Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Modes of Discourse

Mode of Discourse


Pure “taste” or “relishing”

You like chocolate ice-cream. That’s it!


You draw attention to public features of a work of art in order to have others share your liking of it.


You uncover the meaning of the work or its features.


You “grade” paintings or other works of art.

More Interpretation: The Case of the "Broken" Pieta

Michelangelo destroyed the left leg of this sculpture, known as the Florentine Pieta. Why did he do it?

Old Quicktime Movie

The links here I put together in 1995, at the beginning of the new media revolution. I'm curious about how well they hold up in this blog, which to this point has been very solid. Here is an early Quicktime movie done about my favorite museum.

Iconography of Dancing Shiva

Here we have a richly symbolic image of the Hindu Deity, Shiva, in his role as a dancing god, or "Shiva Nataraja" - Shiva King of the Dance. Clicking on the link will take you to a set of similarly symbolic images, including a focus on this image.

The Interpretation of Indian Art: Iconography

In 482 you have worked within these modes: pure taste (what I call "relishing") and appreciation (your National Gallery choices). This coming week we will be working with interpretation. Here, the interpretation of the art of Indian Asia involves a knowledge of symbols. Since there is so much Indic art in London, I thought it would be fun to focus on the "iconology" of Indian Art. Later, in the British Museum and the Victoria and Albert museums, we will be seeing examples. Clicking on the image of the Dancing Krishna will lead you to a set of richly symbolic images.

Our Actual Tracks from our Ripper Search

Here is the result of our search for the six parts of the Ripper series and the actual location of the Ripper Hideaway (not just the dummy coordinates included in #7).

The Jack the Ripper Series Overlays

The prior seven postings are from the Jack the Ripper series geocaches on The coordinates, however, appear not on a modern map but a map our Rumsey collection map of 1842 as an overlay on Google Earth. Thus one can "see" the streets as they existed closer to the time in the 1880's when Jack was doing his evil deeds.

The titles of each of the previous seven postings link to the respective description of the cache. Included under each of the thumbnails is the name of the Ripper victim at that location. (Thanks to Travis for the Ripper image!)

The process for generating the series was to import an optimum route from Mapsource of the caches into Google Earth, then overlaying the 1842 map, and finally exporting the image of that cache on the overlay. The cache identifers (which appear in the center of each overlay-post) are taken from

Clicking on the thumbnail quickly brings up a quite-clear enlargement.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

What is Your Aesthetic?

Are you an altermodernist? A postmodernist? Are you a classicist in your aesthetic? These are obviously open-ended questions, but just the sort which are ideal for a philosophy of art class.

Here is one aesthetic: "I'm a classicist. I look for balance and harmony. If a part of a painting is "descending" on one side, I look for something on the other side to be "ascending." The colors should not be too saturated or tend towards the garish...."

Or another: "I like desert landscapes. Works of art should be very spare, very economical. There should be no extraneous elements. Everything should be minimal and absolutely necessary."

Or still another: "It is important that art represent something. If it represents it well, that is a good thing. Art need not be photography, but if something is represented in oils or watercolors, it has to be clear what is being represented and it has to be an accurate representation."

Yet another: "Art has to connect emotionally. If I am not moved by art, then it is not part of my aesthetic. Great art is art that conveys emotion, powerfully and clearly. "

Baz Luhrmann embodies an aesthetic in his films. We will be seeing parts of his Romeo and Juliet. What is that aesthetic?

Quentin Tarantino embodies an aesthetic in his films like "Kill Bill" -- what is it?

What is your aesthetic?


No, you probably have not seen the term Altermodern before. It is created for the Tate Britain's current Triennial Exhibition celebrating current trends in British art. It is the title of this exhibition.

According to the exhibition guide, the curator, Nicolas Bourriaud, is "proposing the new term 'altermodern' to describe how artists are responding to the globalized world in which we live."
Further, "'ALTERMODERN' is an in-progress redefinition of modernity in the era of globalization, stressing the experience of wandering in time, space and mediums. The term 'altermodern' has its roots in the idea of 'otherness' (Latin alter = 'other', with the English connotation of 'different') and suggests a multitude of possibilities, of alternatives to a single route. It suggests that the historical period defined by postmodernism is coming to an end, symbolised by the global financial crisis. But what era are we entering into? The times seem propitious for the recomposition of a modernity in the present, reconfigured according to the specific context in which we live--crucially, in the age of globalisation--and understood in relation to economic, political and cultural conditions."

Still further, "If twentieth-century modernism has mainly been a western cultural phenomenon, altermodernity arises out a negotiations between agents from different cultures and geographical locations. Stripped of a centre, it can only be polyglot. Altermodernity is characterized by cultural translation. The archipelago and its kindred forms, the constellation and the cluster, function here as models representing the ALTERMODERN. They present the figure of the artist as home viator, a traveler whose passage through signs and formats reflects a contemporary experience of mobility..."

