Monthly Archives: May 2013

undergrowth? stain? blot? speck? disgrace?

Teju Cole’s Google’s Macchia in The New Inquiry is an inspiring blog posting on several levels: a nice exposition of ideas about directions in contemporary photography, a meditation on activities that I’m only beginning to notice

…the various artists who have appropriated Google Maps’ Street View and Google Earth, extending the practice of found imagery and the readymade to the images discovered on the computer screen. These Google-based photographic practices are forms of counter-surveillance, and in part what they do is show that a photography of ideas can accommodate different kinds of images…

and a lovely example of the power of the blogging medium. And the post delivers something I didn’t know:

In Naples in 1868, Vittorio Imbriani published a pamphlet entitled La quinta Promotrice. In this now almost forgotten text, he advanced a peculiar theory of art that centered on the color patch or, in Italian, the macchia (the word literally means stain or spot). According to Imbriani, the macchia is “the image of the first distant impression of an object or a scene, the first and characteristic effect, to imprint itself upon the eye of the artist.” It is, in other words, the total compositional and coloristic effect of an image in the split second before the eye begins to parse it for meaning. Imbriani was writing against the academic idealists of his time, who were obsessed with categories of style and execution. “Every painting must contain an idea,” Imbriani wrote, “but a pictorial idea, not just a poetical idea.” And for him, this pictorial idea was a matter of “a particular organization of light and dark from which the work takes its character. And this organization of light and dark, this macchia, is what really moves the spectator… Equally in music it is not the attached words, the libretto, but the character of the melody that produces emotion in the listener…”

I did a bit of searching around macchia, starting with wiktionary, and was directed (by Google, natch) to this from Dale Chihuly’s website:

…Since the Renaissance, macchia has been associated with a sketchy way of applying the initial color to a drawing or painting… In the seventeenth century, macchia designated the special quality of improvisational sketches that appear to be nature’s miraculous creation rather than mere human work… encapsulate[s] the concept of the spontaneous outpouring of artistic sensibility…

Says Cole,

I am now using Search By Image for my own personal color studies, for my own understanding of the color patch, and I don’t know what might come of it. I’m watching to see what other photographers and artists can create using this latest manifestation of Big Data. As usual, they will have to navigate between the Scylla of copyright issues and the Charybdis of “that’s bullshit, not art.”

Much to chew upon here.


I keep being surprised by Spotify, by the depths of musical obscurities within. Just now I saw an Airform Archives post that quoted the liner notes from John Fahey’s Yellow Princess, one of his albums that I don’t happen to have. So I looked on Spotify and sure enough there it was. Listening now, transported back to the first time I heard Fahey (a record playing at a party in Berkeley in July 1967 –it was Death Chants, Breakdowns, and Military Waltzes, which I do have and love… and Spotify has it too).

tagging and filing

Just how to manage one’s own troves of Information is a perennial problem, and I’ve never managed to be consistent over time or systematic (let alone rigorous) with any organizing scheme. I have drawers full of manila folders, boxes of [essentially unreadable, so why the hell do I keep them?] floppy and semi-floppy disks, piles of data-packed CDs and DVDs sporting idiosyncratically named files and directories, a bunch of disk drives that are more or less current, a vast array of archived directories and files at, and vinyl records and CDs and MP3s and videotapes and DVDs galore. And negatives (partially digitized) and digital photography images (on drives and backed up on DVDs), and of course books (though they’re at least listed at LibraryThing). All of this stuff is more or less meaningful, some of it is in active use and a lot more might be… and some is simply dead storage. I pretty much know what’s where, but finding any particular remembered thing can take a while and there’s always the danger/joy of being diverted along the way by a shiny something else. And more keeps arriving.

Of course I like it this way.

