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  • Far Outliers notes how the new Suez Canal helped create a network of coal-using port cities across Eurasia.

  • Hornet Stories notes that Serbia's out lesbian Prime Minister, Ana Brnabic, marched in Belgrade's pride parade.

  • Joe. My. God. notes a statement by the Pentagon that transgender troops can still re-enlist for the next few months.

  • Lawyers, Guns and Money notes a fundamentally ill-thought defense of colonialism by Bruce Gilley.

  • Marginal Revolutions notes that Swedish support for the far right is linked to perceptions of foreign threats to employment.

  • Out There looks at the last days of Cassini at Saturn.

  • Personal Reflections' Jim Belshaw notes real estate shenanigans in greater Sydney.

  • Drew Rowsome has a critical, but positive, review of closeted gay author Frank M. Robinson's autobiography.

  • The Volokh Conspiracy sums up the outcome of the controversial monkey selfie copyright case.

  • Window on Eurasia suggests that Russian challenges to language legislation in Tatarstan hint at future challenges.

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  • I am impressed by the scope, if nothing else, of this plan to archive everything on Instagram. VICE reports.

  • I really hope that Instagram's The AIDS Memorial Account remains active. It's a vital online archive of who we lost. Hornet Stories reports on this account's problems.

  • Hornet Stories reports on how gay NYC comedian Matt Grote decided to play with the tropes of the Instagram hunk. Intriuging..

  • Wired notes a powerful, high-speed Google algorithm that does photo retouching very quickly. Not sure how I feel.

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  • If Greyhound pulls out of northern BC, and the rest of rural Canada, what will happen to these regions? CBC reports.

  • The militarized community policing describes in Bloomberg View in New York's famed Hamptons does say something worrisome of psyches.

  • A Bangladeshi observer makes the obvious point over at the Inter Press Service that Myanmar needs to radically change its treatment of the Rohingya.

  • Open Democracy looks at how the miliitarized US-Mexican border harms the Tohono O'odham, divided by said.

  • This Wired interview with Antonio Guillem, the photographer whose images made distracted boyfriend meme, is amazing.

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Panorama, Woodbine Beach


My Nexus 5's Photos app stitched together this panorama of Toronto's Woodbine Beach out of individual photos I had taken during last week's photo expedition to the Beaches. It did not do a bad job at all, I think, possible wonkiness in the west aside.
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  • Charley Ross reflects on the story of Carla Vicentini, a Brazilian apparently abducted from New Jersey a decade ago.

  • The Everyday Sociology Blog reflects on the concept of anomie.

  • Far Outliers looks at the southwest Pacific campaigns of 1942, and reflects on Australian-American tensions in New Guinea in the Second World War.

  • Lawyers, Guns and Money reflects briefly on the disaster in Houston.

  • The Map Room Blog links to two interesting longform takes on maps in fantasy.

  • The Power and the Money's Noel Maurer considers the extent to which urban policy has contributed to Houston's issues.

  • Roads and Kingdoms tells the story of a Shabbat celebration in Zimbabwe, and of the country's Jewish community.

  • Strange Company tells the story of the mysterious disappearance of Lieutenant Paul Byron Whipkey. What was done to him?

  • Unicorn Booty reports on how the Supreme Court of India has found people have a legal right to their orientation.

  • Window on Eurasia reports on the growing number of Russian citizens with Chinese connections.

  • Arnold Zwicky talks about Tom Bianchi's vintage Fire Island photos.

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  • Dangerous Minds points readers to Cindy Sherman's Instagram account. ("_cindysherman_", if you are interested.)

  • Language Hat takes note of a rare early 20th century Judaeo-Urdu manuscript.

  • Language Log lists some of the many, many words and phrases banned from Internet usage in China.

  • The argument made at Lawyers, Guns and Money about Trump's many cognitive defects is frightening. How can he be president?

  • The LRB Blog <"a href="https://www.lrb.co.uk/blog/2017/08/03/lynsey-hanley/labour-and-traditional-voters/">notes that many traditional Labour voters, contra fears, are in fact willing to vote for non-ethnocratic policies.

  • The NYR Daily describes a book of photos with companion essays by Teju Cole that I like.

  • Of course, as Roads and Kingdom notes, there is such a thing as pho craft beer in Vietnam.

  • Peter Rukavina notes
  • Towleroad notes a love duet between Kele Okereke and Olly Alexander.

  • The Volokh Conspiracy seems unconvinced by the charges against Kronos programmer Marcus Hutchins.

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  • Anthrodendum takes a look at how surfing has been commodified.

  • Bad Astronomer Phil Plait looks at the stellar occultation that has revealed information about MU69, the next New Horizons target.

