Saturday, June 17, 2006

Wingra Park and Camp Randall public art
projects compared and contrasted

Today the Dudgeon-Monroe Neighborhood Association's "Jazz in the Park" festival -- sponsored by the Laurel Tavern, Monroe Commons, Mallatt Pharmacy & Costume, Orange Tree Imports and the Wingra Canoe & Sailing Center -- was held in Wingra Park. It seems an apt occasion to make a comparison between two works of public art that have been on my mind for some time, since one of the works is actually in Wingra Park.

Title: "Broken but Unbowed"
Location: Wingra Park, Madison, WI
Artist: Mother Nature

This obelisk was sculpted by the artist several years ago when straight-line winds knocked down most of this majestic, ancient oak, nearly hitting the house across the street and leaving only a barren, stark and postmodern section of trunk standing. The wrk acquired its status as public art when the Madison Parks Department made a decision not to cut it down, but to preserve it as an artifact instead. Many consider it to be one of Madison's finest works of public art.

Title: "Nail's Tales"
Location: Camp Randall Stadium, Madison, WI
Artist: Acclaimed artist and UW alum Donald Lipski

The work, commissioned by the Wisconsin Arts Board’s Percent for Art program, was erected on its pedestal at Breese Terrace and Regent Street on Thursday, Oct. 20, 2005.
Called “Nail’s Tales,” the concrete, steel, stone and resin sculpture, uses the ancient form of an obelisk — a form similar in shape to the Washington Monument — from which emerges a towering pile of footballs.

“I tried to make it whimsical and at the same time have a sort of stateliness and elegance that I thought was in keeping with the bigger traditions of the university,” says Lipski, a UW graduate.
The artist's 2000 exhibit, "Donald Lipski: A Brief History of Twine," opened at the old Madison Art Center, which organized it, before traveling to the Blaffer Gallery at the University of Houston and the Chicago Cultural Center.

On the street, "Nail's Tales" was greeted by howling, straight-line winds of laughter and punning sexual references, often employing disease as a metaphor. Local media were not much kinder.

Conclusion to be drawn, if any: When erecting a large, phallic work of public art, use real wood.

Ben Masel campaigns at the Farmers’ Market

Activist Ben Masel was collecting signatures for his nominating papers to run against Senator Herb Kohl at the Dane County Farmers’ Market, one place in Madison where they still seem to believe in free speech -- unlike the Willy Street Coop, where they don’t seem so sure. (Wisconsin Dems at their LaCrosse convention apparently needed some convincing, but they came around.)

I was happy to sign. Any man who campaigns for public office wearing a button saying “Impeach Cheney First” has my signature. Besides, although this is not the Lamont-Lieberman race, where Ned Lamont is starting to look as if he has a real chance to strike a blow against what Matt Stoller calls the "Democratic K-Street Culture," it sure doesn’t hurt to give Kohl a friendly little kick from the left.

6/30/06 UPDATE: What is it about the First Amendment that UW-Madison Police don't understand?

Masel was put on the ground, maced and arrested at a public hip hop concert last night on the Memorial Union Terrace, where he was circulating his nomination papers. -- and where other local politicians have done so with no problem. There's an interesting discussion of the event at The Daily Page Forum, starting with Masel's account of the incident.
Asked to show ID, I inquire whether they are there as Agents of the State, or "are you working for a Private Club?" I'm grabbed, maced, put to the ground, and with at least one knee on my back, the rest of the mace emptied into my eyes.

Trip to UW stationhouse, charges of Trespass, Disorderly Conduct, and Resisting/Obstructing an Officer. Released on recognizance, return date July 24.

Coincidentally, Mayor Dave was playing cards with pals at a table 8 feet away. He'll make an interesting witness.
That should be quite a court appearance -- especially if Masel succeeds in dragging Mayor Dave to the witness stand. Masel has quite a track record of coming out on top in false arrest cases, and I'm sure he'll do so again. But you do have to wonder what the hell is going on in downtown Madison -- especially with the selective nature of this "law enforcement" action.

I remember when Michael Moore was speaking at the Union Terrace in front of thousands on a cold, blustery night before the 2004 election. There was a group of wingnuts trying to disrupt his talk. They were standing in the very spot where Masel was arrested, but nobody that I could see called the cops. Somebody dumped a pitcher of beer on the hecklers, which seemed to shut them up, but that was a different matter...

