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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Monday, April 25, 2011

As chef de cuisine, Joshua Whigham dexterously blends traditional with modern

Master a Spanish classic with a Jose Andres protégé

The fourth installment of the Sous Chef Series takes us to The Bazaar, Jose Andres's eclectic, ambitious Spanish restaurant in Los Angeles. As chef de cuisine, Joshua Whigham dexterously blends traditional with modern and simple with complex--but one of his favorite dishes is a classic through and through:croquetas de pollo. These chicken croquettes, with a crisp breadcrumb shell that surrounds a rich, savory filling, are a cornerstone of both the restaurant's menu and Spain's tapas culture.

The results have been drastic changes in the industry. Undercutting professionals by arming hordes of well-trained amateurs

David Hobby

Baltimore Sun photographer who took a buyout, started a blog, and changed the photography business forever.

Click here to launch a slide show of David Hobby's photos.
At first glance, David Hobby looks like just another casualty of the decline of print media: A longtime staff photographer for theBaltimore Sun, he was one of many employees who accepted a buyout in 2008 as part of broad staff reductions at the distressed newspaper.
Yet last month he embarked on a sold-out, cross-country tourthat will visit 29 cities. Approximately $1 million in tickets have been sold for the privilege of hearing Hobby and famed magazine photographer Joe McNally speak about their craft. Hobby's blog, Strobist, on which he teaches amateurs the lighting techniques used by professionals, welcomed 2 million unique visitors last year. (The largest professional photography association has a membership 1 percent of that size.) Manufacturers have named lines of equipment after him, an unheard-of honor.
How Hobby went from being a workaday newspaper photographer to an internationally recognized guru is a story tied up with seismic changes in the photography profession. By teaching a horde of novices the skills necessary to shoot photographs of a quality that was until very recently only within the grasp of an elite few, Hobby has played a significant role in the transformation of the profession. In the last few years, the market rate for many types of professional photographs has dropped by as much as 99 percent.
Photographer David Hobby turns the camera on himself. Click image to expand. Hobby educates tens of thousands of photographers every year with the free Lighting 101 course he's posted on his blog; hundreds of thousands read his blog posts on lighting each month. He's also lowered the barrier to entry for aspiring photographers by recommending low-cost equipment. Rather than telling amateurs to spend $2,200 before even thinking of getting started, Hobby believes that photographers can get all the lighting they need from portable and cheap flashes. (Though, often the equipment herecommends as a good, cheap purchase ends up multiplying in price on eBay.) Sometimes Hobby's techniques are hilariously DIY, incorporating cereal boxes and ball bungees. But that's the point: Lighting, he's saying, is about what you do with it, not what you spend on it.
Unlike many other technologies, lighting equipment hasn't become much more affordable over the past few decades. But combining Hobby's lessons and an investment in a couple hundred dollars' worth of equipment, an amateur can start producing the kinds of shots that used to generate thousands of dollars in fees for professionals.
The results have been drastic changes in the industry. Undercutting professionals by arming hordes of well-trained amateurs, just as the media companies have slashed photography budgets across the board, Hobby has helped changed the face of the photography business.
To get a sense of just how bad things are for professional photographers right now, the story of Robert Lam is instructive. WhenTime needed a photo to illustrate its "New Frugality" cover story in late 2009, it purchased Lam's image of a jar of change fromstock-photo agency iStockphoto. The going rate for a Time cover had typically been $3,000 to $10,000. Lam was paid $31.50. Nevertheless, Lam declared, "I am happy"—the payment was more than he'd expected the photo to generate, and he was delighted to have a Time cover in his portfolio. Veteran professional photographers were livid, calling Lam an "IDIOT," among other unkind words.

Lam told me by phone that he's only a part-time photographer—he makes most of his income through a furniture store he owns. Last year, he earned $4,000 from stock photography. Since it's his passion and hobby, not his job, that sum is fine by him. Most of what Lam has learned about lighting has come from reading online, on Strobist and similar blogs. Typical of the DIY approach of this set, Lam's Time cover was shot using materials Lam found at a local sign store.

