Teju Cole embraces Google Search By Image, using it to make art

I fed a few of my photographs into the machine, and out of the “visually similar images” results, I selected the ones that best expressed the idea I had been after when I took the original picture: the photographer’s task not only becomes curatorial, it has in fact always been curatorial. In each case I ended up with an assemblage of nine images, including my own original (I did four such macchia studies, and the full collection of images is here). I had arrived at Google’s macchia and, beyond that, unanticipated narratives. An out of focus picture of a woman with a hijab was now surrounded by its color patch relatives: a fighter jet, Bill Maher being conspiracy weary, President Obama in front of some computers, a lone rioter, a woman wearing the opposite of a hijab, a policeman confronting what seemed to be, in the distance, a group of women in black hijabs…   The pictorial idea of each picture told me what I knew and hadn’t articulated about the pictorial idea of my own picture. It was like hearing a familiar tune played on unfamiliar instruments, with dramatic changes in the timbre but the pitches staying the same. [link]

I don’t think what a person does for a living is necessarily who he is

Among the niceties and travails of meeting people for the first time, there’s no more loaded question than “What do you do?” I would almost prefer to respond to “What is your favorite sexual position?” or “How do you feel about your mother?” because people would be less likely to read into my answer. [link]

Which reminds me, of course, of Grosse Pointe Blank

Marty: They all have husbands and wives and children and houses and dogs, and, you know, they’ve all made themselves a part of something and they can talk about what they do. What am I gonna say? “I killed the president of Paraguay with a fork. How’ve you been?”


A good reason to carry an empty guitar case

One sunny Saturday afternoon, in the shopping district of a medium-sized French city, this good-looking guy approached 300 young women (aged approximately 18 to 22). He introduced himself, declared “I think you’re really pretty,” and asked for her phone number so they could arrange to have a drink. For one-third of these brief encounters, he was carrying what was clearly a guitar case. For another third, he was holding a sports bag; for the final third, he was empty-handed.

The implication that he was a musician dramatically increased the actor’s appeal. When he was carrying the guitar case, 31 percent of the women gave him their number. This compares with nine percent when he was carrying the sports bag, and 14 percent when he was carrying nothing. [link]

It’s not a painting it’s a productivity enhancement device

Another study found that students, when left to their own devices, are unable to focus on homework for more than two minutes without turning to Web surfing or e-mail. Adults in the workforce can make it to about 11 minutes. Jennifer Roberts, a professor of the history of art and architecture at Harvard, thinks she has a fairly simple solution to help her American art history students appreciate the act of focusing: They must pick any painting, sculpture, or object made by an American artist and stare at it — for three hours. [link]


For some things it can be any reader. For others, it’s that one person in the world you most write for, the only one whose opinion matters. 

“I can’t write without a reader. It’s precisely like a kiss—you can’t do it alone.”
― John Cheever

Find the gesture. Don’t worry about the details. What is the essence of that pose?

This entire piece by Rachel Howard is well worth reading for its insights into creative production. This is just a taste.

Where’s the line of energy? What is the essence of what you see? Quick!

I wrote all over the page, a line of complete dialogue followed by a place-holder phrase of exposition, a one-word reminder of the next action followed by an arrow to the margin where I’d scribbled a description of a key image. The page looked a mess. But I had captured the movement of the scene, not one line of dialogue connected clunkily to the next action. There was thewhole. It made leaps. It had perspective. It had emphasis and connection. It had life.  Later, I could go back and do what artists call rendering — working the drawing, adding detail. But now I had a solid gesture sketch to work from. And this had happened in five minutes. [link]

Wozu Dichterin

There is nothing beautiful here
However I may want it. I can’t
Spin a crystal palace of this thin air,
Weave a darkness plush as molefur with my tongue
However I want. Yet I am not alone
In these alleys of vowels, which comfort me
As the single living nun of a convent
Is comforted by the walls of that catacomb
She walks at night, lit by her own moving candle.
I am not afraid of mirrors or the future
–Or even you, lovers, wandering cow-fat
And rutting in the gardens of this earthly verge
Where I too trod, a sunspot, parasol-shaded,
Kin to the trees, the bees, the color green.

by Monica Ferrell, 2013

Does the Nigerian military read political science papers?

The spread of cell phone technology across Africa has transforming effects on the economic and political sphere of the continent. In this paper, we investigate the impact of cell phone technology on violent collective action. We contend that the availability of cell phones as a communication technology allows political groups to overcome collective action problems more easily and improve in-group cooperation, and coordination. Utilizing novel, spatially disaggregated data on cell phone coverage and the location of organized violent events in Africa, we are able to show that the availability of cell phone coverage significantly and substantially increases the probability of violent conflict. Our findings hold across numerous different model specifications and robustness checks, including cross-sectional models, instrumental variable techniques, and panel data methods. [APSR]