Last paragraph: "ALTERMODERN art often functions as a hypertext, translating and transcoding information from one format to another. Artists wander in geography as well as in history, exploring a transcultural landscape saturated with signs to create new pathways between multiple formats of experession and communication."

Aesthetic Criteria

An interesting question in aesthetics is whether criteria work the same way they do outside of aesthetics, for example, in grading apples. The art historian Jakob Rosenberg proposed a set of criteria for painting as being "more or less valid for the whole field of master drawing...from the fifteenth through nineteenth century."

Rosenberg makes his use of these criteria more plausible through the comparison of closely similar works of art. He applies this tailored set of criteria to these two drawings.

The key question is whether these criteria mean the same thing when they are applied in these (or any other) paintings.

Geo-tagged Sound Files

It's possible to tag a particular spot in Google Earth (the yellow thumbtack), but less well known is that you can place links on that thumbtack. They can be web URLs or media files. You left click the marker once and wait for the marquee. The link will appear on the marquee and you can follow it in the normal way. On this file there is a very short sound file. Here is what you do to find it.

Click on the link. You will be asked to save it. Save it and remember where you saved it. Open Gooogle Earth (preferably 5.0). Open the file that you saved. That should bring you to a particular spot under the yellow placemark. Left click on the yellow placement - once! That should bring the marquee up with the link to the sound file. Click on the sound file....

[Note: that's the way it should have worked. But my marquee has been conflated with St. Bartholowmew's. My question about the patriot appears at the top of their marquee and leads to a Google page of the hospital. But if you look under the Placemark on the layers menu (after the expand the "+" you will see the "hint" and see how to get to the sound file. I will leave this up for a bit. Nothing is obvious!

Activating Google Tours

Clicking on this file will invite you to save it. Do so, note where you saved it, open Google Earth and then open that file in Google Earth. It should bring you to an intersection near the British Museum in modern London.

Left click on the Placemark once. That should open a marquee. Click the link to the sound file and play it. Note information and await further instructions!

Write a Review!

Want to write a review of the Camden Canal Market? Here is an opportunity on the most open architecture forum I've seen so far.

Monday, April 20, 2009

1827 Snow Area With 2009 Tracks

This is the area we visited on our first geocache. Notice how consistent things have been. This is the Greenwood's map of 1827 overlay with my tracks of March 31st, 2009. Clicking on the thumbnail reveals a respectably high-resolution larger image. But Google Earth provides a dynamic larger image in which, for example, one can "play" the blue route and move along the pathways as they were in 1827.

John Snow Pump Area

Using a static image rather than a dynamic one, here is the John Snow Pump area shown on the 1827 map. I will add my tracks of March 31st on a subsequent post.

Geocaches in the Regent's Canal Area

Clicking on the Title link should open a Google map in the vicinity of Regent's Park with Geocaches in that area. You should be able to scroll the map east to look around the Camden Town area still near the Canal.

Using Google Earth Exported Images

It has not been possible to export a dynamic image from Google Earth containing, for example, overlays of the 1842 London map. But I've exported some images which may bridge the gap. The first shows the blue track of my walk from west to east back to my apartment on Saturday. It is successfully overlayed on the 1842 map.

The second image is a zoom of the first in the area of the zoo. It is still possible to see my 2009 track over the 1842 map.

The black slider on the zoom is the new "time line feature of Google Earth 5.0. It permits you to "slide" from earlier information to later information. (But only over the past few years. The historical time lines with Rome, for example, are shown in other ways. )

Using Panoramio

Clicking on the Title link should bring you to a Panoramio page which features the two photos I took on the two prime meridians on the left side and a Google map showing the georeferenced thumbnails of these two pictures.

There are many applications that now enable you to add geo-referenced photos. Panoramio is one of them along with the major players Picasa and Flickr. The question is whether Panoramio is quicker or easier to use. It may be!

Restaurant Review

Clicking on the title of this post will bring you to Timeout's review page of TAS Bloomsbury. Here is where to post your review. There are many possible places, but this one is (a) influential (b) provides room for a short review and (c) permits an evaluation. Therefore, you should approach this seriously and judiciously. The TAS Bloomsbury website is here.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Grand Union Canal Regent's Canal

Our next Geocaching outing (weather permitting) will be on the London Canals. Click on the thumbnail for details (for those interested) of my walk along a canal towpath west of Regent's Park all the way to the Fengshang restaurant (at about 1:00 o'clock on the map on the curve around Regent's Park) and then back to my flat.

I propose starting by looking for the "Splish splash grand union canal Hammersmith" Geocache (GCV6TC) and then continuing to look for other caches en route to Camden Lock. The canal system is quite intriguing and I think you'll enjoy the area around Little Venice, the London Zoo and Camden Lock.

Greenwich Hemispheric Explorations Ground Track

I was pleased to discover that my Garmin 60Csx had recorded our exploration across the two Prime Meridia.