Professionals, naturally, are upset with amateurs like Lam for diluting the market for their work. IStockphoto is littered with high-quality photographs, the kinds of shots that used to come out of studio shoots that cost four or five figures to produce. You can buy the rights to iStockphoto images for a few bucks if you want to hang them on your wall; for a few bucks more, you can run them in your widely-read publication. When the photo agency Getty Images bought iStockphoto for $50 million in 2006, Getty probably didn't foresee the change that would be wrought by this new era of cheap photographs. A photo that sells for $10 on the iStockphoto site goes for $340 on the Getty site. (Getty's main site relies on a kind of high-class client the agency seems to hope would never visit iStockphoto.)
But professionals who are outraged at photographers like Lam or at sites like iStockphoto miss the point. Neither Lam nor iStock would have had such an impact if their photography didn't meet the market's demand for quality. What's diluting the market for elite photography is the transfer of professional skill to amateurs—the work David Hobby is doing. Though his blog is entirely about how to light photographs at a professional level, his reader surveys reveal that 86 percent of his readers are amateurs.
The effect of amateur work can be felt even at the high end of the photography market. Hobby's touring partner, Joe McNally, is a veteran of many six-figure photo shoots. He told me that today, "there's a ridiculous number of requests for photography for free." These days, even portraits for heads of state are being contracted to semipro Strobist readers.
Hobby notes that while amateurs have certainly taken business away from professionals, "if you look at them the other way, they're also a really big market" for further instruction.
Others have taken notice. Since Strobist's launch in 2006, various photographers have taken up the task of bringing knowledge to amateurs, most prominently on the blog DIY Photography, now a full-time position for the site's proprietor, who quit his job as an engineer. Dozens of other photographers maintain smaller-scale blogs or post tutorials for DIY projects on Instructables.
McNally, one of photography's premier names, agrees. The longtime photographer for Lifeand National Geographic is now a blogger and the author of several books about lighting with small flashes. That a true star of the photography world is now sharing lessons learned at Gil Bensimon's feet on a blog and is sharing billing on a tour with Hobby is indicative of how flattened the hierarchy of photography has become.
McNally doesn't see anything demeaning in sharing his insights with thousands of amateurs; rather, he says he's come to enjoy teaching. "If you encounter passion, you have to counter it with your own passion," he says. "Even if, at the end of the day, you feel they're not going to go out the next day and climb the Empire State Building."
That sentiment is alien to the old guard in the professional photography world, where, Hobby says, "there's a lot of information-hoarding, and [a sense that] if I teach this person how to do this, he'll become my competition." Once the dust settles from all the change he's helped bring about, Hobby thinks there will still be legitimate careers for professional photographers. "You'll have fewer rock stars, and a much larger middle class," he says, a group of photographers who will find ways to distinguish themselves from the rest of the pack.
Click here to launch a slide show of David Hobby's photos.

They had stumbled on Lost Horizon Night Market...

All the World’s a Stage, Even the Back of a Truck

ONE recent Saturday night, two Brooklyn roommates were driving home when they passed something odd: an unmarked box truck parked on a desolate block in Greenpoint, spewing strobe-lit, milky fog.
Yana Paskova for The New York Times
A petting zoo from the nocturnal art carnival known as the Lost Horizon Night Market in Brooklyn.


