings on bicycle highways for Slate. Definitely required reading for anyone who chooses to bike for transportation (as opposed to simply for leisure), with the caveat that it feels a bit too much like justification for my sense of entitlement that I feel when I tell pedestrians to get out of the bike lane. Still, the car culture of the US is easily worse than that of the UK (where Horton’s expertise lies; at least London has congestion pricing) and the essay actually affirmed my fear that cycling still has a long way to go.



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June 6, 2010



I’ve mentioned tilt shift photography before, but it continues to blow my mind.

…it gives the viewer a sense of being in a smaller world, a bit like the way the world looks to a kid.

–Bryan Solarski, GOOD Picture Show, June 2 2010

Equally amazing: photos of the semi-dystopian ruins of Kowloon & Battleship Island & Kowloon (below) (Dark Roasted Blend via Boing Boing)


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The “How Our Laws Are Made” infographic above is well-executed and fairly clear, if a little busy (GOOD); the Pulp Fiction one below is neat but, as one commenter points out, the story makes more sense the way it unfolds per Tarantino’s script (Flowing Data).


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Art vs. Art:


Greater New York at PS1: I only got around to seeing about half of the exhibit when I stopped by PS1 last week, but I’m sure I’ll have many opportunities to revisit and engage with the work over the next few months, especially once Warm-Up is underway. Nevertheless, I would imagine that Greater New York stands for everything that Jeff Koons’ BMW Art Car (below) is not. (NYT)


That said, I thought that Koons’ art car (unveiled at the Centre Pompidou) turned out fine, though I was a little disappointed to learn that “the design isn’t actually painted on the car; it’s a vinyl wrap covered with two layers of clear coat. BMW says the wrap was lighter than paint and it could be applied much more quickly. That was a key consideration because Koons had just two months to complete the project.” (Wired)

via Animal

See also: Image gallery of previous BMW art cars via Wikipedia.
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June 3, 2010

Dead and Gone

I realize that it’s rather cliché to lament that you don’t really miss something until it’s gone, but (at the risk of sounding indecently morbid) there’s definitely a sense that death marks the ultimate occasion to reflect on an individual’s legacy. In fact, I would go so far as to say that the finality of death ensures that an artist can no longer create anything new: it is the point where his or her life’s work can and must be taken as a whole, as a history and world unto itself, immortal at the cost of its living potential.


The Times remembers Dennis Hopper, Louise Bourgeois, and Tobias Wong, all of whom have passed away this week. I won’t pretend that I fully appreciated the work of the first two while I hadn’t heard of Wong until his untimely demise, but there is a vague significance to each artist and I look forward to exploring what they have left behind.


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May 27, 2010

M.I.A. in the Times

UPDATE: Maya responds; more info at Daily Swarm.

Another: Nylon has an excerpt of their forthcoming interview with M.I.A. Highbrow: Mike Barthel validates her artistic merit (despite her bitter Twitter) very nicely. Lowbrow: there’s a video to go with those photos (but at least it’s only a fraction of the length of her last pointless video.)

Lynn Hirschberg profiled M.I.A. (née Maya Arulpragasam) for the New York Times Magazine this week. To be perfectly honest, it’s not all that interesting; you could easily get away with reading the first and last bits without missing much (in fact, to facilitate the skimming process, I’ve culled a few choice quotes, below). However, I appreciate that Hirschberg picks at the seams of Maya’s authenticity—the piece is rather unsympathetic to her (purportedly) superficial politics and unremarkable artistic gifts, spinning M.I.A. as a cloying cultural mash-up—without straying far from the empirical vignettes that constitute Maya’s sweet new life as a 34-year-old (!) mom in L.A.

In other words, Maya has mastered the art of knowingness with the sort of pop prescience commonly ascribed to the likes of Madonna or Lady Gaga. Although Hirschberg plays the Madonna card rather early, she withholds the inevitable Gaga comparison until the end of the article—a little late, in my opinion, though it’s probably in the best interest of reader and writer alike to ignore Gaga’s long shadow for as long as possible. However, to Hirschberg’s credit, I completely agree with her assessment of the video for “Born Free”: “exploitative and hollow,” “seemingly designed to be banned on YouTube,”  and “at best, politically naïve.”

