the perfect sunset

This is amazing – a photographer wanted the perfect photo of a sunset framed by a long pier. So, using math and information from websites like Google Maps and the US Naval Observatory, he calculated what day the Sun would appear at the ideal angle to catch the shot. And here’s the result:

Perfect Sunset

Brilliant. This is the essence of Geek. See the original post for full details of the calculation.

Lost in translation

I saw Lost in Translation yesterday via Netflix. This movie was really a surprise, I think I was just expecting a light comedic drama without any real heft to it. The premise of the movie seems like a setup for comedy: an old actor and a young newlywed both arrive in Tokyo, stay at the same hotel, and experience culture shock together. But there’s so much more to this movie, especially as a commentary on marriage and relationships, that it transcends the level of ordinary pseudo-romantic comedy and enters into Artistic territory.

I haven’t seen Rushmore so this was my first exposure to Bill Murray playing a complex lead, and his performance was just .. well, there was no Bill Murray, there was only Bob Harris. You get inside his head and really, really understand him and who he is, even though 90% of his lines are wisecracks, and the lines themselves are only 50% of his acting. His expression, as he sees the elevator doors close on Charlotte at the end… I don’t think there are many actors who can communicate that kind of emotion with just a look, but you read it on his face like it was printed there.

The other half of this film is Scarlett Johansson, and she probably ranks as my favorite actress right now on the strength of her performance in this movie alone. Not just because she spends a few scenes sitting around in her underwear, though this helps. She has that kind of vulnerable courage in this film that I used to associate with Sandra Bullock. Again, with her performance, you simply understand her as Charlotte, like an open book – one which none of the other characters except Bob even bother to read, least of all her husband John (played with remarkable restraint[1] by Giovanni Ribsi).

Tokyo itself, and the hotel in particular, are vibrant and fleshed out and almost characters in their own right. The movie does a masterful job of exposing the characters to all the wierd and wonderful, but unlike some critics I did not find it disrespectful. In fact there was an odd beauty to it, like the teenager simultaneously dancing while playing a video game, or the crazy talk show host, or even the hysterical scene in Bob’s hotel room with the call girl[2].

I think I’ll take another run through this movie and grab some screenshots later. It was really one of the best movies I have ever seen. This film isn’t one that is content to play by the rules of romantic comedy. The two characters don’t do what you would expect them to do, which actually is how it would be in reality. And the two characters don’t keep up the facade about themselves that you expect them to, and which you yourself might maintain as well. And that too is more real, particularly in the context of the isolation that they both share, one exacerbated by being in a place so foreign, but still primarily deriving from their spouses’ neglect. I won’t spoil the ending but then again, the ending is almost impossible to spoil.

[1] Dude, you’re married to Scarlett Johansson sitting there in her underwear and all you can look at is your camera?? ahem.
[2] “lip my stocking!” omfg rofl. I laughed so hard I choked.

the golden goddess of daytime

Oprah Winfrey is indeed a semi-divine figure, on the landscape of daytime television. She rules it like Pharoah ruled Egypt. She rises like the sun god Ra in a flame of gold over her talk show empire.

Which is why I find this sculpture by controversy-affine artist Daniel Edwards to be so fascinating:

Oprah Pharoah

The artist is known for being provocative in his celebrity-inspired sculptures; he’s crafted one of Britney Spears, giving birth, naked on a bear skin rug. Other targets of his attention are Prince Harry and Paris Hilton. Overall you get the idea that he’s obsessed with celebrity royalty (and royalty celebrities). He claims Oprah is the closest thing America has to a living deity, so he crafted her exaggerated sarcophagus. It sort of makes sense.

Of course the attention the sculpture of Oprah is getting hinges on how it’s supposedly insulting to her, but i actually think on that score that it works as a homage rather than insult. It’s a combination fertility-goddess image with Pharonic qualities. In that sense, as a fertility totem it suggests Oprah as a mother goddess figure which I think is fairly accurate as far as symbolism goes.

art stinks

There are an infinite number of better puns I might make about this story, but I’d be violating my kawaii-safe rule in doing so. Via Art News Blog, artist Santiago Sierra has unveiled a new exhibition at the Lisson Gallery in London:


The work is made of 21 modules of human faeces, each measuring 215 x 75 x 20cm. […] Workers of the sanitary movement Sulabh International of India are mostly scavengers who, by birth, have to undertake the physically and psychologically painful task of collecting human faecal matter, being charged with the blames of a previous life of bad deeds.