The latest on the arts, coverage of live events, critical reviews, multimedia extravaganzas and much more.Join the discussion.
Yana Paskova for The New York Times
Visitors at a diorama incorporating David Lynch films.
“We just saw these people in costumes and there’s smoke pouring out of this truck, and Axel said, ‘Stop, drive back,’ ” recalled Jon Ernsberger, 28, a landscape designer. After they pulled over, a pair of alien figures — one sporting a colossal, turnip-shaped wicker headdress, another swaddled in bubble wrap — ushered them into the truck’s fog-filled interior, where they were accosted by astronauts in white Tyvek suits. A recorded voice interrogated them: “Do you take a moment every day to consider your insignificance? What dust of what stars created you?” And the most pressing question of all: “Where are you standing at this moment?”
The short answer: They were standing in a rented mover’s truck. The longer one: They had stumbled on Lost Horizon Night Market, a nocturnal art carnival making its fifth appearance in New York, where trucks transform into interactive dioramas, small theaters for sublime and bizarre entertainments. If Joseph Cornell were alive today and a performance artist, he might invent something like this.
Apart from the smoky scene at the corner of Humboldt and Calyer Streets, the market late last month didn’t look like much from the outside. About two dozen box trucks with curtained entryways lined several blocks in an industrial zone. But once visitors drew back the drapes, they became players in meticulously devised scenes. They marveled at the mysteries of deep space, pummeled one another in a boxing ring, told ghost stories around a campfire and cheered for the sword swallower in an old-time circus. They slurped udon at a noodle bar, ate grilled pork at a petting zoo that had a built-in barbecue and relaxed in a steaming, 2,000-gallon soaking tub inspired by Icelandic baths.
One truck featured a plexiglass chamber where visitors bludgeoned old computers, televisions and Christmas ornaments with a baseball bat while a D.J. played Rage Against the Machine. Another truck invited revelers to paint the walls with fluorescent pigments that were aglow in black light. Inside a truck called the Thunder Cube — “Like Thunderdome, but in a cube,” the host said — three women wore costumes that turned them into a penguin, a chicken and a strip of bacon. Then they had a pillow fight. (“I’m organic,” cried the bacon, Elena Yesner, a college counselor from Clinton Hill. “Bacon is mean,” grumped a rival.)
Any one of these scenes would be enough to disorient weekday pedestrians in Midtown Manhattan. Traversing an entire fleet of them in an otherwise deserted neighborhood after dark felt like floating through a galaxy gone haywire, a place where portals to strange planets opened up every few minutes. Even more disorienting was the brevity of the experience. The market began around 9:30 p.m. By 2:30 a.m., the trucks were gone.
“The thing that I like is providing a venue for people to do their first installation project, their first art thing,” said Mark Krawczuk, who founded the Lost Horizon Night Market in 2009 with a co-conspirator, Kevin Balktick, a cultural events producer. They set the time and place for the event, which has no admission fee and happens roughly every three or four months. (The next one should take place in the late summer or early fall, but no date has been set.) The trucks are autonomous, run by individual artists and creative teams working on a volunteer basis. Details are disseminated by word of mouth.
“Part of the fun of this is chasing us down,” Mr. Krawczuk said. “The people who want to do this will find us.” Better yet, he added, folks can steal the idea for themselves. After all, the formula is easy to replicate. A mover’s truck is a portable room that rents for roughly $150 a day. You can’t get more open source than that.
The idea for the market grew from a single vehicle, the Lost Horizon Noodle Truck, which Mr. Krawczuk developed in 2008. He built a compact kitchen and long communal tables, installed them in a rental truck and parked it outside New York’s version of Decompression, an annual reunion party for Burning Man devotees. Since then he has crashed other parties with his truck and also brought it to the Maker Faire, a five-year-old D.I.Y summit that made its first East Coast appearance last year at the New York Hall of Science in Queens.
And the truck model seems to be contagious. Last year a Brooklyn performance artist named Jean Ann Douglass staged one of her works, “The Backroad Homeshow,” at the Lost Horizon Night Market. She enjoyed it so much that she took the play to Austin, Tex., Spartanburg, S.C., and New Orleans, setting up a truck theater in each city, naming this endeavor the Truck Project. (She didn’t travel to those cities by truck, however, citing expenses and her carbon footprint.)

"The first course" Easter dinner at grand mom's #placerw #familyrw

Taken at Sequim WA

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

If you look closely at the personality (or mind, or heart, or soul), you discover that it isn't there

Nonduality, Neuroscience, and Postmodernism: The Dream of the Self


The following article is adapted from the author's book, Everything is God.