  • Crooked Timber's Corey Robin takes issue with Mélenchon's take on anti-Semitism and the French role in the Holocaust.

  • D-Brief notes that we really are not good at detecting faked photos.

  • Dangerous Minds shares some vintage photos of strippers from the 1960s.

  • Michael Sacasas of The Frailest Things looks, again, at the technologically enchanted world.

  • Language Log takes issue with the dismissive treatment of "... in a woodpile." The expression is poison.

  • The LRB Blog looks at the dual position of the camel among the Sahrawi, as wild and tame at once.

  • Neuroskeptic looks at the problems of neuroscience, statistically.

  • The NYR Daily considers the hacking of the American vote. Who did it? Who gained?

  • Science Sushi notes that climate change threats African wild dogs' survival.

  • Window on Eurasia notes an Armenian argument that Russia lacks the soft power that the Soviet Union once enjoyed.

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  • I have limits as to what I will do to get a great photo. The limits of others may be more elastic, too much so even. VICE warns against this excessive dangerous.

  • Lifehacker shares some quick tips to people looking for obvious signs of a photograph being doctored.

  • These obviously NSFW photos from pre-AIDS New York City by Alvin Baltrop capture the ephemeral scene beautifully.

  • Niko Kallianiotis' photos of small-town Rust Belt Pennsylvania are evocative. I recognize this kind of landscape.

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  • Centauri Dreams considers the challenges and the prospects of laser SETI.

  • Citizen Science Salon reports on a couple who have done their best to keep their bee numbers up.

  • Joe. My. God. notes that Milo's book, contrary to Milo's claims, has performed very badly indeed in the UK, among other places.

  • Language Log features a poetic digression by Victor Mair on Chinese characters for words like "plum" and "wine."

  • Lawyers, Guns and Money suggests that moderate Republicans in Congress might not be all that.

  • The LRB Blog considers Nice at, and after, the time of last year's terrorist attacks.

  • Marginal Revolution features Tyler Cowen's description of his writing processes.

  • Drew Rowsome interviews Toronto gay photographer Dylan Rosser.

  • Unicorn Booty looks back at the history of the queercore movement--gay punk, as a first approximation.

  • Vintage Space links to an article explaining why there was neither an Apollo 2 nor an Apollo 3.

  • Window on Eurasia suggests the Russian state is undermining various once-allied Russian nationalist movements.

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  • Apostrophen's 'Nathan Smith updates his readers about the progress of his various writing projects.

  • The Big Picture shares photos from the Battle of Mosul waged against ISIS.

  • Centauri Dreams notes the discovery of rogue binary planet 2MASS J11193254–1137466, two super-Jupiters by themselves.

  • Dangerous Minds notes the raw photography of early 20th century New York City's Weegee.

  • Lawyers, Guns and Money is rightly unimpressed by the reflexive Russophilia of The Nation. Imperialism is still imperialism ...

  • Marginal Revolution's Tyler Cowen strongly recommends Dali, in the Chinese province of Yunnan, for tourists.

  • The NYR Daily features Masha Gessen, looking at the truth underneath the lies of Trump.

  • The Power and the Money's Noel Maurer makes a case that Macron's use of "civilizational" to describe Africa's issues might be the subject of over-quick outrage.

  • Peter Rukavina describes his two weeks with a Nokia N95, without a modern smartphone. There was good and bad to this.

  • Speed River Journal's Van Waffle explains, with photos, what hoverflies are and why they are so important.

  • Understanding Society considers a fraught question: what paths to modernization were open for China in the 1930s, before the People's Republic?

  • Window on Eurasia suggests that, in 30 years, Moscow will be a megacity with a large population of (substantially immigrant) Muslim origin.

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  • The anthropology group blog Savage Minds now has a new name, Anthrodendum.

  • Anthropology.net reports on the first major study of ancient African human DNA. New history is revealed.

  • Bad Astronomer Phil Plait reports on how gravitational lensing led to the identification of a single star nine billion light-years away. (This is a record.)

  • Centauri Dreams reports the possible detection of a debris disk around pulsar Geminga, augury of future planets perhaps?

  • Dangerous Minds reports on Seoul's Haesindang Park, a park literally full of penises--phallic symbols, at least.

  • The Dragon's Gaze notes one analysis arguing for the plausibility of unmanned probes using imaginable technology reaching the ten nearest stars in a century.

  • Imageo shares photos from space of the southern California wildfires.

  • Language Hat shares some stirring poetry in Scots.

  • Lawyers, Guns and Money reports on the scale of child labour in North Carolina's farm sector.