It’s a striking work, each slab reminiscent of the Monolith from 2001: A Space Odyssey (but of course, representing almost the exact opposite). ArtNewsBlog appreciates the installation on multiple levels:

There’s a message that the artist wants to get across, which could be honorable or mocking, depending on which side of the fence you choose to sit. The optimist in me sees an artist highlighting the exploitation of a group of people that need a hand up. The cynic in me sees an artist doing something shocking for the sake of publicity (exploiting the media). The humorous me sees an artist shi$%ing on the floor of an upmarket art gallery and laughing at those that take it seriously (exploiting the gallery and public).

I’m inclined to give Sierra the benefit of the doubt with respect to being merely a publicity seeker, though the PR aspect is undeniable. Still, as an artist, Sierra’s focus is on class issues. For example, another work of his, “Economical Study of the Skin of Caracans“, touches on a similar theme (details below the fold). At any rate, the art does at minimum force the viewer to wonder how such an enormous pile of shi% could be assembled, and the physical reality of it in front of the eyes attunes their mind to the plight and working conditions of these laborers at the bottom of the bottom of India’s society, a depth which we simply cannot fathom from our everyday experience alone.

I confess that my ethnic heritage drives my interest in this art; I’ve been on a tear recently about Indian laborers working in Dubai at my political blog recently as well. This is the kind of art I like – simple, understated, and yet carrying a hefty social message, not overly preachy but relying on the innate compassion of the viewer to make the connection.

Continue reading “art stinks”

masterpieces exposed

This story about a man throwing red ink into the Trevi Fountain – one of the great majestic masterpieces of Rome – caught my attention not for the (frankly) jejeune claims of artistic significance, but rather because how it highlights just how fragile and vulnerable these and other great treasures remain. From the article:

Initial reactions were of outrage and concern, and underlined how exposed Italy’s precious monuments are. Over the years, vandals have damaged dozens of statues, including the Pietà by Michelangelo in the Vatican. A 1993 bombing aimed at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence that killed five was attributed to the Mafia.

Trevi dyed

The treasures of Greece are likewise vulnerable, though the authorities seem to be more proactive. The sculptures at the Acropolis are being moved by gigantic cranes to a dedicated museum, for example. The Greek authorities are also demanding that London return some of the sculptures from Greece now residing in the British Museum, but they probably are safer there. Same goes for the treasures of Egypt.

telling art from a hole in the ground

this tale is better told in reverse.

what the following bodes for the survival of Western Civilization, I cannot say, well or ill. But understand that we have entered an era in which holes in the ground are understood to be artistic installations rather than holes in the ground, as a matter of first assumption:

“We saw the first poor victim, a young woman who went into it with both feet up to just below her knees. She had to be dragged out by her friends,” said one onlooker.

“Unbelievably, as we watched to see whether she was OK, an older woman deliberately stepped on it (she later told us, amazingly, that she thought the crack was painted on the floor) lurched forward and landed on the ground. She had a sore wrist to show for it.”

Except, of course, that the hole in the ground WAS an artistic installation:

Doris Salcedo, the artist responsible for the latest Tate Modern Turbine hall commission, has said she wants visitors to look down when they encounter her work and engage in quiet contemplation – rather than be sidetracked by the space’s spectacular architecture.

Some, however, have failed to look down carefully enough.

The work – a long, sometimes foot-wide fissure that runs the entire length of the hall – was unveiled at a private view on Monday night, when someone fell into what is becoming known as “Doris’s crack” (its official title is Shibboleth).

The Guardian and Art News blog have more to say about the shibboleth of artists cracking holes in the ground and calling it art. I find the title, Shibboleth, to be oddly appropriate.

conceptual terrorism

a shocking evolution in terrorists’ strategy:

Conceptual Terrorists Encase Sears Tower In Jell-O

Authorities called to the scene of the senseless attack said they could do little to control the large crowds of dangerously bewildered citizens, many of whom searched desperately for some semblance of meaning in what had just taken place.
“Your outdated ideas of what terrorism is have been challenged,” an unidentified, disembodied voice announces following the video’s first 45 minutes of random imagery set to minimalist techno music. “It is not your simple bourgeois notion of destructive explosions and weaponized biochemical agents. True terror lies in the futility of human existence.”
While officials have yet to determine the purpose of the attack, a number of potential theories have emerged, including the sudden deregulation of the U.S. economy, the destruction of culturally significant landmarks, and maybe the fact that man, in his essence, is no more than a collection of irrational fragments, incapable of finding reason where no reason exists.

conceptual terrorism