Clicking on the thumbnail will bring you to a page in which you can choose how to view the track. If you choose the "Dashboard" option, then you can replay the walk, including stops, such as when Priscilla worked out the final coordinates of the mystery place which we visited last. Note we returned more directly, i.e., down the hill.

The average walking speed is calculated. It turns out to be about 3.1 miles an hour. This is leisurely by British standards. I suspect that a comparable track at the end of our stay will be about 3.6 or so. Nevertheless, most British walkers on the "open sidewalk" will do at least 4 mph.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

A Performance of Handel's Theodora at St. Martin-in-the-Fields

A blue handbill was thrust into my hands last Thursday when I was walking through Trafalgar Square. Normally I resist, but this time I didn't and when I looked at it I saw that it was advertising a performance of Handel's Theodora, an oratorio about the Christian martyr Theadora and her Roman soldier/lover Didymus. This is rarely performed (one begins to surmise why) and I knew I would be back to hear it.

It was possible to get a ticket for the performance on the night of the performance in this popular area. Trafalgar Square was still quite crowded, even in the rain when I got there. St. Martin-in-the-Fields is across the street from the National Gallery which was looming over the square in the diminishing light. The Belmont Ensemble performed, and by candlelight, an ambiance not to be resisted. The performers were brought out and in due course (bows, shuffling, rustling, some last-minute coughs) the performance began.

The story is improbable. Theodora refuses to participate in a pagan festival and so liable to the ire of Valens, the governor of Roman occupied Antioch. Didymus takes her part. Septimus, who has to enforce this, would like to be tolerant. This cannot end well. We know Theadora and Didymus will have to die together.

But this is not opera, yet. It is an oratorio. Lines are sung rather than sung/acted. Can the music carry the interest of the audience? I found that it could. It was entrancing, in fact. Richard Rowntree sang a remarkable tenor joined with Elizabeth Weisberg in two memorable duets. I returned with interest after the intermission and found that Handel, the musical showman of the Royal Fireworks Music, had saved the better for last. We were spared the agonies of dying (as we might not have been in opera) in an a set of abstract but beautiful closing pieces. Handel said that he preferred this oratorio over The Messiah.

Wikipedia has a full entry on Theodora which I was actually able to read on my iPhone before the performance began. More surprisingly, there is a video recording of "New Scenes of Joy" from the oratorio on You Tube which is accompanied by the the score moving along to the music. (I of course left this for later.)

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The New Prime Meridian and the Old British Empire

Here my students are rightly celebrating the discovery of the "new" Prime Meridian, some 300 feet from the one at the Royal Observatory at Greenwich. But you ask, where are the markers? The signage? The hoopla that should go with the establishment of a new foundational marker?

Well, of course, there isn't any! And therein lies a tale. In the 19th century, Britain was the leader among trading nations and responsive to the infrastructure needs necessary to support that trading, including navigation. Remember the story of the navigational chronometer which made the calculation of longitude possible? It was invented by a Brit whose tale was told in the bestseller, Longitude. If you can measure the sun's declination at noon Greenwich time and know what the time difference is between where you are and Greenwich, then you can calculate your longitude. Latitude was always easier to calculate, so with the invention of the nautical chronometer, navigation become much, much more accurate.

Thus the Prime Meridian, "0" longitude became important. It was the basis for most map making from the 1850's on except for the French (not unexpectedl). Visitors come in large numbers to stand astride this meridian, one foot in the eastern, the other in the western hemisphere.

But if on your pilgrimage to the PM you bring your GPS unit and hold it above this "0" meridian, you will discover, as I did a few years ago, that your GPS unit will not show "0"! This is indeed puzzling and returned a variety of answers when I raised the question why this was so on a list of geocachers. Looking back, some of the responses were quick and careless talking about an "acceptable margin of error." But the error necessary to produce the readings I got would have to be over 300 feet, not the 30 to 40 feet error that is part of all civilian system readings (as you own GPS will typically inform you).

Interestingly, the longitude shown on your GPS continues to approach "0" as you walk east of the Prime Meridian. When I first noticed this, I followed the "drop" until it reached "000 00.0000 on my GPS. I looked over my shoulder. Sure enough, there all of the visitors still were huddled over the "Prime Meridian" about 300+ feet west of me. What was happening?

Well in fact it is a well documented and predictable event. It has to do with the way in which the surface of the globe is mapped to provide the world-wide accuracy of "WGS84" the basis for our GPS units. It it a compromise which enables greater accuracy over-all than if the British system of mapping the earth's surface were used.

The result is that the WGS84 "Prime Meridian" is 300+ feet to the east where my class found it. They are making their own visual graphic of where the line would be, because it is not marked. The Observatory is loathe to grant that there may be other standards besides the famous one which attracts the visitors.