That said, I’m still a fan, and I’m looking forward to the new album. If the profile itself is a little labored, Ryan McGinley’s photos for the Times are a romp. Apologies in advance for the decontextualized and admittedly pointed quotes.


I’m tone deaf and not very musical, but I like dancing, if that counts.



Maya is postmodern: she can’t really make music or art that well, but she’s better than anyone at putting crazy ideas into motion. She knows how to manipulate, how to withhold, how to get what she wants.



If I was a terrorist, I wouldn’t be wearing American clothing.



Maya is a mixture of black American culture, Sri Lankan culture, art, fashion. We mix it up well here [in England] and sell it back.

–Richard Russell of XL Recordings.


Maya has ideas that can’t be physically done. She wants this sound or that sound — the tracks already exist in her head. In the end, she has a plan for everything.



Pop stars should be pretty.

–Romain Gavras (who directed the video for “Born Free”).


I’d like to turn censorship into fashion.



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May 26, 2010

Assorted Links

UPDATED, one last time before midnight.

Os Gemeos & Blu (Works in Progress) in Lisbon

Os Gemeos & Blu (Works in Progress) in Lisbon

Street art’s symbiotic relationship with the Web makes you wonder whether the genre’s broad popularity stems from the fact that its characteristic features—swift execution, quicksilver response to pop culture and politics, the dominance of quotation and commentary, snarky attitude, fragmented statements embedded in the world rather than meant to stand apart from it—actually reflect the way that plugged-in people process information, more so than “traditional” art. There is something particularly contemporary about street art’s whole M.O., in this sense.

–Ben Davis, Is Street Art Over?, Slate, May 26 2010 (Highly recommended)

Fresh Stuff from Ron English in Queens

Fresh Stuff from Ron English in Queens

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Two perspectives on Marina:

She and MoMA have brought some magic back into art—the sort of magic that all of our courses in art history and appreciation had encouraged us to hope for.

–Arthur C. Danto, Sitting with Marina, The Stone blog on NYT, May 23 2010

There are euphoric moments and then intensely sad feelings of heaviness. Whatever you’re feeling becomes intensified. Certain truths about things I need to fix in my life are revealed to me. Marina says that in her own life she’s not so disciplined—that the performance gives her structure.

–Deborah Wing-Sproul, The Performer Made Bare, NYMag, May 23 2010

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[As Prokhorov] explained to “60 Minutes,” “I don’t use a computer. We have too much information and it’s really impossible to filter it.”

You know what? He’s not necessarily wrong. Do we REALLY need all this information? Like, right now—you’re reading this column and hopefully enjoying it, but ultimately, could you have survived the weekend if you missed it? I say yes. Just about everything online fits that mold—you have to sift through loads of bad writing and irrelevant information to find the occasional entertaining/funny/interesting thing, and even then, it’s not something that’s making or breaking your week. Ever been on a vacation and had little-to-no Internet access that week? You survived, right? Maybe the big Russian is on to something.

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Candy reminds us of the postmodern notion of self-creation—the way we don social signifiers with the same ease as clothing, constructing our selves bit by bit from cultural cues and images. Rather than the solid frameworks we cast them as, our selves are more like sweaters we put on and take off. When it comes to social identity, we’re all a wee bit in drag.

–Caroline Hagood, New Documentary Tries to Solve the Riddle of Andy Warhol’s Candy Darling,
The Huffington Post, May 21 2010

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The problem of negative externalities [refers to] costs that accrue when the self-interested actions of one person leave bystanders worse off. The biggest example of a negative externality is global warming: When we burn carbon-based fuels, we benefit ourselves while imposing a great cost on billions of other present and future inhabitants of the planet.

–Felix Salmon, The Man Who Could Unsnarl Manhattan Traffic, Wired, May 24 2010

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GOOD Picture Show has a gallery of J. Bennett Fitts' incredible photos of Middle America

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May 17, 2010

Philosophy in the Times

or, The Death of Book Philosophers?

What Is a Philosopher?