A current problem: I’ve used Delicious and Zotero and Evernote to collect links to webstuff that I found interesting and thought I might want to get back to sometime. Each of those services offers organizing features –collections, folders, tagging– and I’ve used them with my usual idiosyncratic abandon. There’s an argybargy collection at Zotero, bibliomania tag at Delicious, and on and on. Just to extract a list of my collections or tags would be interesting/valuable/useful, but so far I haven’t been able to figure out any way to get Zotero or Delicious to spit out just those classifiers (some little voice in the back of my brain is muttering about grep and exporting xml files, but I’m ignoring it). Sure, I could do it by hand, and that’s probably the fastest way to find out just what I really have. Such a list would be a mapping of my kaleidoscopic interests, and might inspire some ringmastering that might result in better access.

So about an hour later here’s the Delicious tags and Zotero collection names I’m living with. What to do next?

addendum: …and it’s happening again with the new blog. I can tag each post with a category (or more than one –this one is geekery/media/rumination) and add new categories ad lib. The current set for the blog is

anthropology/ argybargy/ biblio/ cartography/ casting/ desiderata/ education/ entanglement/ ethno/ geekery/ geography/ H5N1/ images/ language/ libraries/ media/ metastuff/ musics/ photography/ pome/ quote/ rumination/ tempora/ Turkey/ uncategorized/ vernacular/ weather/ Zeitgeist/

but that will expand as I need new descriptors, and I can guarantee that they’ll be …erm… idiosyncratic.

digging around in the archives

I happened upon this bit of text as I burrowed through musty files on backup drives, and I confess that I’m pleased with it:

Start anywhere
It all connects
and the trick is to choose
among branching paths
or perhaps it’s to
unwind the thread
as you sally forth
so as to be able
to reconstruct
your wanderings

That reconstruction is a tale
a narrative of Tolkien proportions
though without the necessity
of any end to the hero’s quest
and indeed with no heroes
or deus ex machina
just the progress of discovery

And what does the Argonaut seek?
Not fleeces or immured maidens
gloriously slain foes
or vanquished enemies

It’s the link, the nexus,
the skein of allusion
the journey and not
the destination
the joys of finding and telling

(28 xii 2008)


Above you can see a Page that federates my Zotero and Delicious posts and also my additions to LibraryThing, but not as yet retroactively… and there’s something odd about the chronology of items pulled from Delicious

UPDATE: I’ve removed the (rather too flaky) Delicious feed and split off the LibraryThing feed to a separate Menu item.

Things Turkish, number 1

I’m starting to accumulate and work with materials on Turkey in preparation for our September adventure, and this includes an effort to learn some Turkish, an exploration of basic facts of Turkish history, and reading of novels and other textual materials. I recently finished rereading Ian McDonald’s The Dervish House, set in Istanbul and full of interesting connections to Turkey’s past and present, and it’s time to read Orhan Pamuk’s novels too. A while ago I got The Innocence of Objects, Pamuk’s telling of the tale of his creation of his literal museum (in an old house in Çukurcuma) to accompany his novel Museum of Innocence, and I’m amazed at the project. Here’s a bit of description:

I kept seeking out more small museums in my travels. What I found most enthralling was the way in which objects emoted from the kitchens, bedrooms, and dinner tables where they had once been utilized would come together to form a new texture, and unintentionally striking web of relationships. I realized that when arranged with love and care, objects in the museum –an odd photograph, a bottle opener, a picture of a boat, a coffee cup, a postcard– could attain a much greater significance than they had before. I had top put these strange photographs and used objects on my desk and reimagine them as pieces belonging to the lives of real people.

The more I looked at the objects on my desk next to my notebook –rusty keys, candy boxes, pliers, and lighters– the more I felt as if they were communicating with one another. Their ending up in this place after being uprooted from the places they used to belong to and separated from the people whose lives they were once a part of –their loneliness, in a word– aroused in me the shamanic belief that objects too have spirits.