So which standard is the "real" one? (One of my students asked this with some indignation, as though there had perhaps been a lie or a cover-up!) In fact, they are co-existing different standards, caluculated in different ways. One, however, is superseding the other. WGS84 is used by airlines, ships, not to speak of cars with their increasing use of navigational aids. It is now the defacto standard of the world. It is the "new" Prime Meridian. But my students had to create their own signage at Greenwich, since Greenwich is reluctant to move with the times.

For an excellent article on this that provides more than I do, incudling a description of a precession of "new" prime meridia leading up the famous one of 1851 see Tom Standage's 1998 piece called "The Real Millennial Bug."

Here's my GPS on the "Old" Prime Meridian, by the way. It's a bit hard to read but shows something like 0.00151 of decimal degrees longitude rather than "0.00000" decimal degrees.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

A Quick Update on Posting

I've excluded some drafts that you may have been alerted to. This is to save the reader grief from long loading times and recalcitrant gadgets!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Madness and Modernity at the Wellcome Trust

I couldn't resist visiting the "Madness and Modernity" exhibit just down the street from where I live. It is quite interesting and very well curated. I'll be adding to this posting.

Sunday evening. The exhibit starts (almost literally) in a Viennese Insane Asylum. We join the inmates on circumscribed walks through an intense video reenactment. Thence, to two remarkably well laid out refuges for the insane, or different. The exhibit asks again, directly and insistently, what is it to be insane (or be be considered insane)?

Two themes emerge: the attempt through mechanical devices to create order and harmony in the lives of the disturbed and Freud's own my laid back approach in which he abandons physiology for a "mental" cure. This brings back memories of Jeff Masson's own assault on Freud for leaving actual memories for possible fantasies.

The Jimmy Buffet Hawaii Tour

This is not a plug for the music of Jimmy Buffet. But he has put together (or permitted to be put together) the best single highlighting to date that I've been able to find of Google Earth's Touring capabilities. This does not appear to work in the browser plus-in version. The sound pulls resources away from everything else. But it runs pretty well in Google Earth. In any case, you can really get the idea.

Tours like this one are packaged in a *.kmz file. If there is a lot of sound and multimedia, the *.kmz file file can be pretty big. That's the case with this one. It is over 8 megs, not a trivial size for an attachment. It should be served. As it turns out, it is available at the title link of this post and also the Google Earth Icon.

Be prepared to mute your sound. The music starts LOUD.

Overlays in Google Earth -- Instructions, no Plug-In

I've not been successful in recording a tour which loads the Rumsey Overlay seamlessly. But it is relatively easy to do so manually in Google Earth. Make sure you have the most recent release which is Google Earth 5.

  • Open Google Earth and fly to London
  • Look to the lower left. Find "Layers"
  • Uncheck all of the options except for "Terrain"
  • Click on the "+" beside "Galleries"; Look for "Rumsey" collection
  • Enable the Rumsey Collection by checking on the box to the left of it.
  • You should now see a medallion in the vicinity of London: if not, zoom out.
  • Left Click once on the medallion; a Placemark should pop up.
  • Left Click once on the thumbnail of the map (you are instructed to do so in blue, but that's hard to read).
  • The 1842 map should now appear as an overlay of London.
  • It should also appear as a file in "Temporary Places."
  • Highlight the file in "Temporary Places"; right click it and
  • "Save to My Places"
  • Now it is on your computer; when the 1842 map is checked, it will overlay modern London.
  • Uncheck it, and the overlay disappears, but the file remains; the key is the get this file on your computer. The "Tour" tool can't seem to replicate this step.
  • Now check it.
  • Now move around London of 150 years ago!

How those who are following this Blog are Linked In

When you first go to you'll get a view (I think) that shows all activity. For example today, you'll see Paulina's last two posts to HER blog. Scroll down a bit and you'll see Gustav's most recent posts to HIS blog, and so on. And of course you'll see references to my most recent posts on MY blog.

It occurs this way because I follow your blogs in my blog. As others besides Gustav and Paulina come on line, I'll follow them as well and what they post on their blogs is mirrored on mine. Simple? Right! No problem!

Google Tours with a Lot of Sound Overwhelm Resources!

Some of you might have had a glimpse at the Jimmy Buffet example with sound. The sound comes through loud and clear, but sucks up the resources necessary for Google Earth to do the Flying, at least on my laptop with modest bandwidth. So I've saved the last two posts in draft form so that won't lock up your computers. I'll continue to experiment and keep you posted. It is a neat idea: generate a tour by recording all movements in Google Earth, including your narration. Save this is a *.kmz file using Google Earth. "Serve" that file from your website. Prepare that in such a way that the tour appears in a window in your browser. Neat.

There shouldn't be an issue with regular workstations and robust broadband, by the way. In the meantime, you can have a sense of what you might have heard on the fully enabled Buffet Tour by playing the one still posted here accompanied by his "Margarita ville" as generated from some other sound source!

