Night Music: Blue Rondo A La Turk

December 12, 2014

Dave Brubeck, Paul Desmond and the rest are just so fine on this live version of a really complex piece in 9/8 time.


Twitter’s Attenuated World

December 12, 2014

A few weeks ago I came across an app that appealed to my map making sense.  It is called Tweetping and shows the location of all tweets in real time.   Visit the site and take a look; it’s fun..

I was interested in seeing how the amount of tweets changed geographically over time and so I allowed the app to run for a full hour at different times of the day: 9:00am to 10:00am, 6:30pm to 7:30pm;  9:30pm to 10:30pm, and 2:00am to 3:00am — all times Pacific standard.  The pictures below are the screen captures of the app at the end of each of those hours.

Twitter mapsThe essence of each map is the same, with a few smaller regional differences between the timings. Tweets are concentrated in North America, southern South America, Europe, Turkey, the Gulf, Japan and an arc in South East Asia.

More particularly, it shows a number of non-Twitter regions. Some are easily understood; for example, the northern edges of North America and Euro-Asia, the interior of Australia and most of Africa are areas where modern “development” is way behind the rest of the world.  The spaces, blank and otherwise, in Asia are more interesting.

China is missing from this map because China has its own version of Twitter called Weibo, the tweets from which are not included. I am sure the map would look remarkably different if Weibo’s stats were available (note that tweetping is working on this).  The blank spaces to the west of China cover the disturbed regions of Afghanistan, Pakistan, the Caucusus and Iran/Iraq.

What’s the point of all this?  Not sure, really, except to note that when we tweet, no matter how many followers we have, we are talking only to a small subset of the world. No doubt we already, but these maps show just how limited our reach actually is.

What Are We Doing To Our Planet? #1

December 12, 2014

drought groundEvery week it seems I come across more and more newspaper and journal articles describing the destruction of our planet by human activity.   I have decided to link here the ones that catch my eye each week.  The following items were collected in just the last four or five days. I don’t have any great expectations that putting these pieces up here will change the trajectory of global suicide that we are on, and I have no science background to offer, but getting the news out seem like the least I can do.

I’ll begin by following up on my previous post on the Plastic Ocean, there have been updated researches on the amount of plastics we are dumping into the seas.  There are, literally, trillions of pieces of plastics — large and small — in oceans, weighing a quarter billion tons.  “Our findings show that the garbage patches in the middle of the five subtropical gyres are not the final resting places for the world’s floating plastic trash. The endgame for micro-plastic is interactions with entire ocean ecosystems,” says Marcus Eriksen, PhD, Director of Research for the 5 Gyres Institute.  As Captain Moore and others have shown, these plastics degrade very slowly, and because of trade secrecy laws, we have no idea what base elements may be released as the degredation goes on.

Also in the sea, scientists are discovering that climate change may be about to release enormous amounts of methane previously trapped frozen beneath the sea bed. “Researchers found that water off the coast of Washington is gradually warming at a depth of 500 meters, about a third of a mile down. That is the same depth where methane transforms from a solid to a gas. The research suggests that ocean warming could be triggering the release of a powerful greenhouse gas. We calculate that methane equivalent in volume to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill is released every year off the Washington coast,” said Evan Solomon, a UW assistant professor of oceanography.

Talking about the release of methane gas, researchers have found that abandoned oil wells could be another major source of this dangerous greenhouse gas.  “After testing a sample of abandoned oil and natural gas wells in northwestern Pennsylvania, the researchers found that many of the old wells leaked substantial quantities of methane. Because there are so many abandoned wells nationwide (a recent study from Stanford University concluded there were roughly 3 million abandoned wells in the United States) the researchers believe the overall contribution of leaking wells could be significant.”

More general global climate change data has been released, showing that temperature fluctuations are being affected. In addition, early warning signs of a major climate shift are coming into focus.  Recent research has also shown the problems of rapid climate change for ectotherms, those animals that require external heat. “The research showed that many groups of ectotherms, which make up more than 90 percent of all animals, are able to change their physiological function to cope with an altered environment, but the rapid pace and fluctuations of human-induced climate change present serious challenges.

Just a week’s worth of bad news for the planet.  Are we really that dumb?

The Assassination of Painting

December 12, 2014

I have to be honest up front and say that I have never liked or appreciated the work of Joan Miro.  However, the critical analysis surrounding a major show — “Joan Miró: Painting and Anti-Painting 1927-1937” — at MOMA, New York, has done its work and gotten me interested.

The exhibition illustrates, step by step, exactly how Miró stalked and attacked painting — zapped its conventions, messed up its history, spoiled its market value — through 12 distinct groups of experimental works produced over a decade. If, in the end, painting survived, that’s neither here nor there. The story’s the thing. Crisp, clear and chronological, the show reads like a combination of espionage yarn and psychological thriller set out in a dozen page-turning chapters,

says Holland Cotter in the New York Times.  The first seven pieces in the show display Miro getting rid, more or less, of paint.   The next set shows what Cotter calls the elimination of “skill”:

The wood panel used as a support in a piece called “Spanish Dancer I” is covered with a sheet of colored paper. A small rectangle of plain sandpaper is tacked on top of it. Glued to the sandpaper is a tiny cutout image of a woman’s shoe. That’s about it: no paint, almost no image, almost no artist.

Cotter notes additional series seemingly aimed at destroying standard notions of art history, collages and sculpture.

By 1934, collage, assemblage, drawing and painting had blurred together into freakish hybrids that seem products less of objective experiment than of pathological obsession. Two drawing-collages on reflective paper from this time have an unhinged, fun-house look. A third, of uncertain date, combines ripped paper-doll figures with tied-on cardboard paint tubes resembling cartridge shells. The whole piece looks derelict and must have even when new.

Another set of over-sized pastels are followed by colourful painted miniatures.  Then:

He makes just one more murderous lunge at tradition, in a series of paintings on Masonite panels from 1936. The attack is very physical and feels a bit desperate. In many ways this series brings him back to 1927. The pictures are abstract; he leaves the Masonite surface mostly bare. But what he adds has changed: oil stains, vomitlike substances and fecal-looking hunks of tar and dirt. In addition he hacks away at the surface, stabbing and gouging and leaving deep ruts and splintery scars.

Cotter makes an interesting point:  As durability was one of the attributes that Miro struggled against, one has to wonder whether he expected or wanted any of these works to actually survive.

The critic completes the exhibition and declares it a marvelous tour de force.  It is not

the blockbuster slog but the experience of one artist’s creative process and the experience of an exhibition as a form of thinking. Like reading a book, the process makes you part of the trip, not just a witness to it. In this case the trip is fairly demanding but one I suspect that audiences with even a casual interest in how art is conceived and made will enjoy.

He is probably right.  I would enjoy the show for what I can learn about technique and meaning rather than from a new enjoyment of the works themselves (which I still don’t like).  And it is hard to ask more of an exhibition than that.