Deborah Butterfield sculpture at MMOCA

The Madison Museum of Contemporary Art (MMOCA) is displaying its 1983 Deborah Butterfield horse in the stairwell of the glass staircase of what Madison Guy has been known to call a condo magnet. Can't help but wonder about the placement of the horse. What were they thinking? Great view of State Street. Not so much of the horse, which has to compete with action on the street, and in a few weeks, Maxwell Street Days. They showcase Butterfield's horses better at the Walker in Minneapolis. For that matter, they do it better on MMOCA's website.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Thursday Doodle Blogging

Micro Bio-Bot Weapons Delivery System: New Bush administration plan to combat the insurgency and defend freedom in the Forever War?

Open Caption Colloquium

Please post your own caption in the Comments (registration not required).

Watching Ann Coulter on Jay Leno

Ann Coulter basked in her #1 NYT bestseller status, did not interact with George Carlin, and let Jay Leno read her money quote about the 9/11 widows while she sat back and smiled that brittle, serene smile.
"These broads are millionaires, lionized on TV and in articles about them, reveling in their status as celebrities and stalked by grief-arazzis. I've never seen people enjoying their husbands' deaths so much," Coulter wrote in "Godless."
A velociraptor trapped in the body of a crane.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

I think this is one of the coolest (digital) cameras ever -- the Minolta DiMAGE X, a masterpiece of functionality and compact camera design

My family treats me well and gave me a Minolta DiMAGE X for a significant birthday in 2002, just a few months after Minolta unveiled its innovative design. It instantly displaced my beloved Olympus XA (no, I haven't received a product placement offer yet). It was smaller and lighter, and best of all -- no waiting for processing. My somewhat late-blooming personal digital revolution was off and running.

This was all before the merger with Konica, part of the long swan song that resulted in these famous merged photographic brands getting out of film and digital camera production altogether earlier this year. A photo industry that no longer has room for a Minolta is a photo industry that's in the process of transforming into a computer and consumer electronics industry. Understandably -- in less than four years, Moore's Law has made my little 2-megapixel gem virtually obsolete.

But I'm still really fond of it and have no desire to replace it anytime soon. One of its most distinctive features is the "folded optics" that combines miniature lenses and a prism (apparently licensed to other manufacturers since then).
As you can see from the optics diagram on the left and the cutaway diagram on the right the DiMAGE X has one lens element facing forwards, then a 90 degree prism and then seven further elements before the image reaches the CCD which is mounted vertically at the bottom of the camera case. Zooming and focusing takes places inside the camera with no protruding zoom lens. The advantages are several; no startup delay (other than opening the lens cover), less chance of lens damage because there's no protrusion, fully sealed lens system (when not in use).
The payoff from all this is that I can -- and do -- take the camera everywhere. And it's surprising how much you can get out of 2 megapixels. At work I use Nikon SLRs, formerly film and now digital, but I always keep the DiMAGE with me as a backup and security blanket. A couple years ago I thought I was shooting my last magazine cover with the film SLR, but I took some extra shots with the Dimage so the art director would have something to play with while the film was being processed. She liked one of the DiMAGE shots more than any of the film versions, and we used it. It shouldn't have worked -- 2 megapixels, and all -- but it did. Expression trumped resolution.

I love that camera.

Ceci n'est pas une lettre

In other words, this is not a letter. Just wanted to be perfectly clear about that, so there's no confusion. You can't be too careful these days.

This was shot with my favorite (film) camera of all time

A crumpled, overturned red Jeep came to a rest alongside busy Wilshire Boulevard in LA, and nobody seemed to notice. What happened? Was anyone hurt? Who knows? I shot the photo with the Olympus XA compact camera I always used to carry with me. The scene reminded me of Auden’s “Musee des Beaux Arts,” about the Breughel painting where Icarus plummets into the sea and nobody notices.