When I found a particular object in a shop and realized, with a sudden burst of inspiration, that I might be able to weave it into my story, I would immediately buy it; and, on my way back to my studio,I would be happy. Most of the time, though, I couldn’t find anything that I felt would fit into my novel in the making, and I left empty-handed. And sometimes I would buy something simply because I found it pretty, interesting, or unusual. The I would place it on my desk, believing optimistically that its role in Kemal and Füsun’s story would simply come to me unbidden. (pp 51-52)

Bits of the book resonate with other aspects of my life and doings, which I suppose is what one expects in influential books. Here’s one that encapsulates what I think about photographic composition and aesthetics:

Looking at the photographs we took during the process [of making a museum layout], I realized that I was doing what the Istanbul landscape painters I so admire also did: looking for an accidental beauty in the convergence of trees, electrical cable and pylons, ships, clouds, objects, and people. The greatest happiness is when the eye discovers beauty where neither the mind conceived of nor the hand intended any. (103)

Something I miss

The following is suffused with my own technological cluelessness, and is mostly an effort to articulate a problem and perhaps generate steps toward a solution.

We’ve all had the experience of rug-pulled-from-beneath with software or utilities or apps, and whenever a favorite is acquired by one of the big kids (Google, Yahoo, etc.) we know it’s just a matter of time until our hearts will be broken again (Google Reader, anyone?). The one I miss most is Delicious, which produced an RSS feed that I could pipe directly to my blog, such that items I’d collected via Delicious (via a menu-bar bookmarklet) would show up as blog entries, thus logging the spoor of my wanderings. It was easy. Yahoo bought Delicious in 2005, did nothing with it, then sold it a couple of years ago. Because the browser extension was broken with the sale, I’ve scarcely used Delicious for the last couple of years, and Zotero has been my tool of choice for KFTF… but I’ve used Zotero only on my desktop machine, and haven’t (until now) explored the possibility of piping my saved items to my blog. The new beginning with WordPress might embolden me to experiment anew.

So here’s what I’d LIKE to be able to do:

  • Implement RSS delivery of bookmarked items from Delicious AND Zotero AND Evernote as blog postings, WITH whatever tagging or enfolderation I’ve provided
  • Retroactively INSERT bookmarked items into the WordPress blog archive, by date of addition (dream on…)
  • profit

I did manage to EXPORT my Delicious links as an html file…

and there’s a fetch_feed tag and/or ‘RSSin Page’ plugin that might solve the problem for Zotero

Evernote seems to have abruptly abandoned RSS (“At this point, the feature was imposing excessive load on the service relative to its use and utility, and the decision was made to remove it…”)… and this just in: “We have replaced the RSS feed with our new Reminders “Daily Digest” feature…”.

And I’d add in my LibraryThing RSS feed too, if I could figure out how.

So I know more about the issue and the possibilities than I did a couple of hours ago, and I hope for Deus ex Machina but doubt me an it will be forthcoming.

Andrew Borowiec: Compromised Paradise, The Gulf Coast In The 21st Century

I’m forever being drawn into thinking about the activity (mental, physical, metaphysical…) of photographing, and always discovering photographers whose work inspires me to broaden my own thinking and practise. Here’s 20 minutes that will broaden your perspective on an (to me) unloveable landscape, and perhaps also raise some questions about the possibilities of photography as an educational medium. Borowiec’s narration is really an essential part of the experience (couldn’t embed, so you’ll have to click the link):

Andrew Borowiec: Compromised Paradise, The Gulf Coast In The 21st Century from Wayne Maugans.

Borowiec’s panoramic viewpoint isn’t something I’d have thought to use myself, but it really contributes to the success and impact of the presentation, and makes me rethink my own approaches to framing the realities I’m interested in trying to document. There’s an equally moving and informative shorter video that’s really worth your time too:

(I found this via Michael Johnston’s The Online Photographer, a superb photography blog)


I started oookblog in 2004 and it’s still running on the original Movable Type package, which is now so obsolete that I can’t figure out how to update it –and my UNIX skills are pretty shaky anyhow. The necessity to update the underlying MySQL database led me to deciding to try a whole new approach using WordPress. I think (believe, hope) that the original oookblog will remain… or perhaps I’ll be able to figure out how to import its 9+ years of content into this new space. So I have a lot to learn on this new platform.

…and hey presto I DID IT! The whole archive is there! Let the wild rumpus start.