Embedding Google Tours

You will hear more about Google Tours. This is a fast-breaking story. There is now a Google Gadget that will enable the embedding of Google Tours into your web browser. This means that you don't have to open Google Earth to play a tour; rather, you can play it in an embedded window in your browser (if you have the Google Earth player plug-in, of course). This promises to be a quick way to have access to touring content. But getting the Google Gadget to work is another matter. In this draft, I'll see if in HTML view, this Blog spot will accept the script. Yes, it did! But there is no sound. I think that is because the file I am serving does not contain the MP3 sound. I will leave this posting up, however. I suspect that the sound will slow down the flying a bit, so I'll update this link with sound separately.

Friday, April 10, 2009

The Churchill War Rooms Museum

It was a rainy day here in London, but the War Rooms Museum has been high on my list, so I headed off for it in late morning. I took a leisurely bus route via Oxford Circus, stopped by the Bond Tube (Jubilee line closed for maintenance this Good Friday.) Bussed over to Marble Arch and then south to Buckingham Palace area, St. James' Park and to the Whitehall and the War Rooms, which I thought were fascinating. The organizers chose well, created and buttressed the area and hunkered down in the fall of '40. The Home Security Officer really believed that Germany would invade in mid-September. There are entries from his diary on the 13, 14, 15 of September and they are agonizing. He feels the weight of defending against the invasion. Skip to mid-October. A tentative sigh of relief. Germany would not invade Britain but would turn its attention to Russia.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

IPhone Idiosyncrasies

I just browsed the Google maps link. It does not display dynamically as it does my laptop. Further, when you click on it, you do go to Google Maps but none of the waypoints are displayed.

Collaboration on Maps

Google Maps offers a "collaboration" feature. Everybody looks at the same map. Once I enable the "change" function, it is possible for collaborators to add waypoints and annotations. We are trying this out. The invitation to my students is in the mail!

Using Google Maps in this Blog

Google has done an excellent job in creating complementary applications. Google Maps is quite powerful and allows you to create your own maps of particular areas and then save points of interest to them.

I've created a map which I called Tower Hill but it includes a wide area around Tower Hill. On it I've placed certain points of interest including the location of Tiles 14 and 15 which are part of the Roamin' the Roman Wall in London geocache.

After saving the points of interest to the map, I was invited to create a link to this map. I created the link and copied and pasted it in the "Edit Html" area at the bottom of that page. See if it works for you.

If it does, then a lot of personalized "Points of Interest" (POI) can be quickly and easily shared.

Tiles 14 and 15 contain coordinates in both fully decimal and minutes and decimal degrees.

View Tower Hill in a larger map

Ideas for Future Geocaching Sites - Chaucer and the Tabard Inn

I have thought about one or more geocaches along one of the pilgrim's routes alluded to by Chaucer in the Canterbury Tales. In fact the "Pilgrim's Way" would take us out of London, but there are many references that could be used in some interesting geocaches.

Follow the title link to the Wiki article on the Tabard. Looks like we can find The George pub. The Tabard was right next door. You all remember the Middle English?

Bifel that in that season on a day,
In Southwerk at the Tabard as I lay
Redy to wenden on my pilgrymage
To Caunterbury with ful devout corage,
At nyght was come into that hostelrye
Wel nyne and twenty in a compaignye
Of sondry folk, by aventure yfalle
In felaweshipe, and pilgrimes were they alle,
That toward Caunterbury wolden ryde;
The chambres and the stables weren wyde,
And well we weren esed atte beste;

Greenwich Hemispheric Explorations

Next week we will focus our geocaching efforts on Greenwich and the mysteries of the Prime Meridian. Stay tuned!

Roamin' the Roman Wall in London

Before London was London, London was Roman. In fact I had a sense of Deja Vu at the Museum of London when I encountered a plaque about the Romans building a fort in order to deal with the indigenous tribes. In this case, not Indians, but their tribal counterparts in Britain.

London is absolutely beautiful this time of year. This morning I walked along some segments of the old Roman wall before our geocaching outing tomorrow. Curiously, more of the old wall is evident now than a few years ago owing to construction and preservation. A few years ago, some twenty tiles were placed near segments of the wall, so that virtually of the extent segments could be viewed. Our geocache depends upon Tiles 14 and 15 in particular, which are near the Barbican. (No more hints, guys!)

The flowering trees are near one of these tiles along a modern water feature which hints at the moat that once existed here.

I've continued to upload some 8x10" and larger 300 dpi images to Picasa Web which can be found here.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Tate Modern Revisited

Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster’s “TH.2058,” at the Tate Modern is much harder to describe than the activist art at the Saatchi. It is installed in the Tate Modern’s cavernous exhibition space on the eastern part of the ground floor. It consists of a Calder-like soaring red sculpture and a malevolent, giant spider intertwined.