  • Marginal Revolution thinks that American observers of Putin think, far too much, that he actually has a plan. The degree of chaos in Russia's affairs is apparently being underestimated.

  • Personal Reflections' Jim Belshaw notes the unsettling rural Americana of photographer Gregory Crewdson.

  • Window on Eurasia notes Zhirinovsky's plan for a sweeping Russian annexation of Ukraine, leaving only the northwest independent.

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  • The Broadside Blog's Caitlin Kelly photoblogs about her trip to Berlin.

  • Dead Things reports on a recent study that unraveled the evolutionary history of the domestic cat.

  • James Nicoll notes that his niece and nephew will each be performing theatre in Toronto.

  • Language Hat has an interesting link to interviews of coders as if they were translators.

  • Marginal Revolution looks at Chinese video game competitions and Chinese tours to Soviet revolutionary sites.

  • Steve Munro shares photos of the old Kitchener trolleybus.

  • Roads and Kingdoms shares the story of the Ramadan drummer of Coney Island.

  • Savage Minds shares an essay arguing that photographers should get their subjects' consent and receive renumeration.

  • Torontoist shares photos of the Trans March.

  • Towleroad
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  • Anthropology.net reports on the recent discovery in China of two skulls a hundred thousand years old, possible remnants of a hitherto-unknown hominid species.

  • blogTO reports on the boom in the Toronto tech community.

  • Language Log breaks down the linguistics, specifically word lengths, of audiobooks.

  • Lawyers, Guns and Money reports on the difficult position of indigenous peoples in Nicaragua.

  • Marginal Revolution reports on the potential health benefits of substances in the blood of the Komodo dragon.

  • The NYRB Daily reports on the modernist photography of Berenice Abbott.

  • The Planetary Society Blog reports on the adventures of the Mars rovers.

  • Supernova Condensate takes a quick look at Jupiter's moon, Io.

  • Window on Eurasia looks at a new Russian film that transposes the superhero genre with the Soviet era, and argues that Russia is acting these days not as a constructive power but as a spoiler.

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  • In July 2009, I wrote about my reaction to the photography of Nan Goldin, as seen in a 2003 exhibition at Montréal's Musée d'art contemporain and in book format in The Ballad of Sexual Dependency, noting how her impulse to preserve the people around her in photographs is one I got.

  • In November 2010, I linked to a blog post by Andrew Barton talking about how film photography, unlike digital photography, imposed a certain discipline owing to the relative expense of film.

  • In February 2012, I noted in an article on the power of social media to drive the mass media Zeynap Tufekci's essay wondering if social networking technologies and ubiquitous video and photography will help preserve bad memories as well as the good.

  • In April 2012, I linked to an article arguing that Instagram was ultimately good for photography.

  • In January 2014, I linked to an io9 article predicting the imminent end of cameras as standalone devices.

  • In June 2015, I linked to an Open Democracy essay talking about how photography can lend structure to a chaotic world.

  • In December 2015, I defended the practice of taking photographs in art galleries, even selfies, as actions perfectly compatible with caring about the artworks that would be subjects or even backgrounds to photographs.

  • In December 2016, I linked to an article in Wired noting how the power of photographs helps spread fake news.

  • On that same day in December, I shared Burhan Ozbilici's stunning photograph of Mevlut Mert Altintas, assassin of the Russian ambassador to Turkey, praising Ozbilici's skill.

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Russell Smith's essay published in The Globe and Mail on the 25th of January, considering the claims of the selfie to cultural legitimacy, even the status of high art. I largely agree with him: There's no reason why the self-portrait is a negative form when it's a photograph, certainly not when it's a photograph that's a product of modern computing technology aided by social networking platforms. At their best, the properly-cultivated selfie really can be high art, or at least great fun.

Columnist after pundit has come out to claim that one of Obama’s many strengths was a familiarity with pop music and comedy, and an ability to goof around (as with the selfie), to appear natural and self-deprecating at the same time. He appeared on late-night talk shows, he played along with comedians (Zach Galifianakis, Key and Peele, Jerry Seinfeld), he had rappers at the White House. The guy compiled Spotify playlists (on an official White House account). This, surprisingly, did not make him look unpresidential, just cool.

This goes against the intuitive feeling that many of us – well, many of us over 40 – have when contemplating the role of the selfie in young people’s lives. The taking of many amusing, sexy or boastful phone-shots, does not look, generally, to be conducive to the obtaining of high public office. Most of the selfies we see posted by young people on their social media seem to be perpetuating a culture of narcissism. Their lack of dignity and their salaciousness, we fear, endanger their future careers.

[. . .]

