Tag Archives: art

Monkeys grasp for the moon

Washington boasts many world-class museums, but some of the most impressive are not necessarily the most visited. The Freer Gallery of Art, part of the Smithsonian Institution, is an Italian Renaissance style building just east of the Smithsonian Institution “castle” on the Washington Mall, and hosts a vast collection of amazing Asian, Near Eastern, and Egyptian art, plus some spectacular American entries. The Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, attached to the Freer Gallery, is not as obvious; with the exception of the atrium, the entire museum is underground, mostly beneath the garden behind the Smithsonian Castle.

One of the most impressive pieces in either museum is Xu Bing’s “Monkeys Grasp for the Moon,” a complex sculpture that hangs from the skylight at the top of the atrium to a fountain, several stories underground. The sculpture is composed entirely of the word “monkey” written in several different languages, with each word or character shaped to link to the next. There does not seem to be anything else holding the pieces together beyond gravity.

An iPhone 6 Plus was used to take this photo, using the panorama photo mode. Rather than go from side to side, as it was intended, the panorama began at the bottom and panned to the top. Click on the photo for a (much) larger view.

This magnificent sculpture by Xu Bing, "Monkeys Grasp for the Moon," hangs in the atrium between the Freer and Sackler Museums in Washington, DC. It is composed of 21 pieces, each showing the word "moneky" in a dozen languages, linked together using the words themselves. To photograph this several story sculpture, an iPhone was set to panorama mode, only panned from bottom to top rather than side to side.
This magnificent sculpture by Xu Bing, “Monkeys Grasp for the Moon,” hangs in the atrium between the Freer and Sackler Museums in Washington, DC. It is composed of 21 pieces, each showing the word “moneky” in a dozen languages, linked together using the words themselves. To photograph this several story sculpture, an iPhone was set to panorama mode, only panned from bottom to top rather than side to side.

Titles from a strange upbringing

There are many titles I wish I had read; I have bookcases filled with unread and partially read volumes. But here are some that are high on my list:

Untouched by Human Hands: The Last Dangerous Visions, by Robert Sheckley and Harlan Ellison. Ellison’s famous epic struggle to get his last Dangerous Visions anthology out is assisted by Sheckley.

All the Myriad Ways: Of Man and Monsters, Heroes and Horrors, Parsecs and Parables, Nightmares and Geezenstacks, Ice and Iron, Digits and Dastards, Murder and Magic, Ape and Essence, Fancies and Goodnights, Alchemy and Academe, Foundation and Empire, Visions and Ventures, Time and the Stars, by Larry Niven, William Tenn, Fritz Leiber, Robert Silverberg, Fredric Brown, William Tucker, Frederik Pohl, Randall Garrett, Aldous Huxley, John Collier, Anne McCaffrey, Isaac Asimov, Theodore Sturgeon and Poul Anderson. A galaxy and time-spanning story of nouns smashed together into subjects.

“Repent, Harlequin!” Said the Ticktockman, Or All the Seas With Oysters, formed of Mist, and Grass, and Sand, and ruled by the Queen of Air and Darkness, will carry you Adrift Just Off the Islets of Langerhans: Latitude 38º54’N, Longitude 77º00’13″W, where you may watch The Dance of the Changer and the Three, and learn that Love is the Plan the Plan is Death, and that The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas must confront The Doors of His Face, the Lamps of His Mouth, never to discover that Time Considered as a Helix of Semi-Precious Stones is the Good News from the Vatican, by Harlan Ellison, Avram Davidson, Vonda N. McIntyre, Poul Anderson, Terry Carr, James Tiptree Jr., Usula K. LeGuin, Roger Zelazny, Samuel R. Delany, and Robert Silverberg. This surprisingly thin science fiction-fantasy mix is essentially a fleshed-out expansion of the title.

Literary references to Macintosh applications

Have you ever said to yourself, “I want a native Mac OS X hex editor that can handle files of unlimited size?”

Of course you have. What you need is 0xED, and it is free:

http://www.suavetech.com/0xed/0xed.html

It is also Lion compatible, which probably means it is made of gazelles.

Sadly, NotePad Deluxe is not Lion compatible. It doesn’t appear to have been updated since 2005, which is a shame. (Yes, the copyright message in the About box is out of date.)
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NotePad Deluxe has the rare distinction of being mentioned in a best-selling work of fiction, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, by Stieg Larsson. One of the two main characters, Mikael Blomkvist, uses NotePad Deluxe to organize and encrypt information he is using in an investigation, and in an author’s aside, the Web site is listed, www.ibrium.se. Curious to see if this was real or a fictional invention, I typed the address into a browser and — yes, it is a real site.

But there is no evidence the site has been updated since May 22, 2005, when the most recent update of NotePad was posted. A related project by the same team, Mac OS on Linux, http://www.maconlinux.org/, shows no activity since October 9, 2007.

Back to NotePad Deluxe. The application itself runs just fine under Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard. Sadly, it was built with PowerPC code, and won’t work in the Intel-only world of Mac OS X 10.7 Lion. No gazelle meat, apparently.

It does have some interesting features. While the layout and style are somewhat dated, you can create multiple “notebooks” with the application. As mentioned, you can encrypt a notebook (which it quite correctly calls a database), and this encryption capability plays a role in the novel. Each notebook/database can contain a large number of entries, each entry with a creation date stamp. You can style text any number of ways, and not only change the fonts and font size, but even change the baseline, in case you wanted to superscript or subscript something. Text can be colored, you can add highlight colors, text borders, and even Unix-level word services (in case you wanted to integrate the application with some of the Unix text handling utilities of Mac OS X).

But it isn’t Lion compatible, so is doomed. Fiction met reality, and fiction won. Fiction has more staying power than software, even software made from gazelles.
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Performance art and acceptance

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An interesting piece of performance art sent to me by someone who hates performance art.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QZFkZiwMLZ4

I suspect that “hatred” of performance art is in some degree based on the name. All art has a performance element, be it photography, sculpture, or playing Othello (either the Shakespeare character or the game). So dropping “performance” out of the term, it is clear that the content and perceived message (if any) is critical: this was sent to me by a politically conservative friend who appreciated the patriotic message.

Presumably, the same performer, the same music, the same paints, etc., would have been unacceptable if the end result was, say, a picture of a slightly dented tuna can.

Beach creatures

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Theo Jansen is a Dutch artist who does Rube Goldberg one better. While Goldberg’s creations were spectacularly clever and astoundingly useless, they were very much artifices: without a human creating them, they wouldn’t exist. Your typical Rube Goldberg device fairly screams “I was created by a human!”

Jansen’s artwork is just as kinetic, and just as spectacular, but it seems almost organic. The “Strandbeests” (beach creatures) he creates are just as artificial, but they move the way organic creatures move, and thanks to clever sail structures, they are self-powered; there are no electric motors hidden away to make them move.

Definitely worth a look.

http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/newsdesk/2011/09/beach-creatures.html