Plus a complete replication of a dinosaur skeleton. Plus a 32 minute big-screen video playing continuously “The Last Film” which includes selections from Alphaville, Le Chant du styrene, Electronic Labyrinth, TX 1138 4EB, and-did I mention it?- Invasion of the Body Snatchers (just to name a few).

And the beds. Fold in several hundred metal double-decker cots complete with reading material such as Ursula LeGuin’s Lathe of Heaven. What do we have here?

Well, one answer is “nothing.” But this provides closure too abruptly. We have some sort of dystopia here, occasioned by, or simply envisioned, in all of these science-fiction narratives and capped off in the films: violence, the atomic “flash”; the message in Planet of the Apes…

Gonzalez-Foerster leads us in a recapitulation of the emotive cycle: from Sci-Fi beginnings to the endless rain imagined in 2058, the year for which the exhibition is named.

The Saatchi Revisited

Some exhibits grow on one. Others inviegle revisiting by sheer puzzlement. Such are the exhibits at the Saatchi and Tate Modern. The Saatchi, you will remember, is hosting a series of 3-month exhibitions on particular themes. Running until early May is “Unveiled: New Art from the Middle East.” It is not a screaming revolutionary art show. But it is revolutionary.

You will remember the women’s “shrouds” that contain an iron or a broom or a pair of rubber dish-washing gloves rather than faces. Shadi Ghadirian complements these images with those of women in royal clothes and royal apartments pushing a vacuum clearner of listening to a boom box. The image of “royal woman” is objectified in the Kantian sense into an instrument.

Equally interesting are a set of drawings done by Tala Madani. These are of imaginary secret men’s meetings. There is one called “Ice Cream” which caricatures a men’s meeting by filling it with streams of pink and brown paint. We are told that the strawbery-chocolate colours of Neapolitan gelato conjur a Mafioso affiliation, “its sickly sweet gore transforming [a] blood bath to festive delight.”
Another, called “Holy Light” pictures another secret men’s meeting, this time with a “golden shower” pouring over them. According to the notes, “Madani renders this scene with minimal detail, the painting’s crude content becoming a loaded approach to formalism.” Perhaps the word is “unloaded”?

Monday, April 6, 2009

What is the Best Photo Sharing Application?

I vote for Picasa Web. I uploaded the high resolution versions of the images that appear in this Blog and it went quite quickly. You can find those images here. I couldn't do that in the same period of time with Flickr.

Interesting, the Blog application used Picasa Web without my knowledge as a place to store the images I post. This is not surprising, since Google and Picasa are partners. You can find this album here.

Also interesting is Picasalino, an iPhone App that uploads photos from your iPhone to a directory on Picasa called "Working". You may find that here. (If, of course, the permissions are set appropriately in all of these cases! We'll find out.)

National Gallery Favorites

Holbein's "The Ambassadors" has always intrigued me because of the memento mori in the lower right hand section of the painting. If you stand parallel to the right edge of the painting and look down over your right shoulder, you will see the strange gray shape resolve itself into a skull.

The process is quite tolerant. If one were to print a small edition of this large canvas, it would still be possible to get this effect.

The National Gallery has been quite proactive with Podcasts associated with their key paintings. Here is a two-minutes overview of this painting. I find that the shorter podcasts work better, though there is a whole set of longer ones. See the Home page of the National Gallery for more details.

How Accessible Should A Gallery's Images Be?

Years ago when I was a Trustee of the Pacific Asia Museum, the director said to me, "Why should we put any of our images on line? Then no one would come and see the real images!" In fact, this is not an implausible response to the idea that you can put ALL of a museum's images online and in high definition, too. Aren't you then rendering your museum superfluous?

Well, it appears over time that museums are becoming much less anxious about sharing their images over the web. The National Gallery here in London has an especially strong web presence with easy availability of even very high resolution images (although the "download" versus "streaming" controversy is present here, too. It's hard to save those hi-res pics.

My exercise here is to use a downloaded thumbnail to refer back to the information about the image, including access to a hi res view at least.

What the Saatchi Gallery Isn't Showing

There are degrees of being a provocateur, I suppose. Charles Saatchie has certainly relished being one. But the sheer outrageousness that defined the Saatchie Gallery five years ago when it was nestled next to the Dali Gallery and London Eye is no longer present in Chelsea.

In particular, Marc Quinn's "Self" is no longer showing. This is his self portrait done in 9 pints of his own blood, frozen within a transparent mask, and sitting on top of a refrigeration unit. (Which, word has it, was turned off at least once.) And did I say that the blood was rumored (or should I say "rumoured") to be HIV positive? (It was not.)

Anyway, this is the world of the YBA - Young British Artist. And it seems past, not present.

Quinn's sculpture is not confined to the organic. He has a series of Kate Bush in bronze, though painted white. Here is one. This is part of the "Sphinx" series. Ms. Bush is in quite good shape, but Quinn had to hire a professional contortionist to get the particular effects that he wanted.