Just as such anti-selfie sentiment seems to reach an apex, the Saatchi Gallery in London is planning a major exhibition, to open March 31, entirely devoted to the notion of instant self-representation in the contemporary age. It is more ambitious, though: called “From Selfie to Self-Expression.” It juxtaposes painted self-portraits – by van Gogh and Rembrandt – with staged and stylized contemporary photo self-portraiture – by Tracey Emin and June Calypso – and the candid, amateur selfies of celebrities, including Obama.

Its point is simple: that selfies are a part of a long tradition of great art. Painters have practised techniques on themselves since the invention of paint, and they have also used their own faces as vehicles for mood and self-expression. They are often vaguely defiant. (Think of all those sober, frowning painters’ faces: What are they so mad about?)

Endless photos of oneself in various guises or identities have also become a repeated form of feminist art: June Calypso shoots herself undergoing fantastical beauty regimens in luxurious bathrooms, surrounded by mirrors; Cindy Sherman poses as threatened heroines in nightmarish faux-Hollywood movies. Tracey Emin’s notorious narcissism – an oeuvre that celebrates the artist’s own trashiness – is also defiant, a challenge to received ideas about femininity. A photo of hers in the Saatchi show portrays her with legs splayed, scooping paper money into her crotch. These are in a sense commentaries on the selfie age and angry defiance of the disapproval of female vanity.
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Torontoist's Taylor Moyle described a remarkable problem, Bikes and Belonging, combining cycling with photography for newcomers. How did I miss this? Spacing had more on the project in November.

Musician Beck made an impact with two turntables and a microphone, but here in Toronto a small group of bike lovers have helped make an impact in the lives of new Canadians using two wheels and a camera phone.
About 40 people gathered at city hall on Monday to look at photos taken by people who are new to Canada and new to biking in Toronto. The exhibit, titled Bikes and Belonging, is on display in the rotunda until February 3.

The exhibit features photos from people who are new to Canada and a part of CultureLink’s 2016 Bike Host program in partnership with the Toronto Centre for Active Transportation (TCAT). The participants took pictures while riding bikes given to them by Scarborough Cycles around Toronto.

The program loaned out bicycles to newcomers for the summer. Participants were set up with a mentor cyclist to show them around the city and get them comfortable with riding in Toronto’s crowded streets and beautiful ravines.

The photography aspect of the program was created by Ryerson masters student Yvonne Verlinden, and is part of her urban planning research. She came up with the idea as she was cycling: Verlinden is a proud cyclist who is constantly visiting and photographing new places and she wanted others to share in this experience.
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Robert Everett-Green's long article in The Globe and Mail, published this September past at the beginning of the run of Focus : Perfection at the Musée des beaux-arts, places the exhibition and Mapplethorpe in their proper contexts. Recommended.

The outward focus of today’s culture war is what Muslim women should be permitted to wear on their heads or at the beach. In the late 1980s, it was whether a publicly funded museum could show art that some elected officials considered obscene.

Robert Mapplethorpe was a key figure in that fracas, which peaked when Washington’s Corcoran Gallery of Art backed out of a touring exhibition of the American photographer’s works, and police raided Cincinnati’s Contemporary Arts Cente (CAC) for going ahead with it. The radioactivity of those events, which included an obscenity charge against CAC director Dennis Barrie, clouded discussion about Mapplethorpe for years afterward.

Now that we have burkinis to quarrel about, the art tempests of a quarter-century ago seem almost quaint. But Mapplethorpe’s photos still have the power to startle and even to shock, which is why the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts put part of its retrospective Focus: Perfection – Robert Mapplethorpe behind barriers of smoked glass.

Mapplethorpe, who died at 42, shortly before the Corcoran cancelled his show in 1989, would probably have been pleased to know that some of his work is still hot to handle. He often said, when talking about his shots of faceless men encased in vinyl or fisting each other, that part of what thrilled him about the gay porn magazines he saw while growing up in Queens, N.Y., was that their explicit contents were slightly hidden: inside a plastic cover, with black bars across the models’ eyes.

The current campaign to reset the discussion about Mapplethorpe began a decade ago with a couple of serious shows in Europe, and continues with the MMFA’s iteration of a joint double exhibition by the J. Paul Getty Museum and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, drawn from a huge cache of works acquired by those institutions in 2011. An HBO documentary about the Getty/LACMA shows aired last spring, and production has started on a Mapplethorpe biopic, directed by Ondi Timoner and starring Matt Smith.
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Focus : Perfection, the touring exhibit of the works of Robert Mapplethorpe, is a brilliant exhibit. It collects the vast oeuvre of a 20th century master, presenting them for curious audiences. I was very glad to have my ticket.

