Thursday, August 24, 2006

A quick plug for a fun sounding event

As part of their Architecture Month, Memphis’ chapter of the AIA is holding a Downtown Chalk Art Festival on September 9th (or 23rd if it rains). This seems like a really fun idea. I’d never heard of such a thing, but a quick Google search confirms that apparently they go on in other places as well.

I so need to get a team together.

(via Paul Ryburn)

[edit: Here's a Daily News article about architecture month...]

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

I really need to post more often...

I’m hoping that things will settle down here in the next week or two and I can get down to some serious writing (and by extension, blogging) but there are a few notes that I want to take the time to get out now before anyone shows up with more work for me to do or another conference for me to attend.

  • First and foremost, many thanks to Serrabee for being so good as to organize the Blogger Bash last Thursday. It was a pretty easy going crowd, which made the socializing thing easier seeing as I only knew one other person there and he didn’t know anybody either.

  • We did make it out of town for the Perseids on Saturday but the observation conditions were horrible. It was mostly overcast and the moon was darn near full, making for a bright hazy sky to look for meteors in. That said, the ones we did see were fantastic. The conditions for the Leonids and Geminids this year look to be much better.

  • I just switched to the new Blogger Beta. If this thing breaks, it's not my fault!

  • For those of you who’ve been trying to get in touch with my wife over the last two weeks, she’s not dodging you. She took a job teaching art for Memphis City Schools that has kept her busy beyond belief. I’m sure things will settle into a routine after a while, but for now things at home are often just a small step away from chaos.

  • Speaking of Amber, she installed the latest in her Population series as part of a group show over at AMUM’s Caseworks last night. I don’t think that there’s going to be a formal opening, but stop by and see it if you get a chance. And while I’m flat out stumping for my wife, she’s also going to be performing at the Brooks Museum’s First Wednesday next month.

  • I got sent to a conference this week to review a piece of software that we’ll be using at work. The conference wraps up tomorrow. Purchasing rules being what they are in the state, I can’t say too much about it so I’ll just offer a general piece of advice to anybody who ever wants to sell anything. If your customer ever asks you a question, the best thing in all the world you can do is to listen to them. They may not even care what the answer is; it’s often just a test to see if you give a damn.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Memphis OPML Icon

Problem is, I can never tell if he's joking....

(I never claimed to be a graphic designer)

[edit: now with 100% more Blogger Template Code!]

Monday, August 07, 2006

Feed reader complaints and the new and improved Memphis OPML

So I've been fighting with Sage (my favorite feed reader) for the last half hour or so and I decided to compile a quick list of what I'd like to see in a feed reader. Since the chances are pretty slim that A) any other developer ever actually reading this and B) he or she caring, I suppose I'll just have to code it myself eventually.

Anyway, here's the list:

  • Fault Tollerant (can recover from a bad parse).

  • Gives the option to ignore markup inside the plain text elements of an RSS feed (title, description, comments).

  • Doesn't keep trying to sell me yet another web service.

  • Gives me the option to Read and Write my collection of feeds to a live OPML file on a webhost of my choosing.

  • Doesn't collapse the organizational structure whenever I import a new OPML file.

  • Allows a manual OMPL export of a selected subset of RSS feeds in my catalog.

  • Gives me the number of new posts beside each blog when I update.

  • Gives me a "new posts" view that is an aggregate of the content that is new since I last updated.

  • Integrates into my browsing environment (Firefox).
And in other news, my Memphis OPML list topped 100 feeds this afternoon (it's at 101 to be exact). It also got a slight reorganization. If you'd like to check it out, it's behind the little grapic over there on the right; the text link takes you to a web friendly version. You can read it using Sage, or you can easily add OPML support to Firefox or Safari.

Pardon me for being momentarily inarticulate...

Wow... just wow.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Notes from the Weekend

  • In case you ever find yourself in an argument with a waitress, this is how you cook eggs over easy.

  • If you suddenly find yourself in need of a cow skull, they are on sale a mile west of the Hernando exit for between $25 and $30. But hurry… PETA’s apparently making them get rid of them.

  • Sheridan’s on Stage at Kirby-Whitten makes a good Mango and Pinapple smoothie for cheaper than anywhere else in town.

  • As the temperature rises, the ratio of happy dog owners to angry rednecks at the dog park nears parity.

  • I’m watching The Ringer and just realized that even though he’s lied to everyone and has effectively rigged the Special Olympics, Steve/Jeffery is the most likeable character Johnny Knoxville has ever played. Does that say more about him or me?

Friday, August 04, 2006

I saw more than this, but I'm just too tired to write about it all

Tonight I find myself in the position I’ve dreaded for so long, though this position is, at least in part, why I committed myself to the idea of writing these reviews. I have a hard time being openly critical (in the post-modern sense of the word). “Big C” Critical, no problem; I can analyze from here to the here after and feel right at home. I just have a really hard time fessing up to just not liking something, especially when I like the person who made it. I’m not saying that my not liking it makes it bad (there’s a difference), but I hope anyone who reads the next paragraph will take it in the constructive manner in which it is intended.

All that said, it’s with a heavy heart that I tell you that the show at DLG tonight was largely awash in the banal. There were some great pieces by artists I know and by some I don’t and they were swamped by literal mounds of the sorts of things that that make me dread going to local commercial galleries. Rather than opt for the energetic, quasi-salon style of the previous “Price is Right” shows I’ve seen there, the majority of the works tonight were hung in an almost haphazard fashion. Each artist was given a slot on the wall and the works that didn’t fit at or just above eye level were literally stacked below. It felt like a craft fair without the cover band and funnel cake.