He now is working on a furniture line, done in marble, a bit pricey, but interesting.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Tower Walk in Google Earth using KMZ

So I've taken the next step. If you click on the thumbnail of the Tower Walk this time it should initiate a download of a *.KMZ file. This in turn will launch Google Earth (if you have it installed). When Google Earth loads, it will open the Tower Walk *.KMZ file and fly to that place.

The *.KMZ file has all of the information the *.GPX file has, and the potential for holding more information. Plus, it will launch Google Earth, whereas as *.GPX file typically won't. So just click on the thumbnail and watch Google Earth rev up.

The Tower Walk in Google Earth

Google Earth remains the most powerful viewer of tracks and such, so viewing the Tower walk in Google Earth is a good thing, too. You don't have access to your velocity at key points in the track, as in MotionBased, but you do have better sense of the terrain and can add additional overlays.

Prior to the most recent release, you had to pay $20/year for the privilege of uploading your GPS tracks to Google Earth. With Release 5.0 this is no longer true and you can open GPX files in Google earth. But the question is how does one have access to the GPX file?

I could send it to you as an attachment to an email. You could export it from Motionbased Dashboard and then open it on your computer with Google Earth. Or, it could be "served" from a website. Try this as a test.

I'll save the Tower Walk to my Google Sites page. I'll link the thumbnail graphic to the file on that page. If all goes well, clicking on the thumbnail should "serve" the GPX file to Google Earth (unless you have another application set up to read GPX files, which you may well have). In that event, you may simply be asked what you want to do with the file. If so, save it in a place you can find and then open it with Google Earth.

A better alternative, is to make the GPX file into a KMZ file which will be recognized by Google Earth and opened directly in it. I'll do that in a future posting.

Tracking and Graphing Walks

There are a variety of ways to show cycling and hiking tracks. Bikely is an excellent way to share tracked routes, but you usually need to put in turns from your raw GPX track. Motionbased has the neatest player, but it works only on the Internet Explorer, though this might change in the future.

I'd like to embed the Motionbased player in this Blog-page, but I think that's a bit trickly. In fact, there are three players, one in Beta. But I can include the "Link to this page" to a graph of my walking around the Tower of London. The Old Mint area (Part I of the Multi-Cache we are doing) is to the right.

If all goes well, when you launch the above link, it will take you to a Motionbased launch link where you have thumbnail of the route (around the Tower) and some choices about how to play the link. Motionbase's forte is their SVD player, which does not, alas, play on Firefox.

The thumbnail should also get you to the SVD player page. Coming up will be some thoughts about the trail apps for the iPhone.

The iPhone as a GPS Device

The iPhone is a tantalizingly useful GPS device. First of all, it is being used with one hand tied behind its back, as it were. This is because I've turned off data-roaming for the present. This is because I've exceeded my 7 MG pro-rated quota by a meg or so. I'll have 20 megs as of April 7th, but it is very easy to use 1-2 megs at a time getting a map under the pulsing blue dot.

What is interesting is that the the roaming 3G continues to take GPS fixes via UK Vodophone. I don't think there is an additonal charge for this, but it hasn't shown up in the usage stats or in the ATT wireless online statement (though it runs several days behind). The iPhone mapping app (integrated with Google maps) typically would gather the needed information by wi-fi and display a route over a detailed map. I would often calculate a route (as I did this morning) and then head out.

But with data-roaming turned off and no wi-fi, no map fills in. BUT the blue dot continues on along the route-track! The track will continue, as will the blue dot, off the edges of the known universe, i.e., off of the stored map surface. But the route remains intact, along with distances and turns, just over a gray background. This means the the iPhone does work WITHOUT data roaming turned on. Quite efficiently, too. The battery remains charged for a long period of time.

It's fun, too, to suddenly discover the map filling in under the route! This occured near the Fengchang restaurant when my iPhone captured a free wi-fi hot spot - automatically, as always. Suddently, I had my map overlay (or underlay) in the vicinity of Regent's Park. I could see the park and park features there. Alas, the phenomenon didn't last long and I was back to gray surface, but again with my route track and directions intact. The iPhone would be full-featured as a GPS unit if it passed by a series of wi-fi hotspots (would Panera's ever alternate with Starbuck's -- ah well, Starbuck's is still mostly T-Mobile, which is not free). But the routing feature even over a gray background is still useful.

My Garmin 60Csx, by the way, was quite frustrating on this outing. It was slow and was continually baffled by tall buildings. It was possible to "find" a particular restaurant (though the Fengchang was not in the database) or tube stop, but it requres quite a bit of time inputing the inquiry information and the Garmin doesn't give stable, consistent responses. As a result I had quite a long detour near the East Aldgate underground to which I was directed because of the closing of the Circle, District, and Hammersmith lines this Sunday.

A couple of days ago, I approached the Tower of London from Aldgate and snapped a picture of Traitor's Gate when I got there.