Note to product placement executives
As previously noted, the memories expressed in Letter from Here are flexible and subject to negotiation. It’s entirely possible that I’m mistaken and that I actually shot the photo with one of the following:

Kodak Retina link
Argus C3 link
Graflex Speed Graphic link
Nikon S2 link
Nikon FTn link

Want to create demand for some classic, collectible cameras? Now’s the time to get in on the ground floor. Many photographs in our archives are as yet unspoken for, equipment-wise. Email your offer to the email address in the profile.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

These are not Magritte's blogs

Ceci n'est pas un blog.
"A somewhat bilingual journal of the life of a gay expat in Paris, learning French as fast as he can after a nasty breakup with America." Some reflections on “the brutal quashing of the first ever Moscow Gay Pride Parade.”

Ceci n'est pas un Bob
"Musings on Security, Identity, Privacy, and Risk. And nice red uniforms." First post, “Identity is a story,” is a cool meditation on identity theory, with a photo of a computer guy who may, or may not, be Bob, in the ontological sense.

Ceci n'est pas un blog
"Chasing sanity in an insane world, armed with three guitars and a seriously dysfunctional taste in music." Geeky joke post about "Getting sex in JavaScript."

Ceci n'est pas un blog dessinĂ©... Link takes you to Google translation, which begins with “This is not a drawn blog…but simply a trick on Internet which does not go very far. Ca looks at just my feet.” It builds from there. If you’d prefer the original French, just go to the profile and click on the blog link there.

Ceci n’est pas un blog de [Redacted] Feared lost in action, or worse, Echo -- cyberstalker? alter ego? a little of both? -- has returned from his period of involuntary confinement. The Internets are abuzz.

I think this is the best (film) camera of all time -- the Olympus XA, a masterpiece of functionality and compact camera design

I carried mine with me everywhere for more than 20 years until leaving it in a rental car in San Francisco, and even then, my daughter bought me one on eBay that was in even better shape for Christmas. At least I think that's what happened. Now that product placement has started moving from movies to books, blogs can't be far behind. For the right offer, I suppose I might remember something different.

Maybe it's not my genes, but all the trans-fats in Famous Amos cookies that added those extra inches to my waistline

"So maybe it's not the Famous Amos cookies, but my genes instead?" I wrote a few weeks back. Turns out, maybe it's the other way around. Maybe it is the cookies themselves -- specifically, the trans-fats they contain.

According to Nature, some fats just make you fatter than other fats, and that would be the notorious trans-fatty acids, or trans-fats. The latest research seems to suggest they're even more evil than people thought.
Eating some fats could make you fatter than others, even if their calorie count is the same.

That's the finding from researchers who fed trans-fatty acids, commonly found in fast food, to monkeys. Those that ate a daily dose of the trans-fatty acids gained 30% more lard around their bellies than those who ate different fats containing exactly the same amount of calories.

'Trans-fats' are already considered to be a dietary villain because they boost levels of 'bad' cholesterol and promote heart disease. But when it comes to obesity, it is generally assumed that trans, saturated and unsaturated fats are equally problematic, because they are loaded with the same amount of energy.

This study says otherwise. It suggests that trans-fats could promote obesity more than other types of fat. People who eat them could be "walking down the road to disaster", says lead author Kylie Kavanagh at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
So Famous Amos cookies are probably not a good cigarette substitute, after all. Sigh. Just one more addiction to get rid of.

The great suicide conspiracy of 2006

Crazed Muslim fanatics with absolutely no respect for human life, including their own, they plotted in secret and, with strict military discipline, kept their intentions to themselves until it was too late to stop their grim conspiracy to kill themselves and embarrass their captors at one of the most humane detention centers in the world… Read all about it and join the discussion at “How the Guantanamo suicides planned and coordinated their actions.”

The spin emanating from Washington about the three suicides at Guantanamo is mind-boggling in its cynicism -- Kafka on steroids. Vikkitikkitavi at Bells On succinctly spells out what’s at stake. And the great blog title, “Killing you is killing myself. But, you know, I'm pretty tired of both of us,” borrowed from "The Lady from Shanghai," perfectly captures the atmosphere of moral exhaustion and cynicism that surrounds Guantanamo like the smell of an overripe fruit rotting in the tropical night.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Most blog posts these days are pretty short, but Coturnix found he needed 4,575 words to talk about sleep, and it worked for him

I’m linking to this post by Coturnix for two reasons:

