Wednesday, August 22, 2007

web: instantly learn about anything

Whenever I see an acroynym or name new to me, I just go directly to its page on Wikipedia, which for abbreviations is usually a great disambiguation page. Only if that fails do I Google for term slang.

In Firefox, you can assign a keyword to this that makes it even faster.
  1. Go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%s (shows an error page)
  2. Bookmark this
  3. Right-click on the bookmark, choose properties and give it the keyword 'w' and the name "Go to Wikipedia page".
Thereafter, just press [Ctrl-L]w term[Enter] to learn about anything! ZOMG FTW! (If my brief explanation doesn't make sense, there's a good guide on Lifehacker.)

Firefox ships with several keyword bookmarks in the folder "Quick Searches", e.g. dict term. But this is not just for searches. For every site that you go to, then you type something in a box, then the site shows you the page you really wanted, you can make a keyword bookmark that eliminates the first page. It works for map addresses, zip code lookup, favorite section of a site, etc.

I want something similar on my phone's browser (if you have a recent phone, it can browse the web! You can and should read BBC news optimized for a phone at http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/low.html.) I want to permanently load a home page on my phone that has a drop-down list of all my bookmarks and a text field where I can laboriously type the term:
Then I can jump to the Wikipedia page for "ganache" or the IMDB page for "Play it Again, Sam" and impress my friends without 5 minutes of navigating huge home pages on a tiny screen.

I think it's simple JavaScript, but I don't know of a phone that can do this. And there's no money in it, think of all the search ads and home pages I skip.

Labels: , , ,

Sunday, August 19, 2007

art: Marcel Duchamp even more significant

While at MOMA for Serra, I went through the collection galleries. Picasso was quite the lad. I didn't realize how his periods overlapped, for example in 1921 he made both the cubist Three Musicians and the chunky Three Women at the Spring. Overall, I think SFMOMA lays out its collection better.

I knew Marcel Duchamp blazed new trails with his readymades, like the "R. Mutt" urinal and the Bicycle Wheel (1913), a bicycle fork and wheel mounted to a chair (MOMA has a remake). The latter is also arguably the first kinetic sculpture.

But he's so much more 3 Standard Stoppages (1913-1914) is pure conceptual art. "A straight horizontal thread one meter long falls from a height of one meter onto a horizontal plane twisting as it pleases and creates a new image of the unit of length." Prefigures everything Sol LeWitt (recently died, RIP) and others have ever done.

Network of Stoppages (1914) with its grid and letters and overpainting seems to prefigure everything that Jasper Johns, Ed Ruscha, and John Baldessari have done.

And the joking around with names like Rrose Sélavy is amazingly prescient.

Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2 (1912) is a darn nice cubist/futurist work, though he painted it about the same time as those movements.



Monday, August 13, 2007

fashion: Jhane Barnes being Jhane

Another season, another stupendous collection. Jhane Barnes is the Barry Bonds of fashion, without the walks or pop-ups or the steroid abuse. Literally thousands of hits and hundreds of home runs. Trajectory is perfect, and Interlock (a triple-woven shirt!) are particularly stellar. The geometric abstraction remains (as I wrote, she's better than Vasarely and up there with Mondrian) but she's doing amazing things with the weaving itself that you can't appreciate on a computer screen. Insanely, few stores in my area carry them.

Jhane Barnes Trajectory shirt
closeup of Trajectory shirtSo many great designs, so little closet space. I'm going to try to get Trajectory (sold out in my size :-( ). Looks nice from a distance but zoom closer and it reveals worlds.

Labels: , ,

Monday, August 6, 2007

art: Serra sublime fun-house

Had to go, so I went. It was much as I expected, that is to say fantastic. Wandering around and inside Richard Serra's latest curved steel sculptures, Band and Sequence, was childlike joy, wonderful wonderment. And wondering: Is there an algorithm to the curves? As the walls lean in and out there must be a vertical spot, why can't I find it? Have I returned to the start? How can the expression of simple ideas create so much beauty?

As I said, Peter Schjeldahl in the New Yorker describes it better than I can (also Jerry Salz in New York magazine). However, what made me literally weak in the knees was Serra's restraint. Coming from such an utterly uncompromising, arrogant, art-star dickhead, these late works aren't what you expect:
  • The steel isn't a harsh hulking black, but a soft clay-like rust color.
  • They're huuuuge, but not oppressive: double-height steel walls cocoon you within the vast museum room.
  • You're pleasingly disoriented, but never lost and abandoned.
  • The shifting points and angles and triangles that the walls form as you move around are intense beyond words, but unlike his earlier works like Circuit II where you feel one control switch away from being crushed, they don't menace.
I can't imagine Serra copping to being a softie, but he could have gone for shock and awe, and didn't. To have so much intent and effort and mass and steel and fabrication directed to deliver bracing aesthetic pleasure makes you giddy with delight; to be an adult and aware of that gentle restraint making "all this useless beauty" in a world of difficulties is somehow sad. I didn't want to leave.

I skipped the catalog and the postcards. The photographs are black and white, but again the late works are a soft orange rust, not hulking black. The photographs are from above, but Serra has said he's not making architecture and he doesn't want you to see a diagrammatic plan view. He doesn't want you to "read" the form of the work from pictures, you have to walk around and inside them. The exhibition closes September 10th. If you can get to New York, go!