Canal Walk

North Gower Street is not far from Regent's Park, where I started a walk this morning to the Primrose Hill area. London has a truly surprising amount of open space in the many parks. Regent's Park includes Winfield House which is the Ambassador's residence and where Barack Obama stayed recently.

While walking from North Gower to Primrose Hill, I passed by the Fengchang Chinese restaurant which is on the Regent's Canal. After summiting Primrose Hill, I looked forward to lunch there and found it uncrowded, pleasant with good food. A Thai-style Basil Chicken with white rice was 13.50 BP including service. After lunch I dropped down to canal level from a stairway a bit west of the restaurant.

I headed east to get to the Camden Town Underground station. It was wonderful to walk along the canals again, but I did have some misgivings since this was Sunday, the day of the Camden Market which has continued to grow since I was last in London in 2004. The Camden Town Tube station is often overwhelmed. So I hoped for the best. Here is a shot of the canal just east of the Fengchang restuarant.

The Canal route is really a shortcut to the Camden Town Station and I soon found myself in the Camden Lock area and the beginnings of the crowds from the market, not lessened by being well into the early afternoon. The crowds were good natured in the vicinity of Camden Lock 17. [Above]

At the Saatchi - Monumental Pop Sculpture

The Saatchi does have a room with some non-traveling exhibits, including this monumental paper sculpture depicting modern sloth. (Yes, sloth.)

London Geocaching

My 362 class is currently at work on a multi-part cache

Catastrophe, Calamity, Cataclysm Part 1 by rodz (adopted from Daoloth & Tuna) (GC5E4A)
Catastrophe, Calamity, Cataclysm Part 2 by rodz (adopted from Daoloth & Tuna) (GC5E4B)
Catastrophe, Calamity, Cataclysm Part 3 by rodz (adopted from Daoloth & Tuna) (GC5E4D)
Catastrophe, Calamity, Cataclysm Part 4 by rodz (adopted from Daoloth & Tuna) (GC5E4E)
Catastrophe, Calamity, Cataclysm- The Prize! by rodz (adopted from Daoloth & Tuna) (GC5E3C)

[The links above appear to be active, but aren't. I'll check this out. In the meantime, you can go to and search for these by keyword or by the cache number (last number in parentheses on the right)]

The first four parts take you to various parts of London en route to collecting information that will enable the analytic searcher to determine the position of an actual physical cache. Quite a variation on a theme (though the physical cache is in a Tupperware container).

We actually started with Part 4 which took us to the site of the water pump which was the source of a cholera epidemic in 1853. John Snow, the discoverer of chloroform, by the way, was the physician who actually inferred that cholera was not propagated by "miasma" (bad air), but by something in the water. By turning off the water in Soho, he closed off the source of the epidemic and the death count dropped, a stunning achievement. (It still took several years for the "miasma" theory to be fully abandoned, however.)

A central contribution of Snow was the epidemiological map showing the number of deaths radiating out from a central point (the pump on what was then 40 Broad Street, now Broderick Street). It's possible now to overlay this map in Google Earth, as well as the Greenwood map of 1827 and a London map from the Rumsey collection from about 1842. Stay tuned!

The Tate Modern -- No More Rothko Room!

The Tate Modern no longer has that wonderful set of Rothkos in a single room. In fact, it only has a single Rothko, now at least. The rest are heading to Japan for an exhibit.

There are still some wonderful things here, including an example from Francis Bacon's early work in the '30s. I'll be returning to the Tate soon. We'll see about pictures.

In London -- The New Saatchi

I learned early on that the Saatchi Gallery, nicely located next to the London Eye, had moved. In fact, a new building has been built and opened near Sloane Square in Chelsea. But it does not, as I learned, include the Marc Quinn and Damian Hirst pieces for which the gallery had become famous.

The physical space, layout, everything else about the new building is just awesome. It is huge, full of light, regular, large exhibitions spaces on two floors with great lawn space in front. But the exhibition philosophy has changed. There will now be rotating exhibits every three months or so. The Marc Quinn self-portrait in frozen blood is no longer available. The Chapman Brothers, Hirst, others are all gone or in storage. What is on exhibit now are works by Iranian artists (YIA's after the YBA's of yore).

My favorite piece of this exhibition was a room full of "shrouds" constructed of aluminum foil. They could be of figures praying, or hunched in death. (Remember the shrouds in "Black Hole" the movie?) [Right]

But the view from the front is in many ways more interesting. The ghostly "nothingness" of the faces becomes apparent. [Left]

I was interested to discover that the Saatchi permits cameras and pictures. I think this is a good thing, though I happily didn't see any flashes.

Among other images I remember were those deconstructing the image of women. Again, Shrouds were prominent, but instead of faces were items of domestic enslavement: a broom [Top -- an iPhone picture, excuse the fuzziness!] , an iron, and so on.