1. It’s a wonderful mini-case study in how a great blog post can help a blog take off -- and how sheer length is no obstacle if you’ve got something to say.
Coturnix started Science & Politics about two years ago. In other words, he started blogging after a lot of the prime real estate was already occupied, at a time like now, when it’s harder and harder for a new blogger to get noticed. After months of heavy-duty blogrolling, commenting and emailing he finally had his visitors up to an average of about 100 a day. As he explains, he was sick and tired of politics after the 2004 election (know the feeling) and decided to start a science only blog. The rest, you might say, is history.
This post is not my best post, but is, by far, my most popular ever. Sick and tired of politics after the 2004 election I decided to start a science-only blog - Circadiana. After a couple of days of fiddling with the template, on January 8, 2005, I posted the very first post, this one, at 2:53 AM and went to bed. When I woke up I was astonished as the Sitemeter was going wild! This post was linked by BoingBoing and later that day, by Andrew Sullivan. It has been linked by people ever since, as recently as a couple of days ago, although the post is a year and a half old.
Check out the Sitemeter link -- it really was going wild, and his excitement is infectious.

2. This is just simply marvelous science writing -- and chances are, it really will tell you "Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Sleep (But Were Too Afraid To Ask)." (He really does need the 4,575 words.) Building on his own research and background in circadian rhythms and chronobiology, he surveys a tremendous amount of material in a style that’s very readable, right from the get-go:
What are you doing up so late, staring at the computer screen reading this? For that matter, what am I doing up late writing this at 11pm? Are we all nuts?

Until not long ago, just about until electricity became ubiquitous, humans used to have a sleep pattern quite different from what we consider "normal" today. At dusk you go to sleep, at some point in the middle of the night you wake up for an hour or two, then fall asleep again until dawn. Thus there are two events of falling asleep and two events of waking up every night (plus, perhaps, a short nap in the afternoon). As indigenous people today, as well as people in non-electrified rural areas of the world, still follow this pattern, it is likely that our ancestors did, too.The bimodal sleep pattern was first seen in laboratory animals (various birds, lizards and mammals) in the 1950s, 60s and 70s, i.e, before everyone moved their research to mice and rats who have erratic (un-consolidated) sleep patterns. The research on humans kept in constant conditions, as well as field work in primitive communities (including non-electrified rural places in what is otherwise considered the First World) confirmed the bimodality of sleep in humans, particularly in winter.
From there, he goes on to talk about larks (people who go to bed early and rise early), owls (people who go to sleep late and rise late), winter depression (perhaps better considered semi-hibernation), insomnia (why, if you’re having a hard time sleeping, you should drag yourself away from the monitor and read a book instead -- though obviously he doesn’t always take his own advice), and a host of related topics.

And if you happen to be up late, you might want to think about reading a printout of the post, rather than it reading it on your monitor. It will be better for your circadian rhythms.

A Blog Around the Clock

I am a Red-State Serbian Jewish atheist liberal PhD student with Thesis-writing block and severe blogorrhea trying to understand the world by making strange connections between science, religion, brain, language and sex. My specialty is chronobiology (circadian rhythms and sleep).

No, that’s not me -- though I often wish it were. It’s the start of the profile of Coturnix, the redoubtable Science & Politics blogger in Chapel Hill.

I’ve been meaning to link with him for some time, and now that he’s just started blogging at a new location and with a new blog, A Blog Around the Clock, it's the perfect occasion. Most of his existing blogs are being closed but not deleted. He explains his move at Science & Politics, which will continue as a local blog -- and as an archive of old posts that don’t move. Do give him a visit. But make sure you have some spare time. You could easily spend days with this guy. I know -- I’ve done it.

Coturnix is smart, knowledgeable, funny. He has a real vernacular flair. He writes from the perspective of a scientist, but his posts are jargon-free and draw on common sense and life experience in a way you'll find hard to resist. You're on your own with the archives, but if you want to start at the beginning of the new blog, you could share his first experience with the "Movable Type thingie" here. Wondering what a Coturnix is? Find out here.

I was also going to link to his most popular post ever -- "Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Sleep (But Were Too Afraid To Ask)," but that's a subject for another post -- which follows above.

Accidental art

One of the best art installations in town right now is found in the parking lot at Owen Conservation Park on Madison's west side. There's no doubt something functional going on here, but they look lovely, and they'd look right at home in a museum.