The thing that makes this so hard to write is that 1) I really do have the utmost respect for David and the work he does in that gallery, 2) it’s so very unlike them to treat work with so little apparent concern for presentation and 3) if you could get through the clutter, there was some damned good art in there. Mel Spillman’s new work absolutely sings (caveat: I know her). I admittedly wasn’t that fond of her figurative paintings of the last year or so, but she’s found a magnificent voice in these patterned panels. I remember being struck last time by her larger work from the same series, which was able to overcome a rather unfortunate placement at the L Ross gallery a few weeks ago. I’m looking forward to seeing what all she’ll do with this.

Tonight also gave me my first shot at seeing a real live Don Estes. I’d seen the slides over at Artmemphis and knew Don as the owner of the wonderful (if now defunct) Second Floor Contemporary, but I’d never actually seen his work. In a word, they are gorgeous. The one hung tonight, entitled Say You Didn’t, seemed to simultaneously take on the roles of seismograph, landscape, and Rorschach, neither at the expense of the other.

My favorite installation job of the evening was from an artist I’d never heard of before: Paul Villinski’s Regalo 4. From across the room they appeared to be just the sort of aluminum can carvings you’d see at the county flea market pinned to the wall like bugs in a display case. When you got up on them however, it was impossible to ignore the amazing care and precision with which each one was carefully mounted and counter balanced so that they fluttered and shimmered as they were struck by the winds made by passers by.

There were also some other new (or at least, new to me) artists making a strong showing as well. Chief amongst them was Herb Reith. His series of acrylics featured interactions of a collection of small space-suited beings with common place objects or concepts. In one the huddled explorers appeared to be being smote by the hand of some angry elemental god. In the one below it, they were gathered in what appeared to be a small unit, looking like attendees to an inerstellar family picnic, cast against a sea of urban camouflage.

If you’d asked me this afternoon if I thought there was any artistic value left in the caricature, I’d have told you, “absolutely not.” Post Hirschfeld, the idea of doing highly stylized drawings of famous people usually comes off as the basest of commercialism. Artists making a living off their work is one thing (and a thing I fully support), but flatly pandering to the tourist dollar by filling your gallery with half assed marker drawings of celebrities is something else entirely.

That would have been my answer this afternoon.

Tonight, I can tell you that the fine art caricature is alive and well at the L Ross gallery on Sanderline. Mike Caplanis’ show “The Pen is Mightier” was a joy to behold. Each watercolor and pen portrait built the character of its subject from the ground up. Caplanis seemed not so concerned with capturing the recognizable physicality of his subjects, but more in conveying the spirit which made the person worth knowing in the first place.

It is the nature of the celebrity portrait that they trade on the repertoire or mystique of the portrayed. Not necessarily so with Caplanis. Further, it would be easy to dismiss the work as simply superbly crafted, and though it was, it also functioned on another level entirely. Caplanis made his subjects properly Mythological. He carried forward each iconic figure allowing it to signify for his viewer something at once more abstract and yet more immediate than any straight rendering of their legend could possibly do.

His Mark Twain was the very definition of rapscallion. His Johnny Cash was taken back from his status as icon and made once again subversive (pompadour and all). Perhaps the most expressive of the some 40 works on display was the very mischievous if slightly disheveled looking Mary Cassatt, whose half lit grin peaked out from under an unruly mane of dirty blonde hair which seemed locked in a strange type of combat with her equally unruly fur coat.

My first Astrophotograph

My first astrophotograph
Originally uploaded by skippytpe.
So my telescope came in (with its assorted peripherals) and I decided "to heck with light pollution, I want to check this thing out." My technique needs some serious refining, but I did manage to get a good look at the moon and I also found Jupiter (and its moons). The later was a little hard to find with the more powerful of the optics (the greater the power, the smaller your field of vision), but after a little trial and error I got a decent view.

Next I tried the camera attachment; this required some doing. First off, I’m mounting components in the dark, which of course means that I’m going to drop something. Secondly, the photo mount came with no instructions. The actual mounting was easy enough, but then I couldn’t manage to get anything in focus. With a little experimentation, I discovered that the photo adapter splits in two and if I mounted my camera to the shorter version, all of the sudden things look clear. This leaves me wondering what the other 4 inches of steel tubing is for.

I tried a couple of times to get photos of Jupiter, with little success. I don’t have a remote, so I was just having to hope that the vibration caused by my pushing the shutter release would be gone by the time the autotimer opened the shutter. It wasn’t.

In low light situations, vibration is always an issue, but I’ve never worked in a situation where it was this much of an issue. A few notes for anyone who reads this and wants to try it:

  1. Buy a remote.

  2. Remove your camera strap. It’s not doing you any good in this setting and it will sit there and swing LONG after you’ve walked away.

  3. Sounds are vibrations too. Low frequency sounds are the worst (i.e. – your neighbors stereo system).

  4. Turn off the air conditioner.

The picture you see here is one of my first attempts. Not a stellar result, I know, but not too bad for a first outing. The light pollution in Memphis is pretty bad and I think I picked up a little noise because of my transfer process (I couldn’t find the cable that connects my camera to the computer). I’m going to try to get a few of the full moon next week from here in Memphis and then I’m probably heading south to see the Persieds on the 12th. We’ll see how those turn out.