Critchley's Book of Dead Philosophers boasted one of my favorite book covers of 2009, though I have yet to read it... (via Amazon)

Critchley's Book of Dead Philosophers boasted one of my favorite book covers of 2009, though I have yet to read it... (via Amazon)

Many former (and some current) philosophy students sound off in the 600 750+ comments to moderator Simon Critchley’s introduction to the new column, the Stone. Let’s hope that Critchley and his colleagues can draw blood from it.

See also: (Highly) critical distance from Brian Leiter, also looking to draw blood (to completely butcher the metaphor).

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April 15, 2010

A Tax Form for the Marginally Employed

Sam Potts for the NYT

Sam Potts for the NYT

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April 5, 2010

Cartographic Design


Matthew Picton‘s sculptures are right up my alley: he makes roadmaps into art.

DB; more at Toomey-Tourell.


Claire Burbridge & Matthew Picton
Absence and Presence
Toomey-Tourell Fine Art
49 Geary Street [map]
San Francisco, CA 94108
415 / 989-6444
Through May 1, 2010
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Connie Brown NYC map

Connie Brown makes detailed, vintage-y (not to mention pricey) custom maps. She’s giving at talk at NYPL on April 10th. Much more info (and images) at NGS, linked below.

National Geographic Society via Boingboing.

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The Times has an interactive feature on taxi pick-ups (in Manhattan), a nice to their piece on taxi traffic and, by extension, Jonah Lehrer’s musings on commuting. Now if only there was some way to track the Cash Cab…

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March 29, 2010

Tunnel Vision

The Second Avenue Subway (SAS) is a rapid transit subway line, part of the New York City Subway system, currently under construction underneath Second Avenue in the borough of Manhattan.

As a consequence of the many “false starts”, the SAS is often cited as an example of bureaucratic red tape and government incompetence. However, the reasons for its delay are numerous and complex. The line is sometimes referred to as “The Line That Time Forgot”.

–Wikipedia, Second Avenue Subway


Over the weekend, he MTA posted photos of excavation for the Second Avenue Subway between 91st and 96th on Facebook. I can only assume that the MTA’s PR department has a dedicated 20-something Social Media Coordinator who decided to try his or her hand at creating the next viral hit.

Here’s a selection of my favorites, tastefully re-touched for dramatic effect—where’s Ryan McGinley when you need him?

Second Avenue Sagas via Curbed. Also on Gothamist.


NYMag featured the “Line That Time Forgot” in a 2004 article; read more about recent SAS-related developments here. The G, on the other hand, is the Line That I Wish I Could Forget.

Try as I might to resist an obvious pun, I can’t help myself: the MTA is boring tunnels.


A couple more pics—plus an indie rock classic, a house and an infant—after the jump.

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March 22, 2010

Google vs. China: Round II


Earlier today, Google announced that it is shutting down Google.cn. (Uncensored) Chinese searches are currently being redirected to Google.com.hk as the Search/Ad Giant hopes to make good on its promise to not be evil by challenging the Chinese government’s policy of Internet censorship.

The Internet was seen as a catalyst for China being more integrated into the world. The fact that Google cannot exist in China clearly indicates that China’s path as a rising power is going in a direction different from what the world expected and what many Chinese were hoping for.

–Xiao Qiang, director of the China Internet project at UC Berkeley
Google Shuts China Site in Dispute over Censorship, The New York Times, 3/23/2010

It’s a bold move that has been applauded by many, including myself: the Great Firewall was perhaps my only plaint about my recent stay in Beijing.

However, there are some who sympathize with the PRC, painting Google as the symbol of Western imperialism in the Information Age. I agree that American criticism is inherently biased toward freedom of speech—a constitutionally inalienable right that may still seem foreign to many native Chinese (though perhaps not to the 400m+ Chinese Internet users)—but I’m impressed that Google is willing to sacrifice profit for principle nonetheless.

UPDATE: G vs C on NYT Room for Debate Blog, a fascinating look at China’s internet culture, WSJ on how Brin was forced out and an older essay on the Chinese scholars’ reliance on Google Scholar via Nature.

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