IMG_20170114_132330_426


The first room at the Musée was an introduction, containing some of his photographic influences, some of his early works like a rare surviving installation, and self-portraits.

Untitled (Altarpiece)


Self-portrait, 1983


Self-portrait, 1988


An area of his polaroids contained an image of Sam Wagstaff, his lover and patron.

Sam Wagstaff, around 1972


As a photographer of celebrities and soon-to-be-celebrities, Mapplethorpe was unchallenged. (His collaborations with Patti Smith, her as subject and her as writer, did not go unnoticed in the exhibit.)

Yoko Ono, 1988


Richard Gere, 1982


Patti Smith, 1975


Patti Smith, Horses (1975)


Contact sheet, Andy Warhol and Debbie Harry


Deborah Harry, 1978


Andy Warhol, 1986


"Content Warning"


This is a safe for work blog, so there will be no images of his explicit work. I will say that, overall, I do think he succeeded in his goal of making pornography art.

Colophon, Portfolio X, by Paul Schmidt


Colophon, Portfolio Y, by Patti Smith


Colophon, Portfolio X, by Edmund White


Portfolios X, Y and Z


His turn to flowers in later years was motivated by commercial reasons--apparently Mapplethorpe disliked flowers--but he did with them what he did with other photos, his images of people and things and actions, taking images of life and imbuing the viewer with a sense of their transience.

Lily, N.Y.C.


Rose, N.Y.C.


Melody (Shoe)


Irises


Swans, The Burning World (1989)


Rose, 1987


Two vases and flower


Coral Sea, 1983


The famous 1983 contrast/compare of Ken Moody and Robert Sherman is eye-catching.

Ken Moody and Robert Sherman, 1983


The end of Mapplethorpe's exhibit, as with the end of his life, was concerned with his fame: the controversies surrounding his work, the space that he helped create for the discussion of people who were different, and, of course, the merchandise. (All the postcards were safe for work, if you're curious.)

Walls of editorial cartoons


Staircase (1)


Staircase (2)


Giftshop


Postcards
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CBC News' Amara McLaughlin describes a location in Hamilton that is apparently the locus for dangerous selfies. What does it say of me that my first reaction is happiness at learning of this spectacularly scenic place?

(I'll be safe, don't worry.)

A small, rocky outcropping above Hamilton's Tews Falls that is twice as high as the American side of Niagara Falls has become the city's go-to spot for shareable snapshots and selfiies.

Known as the Dundas Peak, the spot is attracting a steady streams of amateur photographers, dangling their feet off steep cliffs, hanging over ledges with sheer drops, climbing fences and pushing the boundaries of safety, all to get closer to the edge of the escarpment for the quintessential shot.

The peak has long been a popular local destination.

But in recent years, influenced by the desire to see breathtaking panoramic views of Spencer Gorge and capture them for social media, hundreds of people are putting themselves at risk trying to recreate what they see on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

A search of the hashtag #dundaspeak on Instagram turns up more than 10,000 pictures. Some are actual "selfies," others use friends to help get the ideal angle, but it is always about sharing a dramatic picture of yourself.
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Wired's Laura Mallonee explains how the emotive power of the photograph helps the spread of fake news.

During a campaign stop in South Carolina last winter, Hillary Clinton stumbled as she climbed the steps of an antebellum mansion in Charleston. Aides helped her regain her balance in a vulnerable but nondescript moment captured by Getty photographer Mark Makela. He didn’t think much of it until August, when the alt-right news site Breitbart touted it as evidence of Clinton’s failing health.

“It was really bizarre and dispiriting to see,” he says. “We’re always attuned to photographic manipulation, but what was more sinister in this situation was the misappropriation of a photo.”

Misappropriation and misrepresentation of images helped drive the growth of fake news. A photograph of tour buses lined up in Austin became proof that Democrats were bringing protestors to Trump rallies. Conspiracy theorists say a screenshot from a video of President Obama playing ping pong reveal his participation in a pedophilia ring operating in a Washington DC pizza parlor. (Never mind that the ring does not exist and nothing untoward has happened at the pizza place.) Some argued that an image of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta’s hands revealed his involvement in satanic rituals.

Such stories rely on images to sell bogus narratives. The people publishing and promoting fake news routinely take photos out of context, digitally alter them, or combine them with text to manipulate readers, knowing that people tend to accept photographs as truthful representations. “The images need to look legitimate enough to support the ‘realistic’ nature of the article,” says David Berkowitz of the social media company Sysomos. “If it’s too far-fetched, it won’t spread beyond the fringe, and the goal when someone is pushing fake news is to make it go mainstream.”

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