The conventional nondual inquiry begins with asking "Who am I?"
So, who are you?
If you ask most people what makes them who they are, chances are you'll get an answer that has to do with the self, the personality -- perhaps even the "soul," something distinctively individual, psychological or spiritual. As all of us mature, we come to know ourselves, and form personal, professional, familial, and other identities. And those identities are usually disembodied (we usually say we have bodies, rather thanthat we are bodies), and connected with thoughts, habits, preferences, and feelings.
Yet if you look closely at the personality (or mind, or heart, or soul), you discover that it isn't there -- at least, not in the way you thought. As a simple experiment, raise your right hand right now. Go ahead, just pause for a moment, raise your right hand, and then put it down. Now, whether you did or didn't raise your hand, reflect on what actually happened. Did the thing you call "you" really raise your right hand? In fact, what likely happened were a series of mental processes, all of which were conditioned from outside of "you." Maybe a sense of curiosity, or playfulness, or even obedience, arose, which was probably learned when you were a small child, or which maybe has something to do with your genetic predispositions. Or maybe some feeling of laziness, obstinacy, or contrariness arose -- just as much learned from experience, from other people, from a thousand outside sources.  Sure, the bundle of all of those feelings, plus myriads more, is conventionally referred to as "you." But the bundle never actually does anything -- it's a label, nothing more. What actually acts, thinks, feels, dreams are one or more of those pieces, usually in combination, all of which come from outside "you" and none of which is actually "you." They are the conditions which are necessary for the action to take place -- not "you." Who moved? The conditions moved.
In fact, all of your hopes, fears, dreams, loves, hates, tastes, predilections; each instance of who you are is wholly caused and constituted by non-you elements. Now, we may get very used to these movements of the mind and come to understand them as ourselves. But that doesn't make it so. Take a look for a few minutes (or hours, or weeks). As a reaction, idea, or emotion arises in the mind, try to notice it (obviously, a context of concentrated meditation makes this far easier) and query whether it's "you" or something that is "not-you."
One of the Buddha's ways to explain the non-self-ness of objects was to have his monks mentally take apart a chariot and ask where "chariot" comes into being, what "chariot" does as opposed to constituent parts like wheels, carriage, etc. Ultimately, even those parts are reduced to the four elements (in traditional science) or, in our science, to the properties of their molecular properties, atoms, and subatomic particles. You can try this too, with a chair. Is the "chair" holding you up right now? Or is it really the various molecular bonds in the wood, metal, or plastic? Is the "chair" white, or black, or another color, or is it the molecular properties of the pigmentation? And do you ever perceive the "chair," or rather, different elements of it, like its size, color, and texture? And so on.
If the preceding perspectives on non-self seem too empirical, or even naive, consider the insights of the last fifty years of postmodern philosophy, which have relentlessly insisted that what we call the "self," i.e., the modern subject, is actually a social construction, an assemblage of memes, narratives, and values entirely made up of historically conditioned factors. My supposed need for security, home, and hearth is a late capitalist, bourgeois affectation conditioned by nineteenth and twentieth century advertising and cultural production. My tastes, preferences, styles, and self-identifications all are cultural constructions.
Consciousness is really made up of memes, units of information that replicate themselves, a bit like genetic information does.  (The term was coined by evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins in 1976 in The Selfish Gene.)  Every notion that you have, about politics, justice, identity, music, love, whatever, is a meme, constituted outside of "you" and replicated in sophisticated ways. To think that they are "you" is what epistemologist Wilfrid Sellars called "the myth of the given." It's what happened when Descartes moved from the arising of thought (cogito) to the existence of the full-on modern subject (sum). A postmodernist would reply: yes, the thought arose -- but that doesn't mean there was a "you" thinking it. There was just a set of memes thinking the thought, interpreting it, and constructing a self on the basis of it.
In postmodern terms, enlightenment is what philosopher Susan Blackmore calls waking up from the meme dream.  Neuroscientifically, writes Daniel Dennett in Consciousness Explained, "human consciousness is itself a huge complex of memes, "a vast assemblage of learned behaviors which, like software, operate the hardware of the brain. As Blackmore puts it, "we are just co-adapted meme-complexes. We, our precious, mythical 'selves', are just groups of selfish memes that have come together by and for themselves." The false self is a meme complex.
Back in the 'spiritual' world, ondual Zen roshi Genpo Merzel uses voice dialogue to enable his students to see that, really, we are always performing one or another of these roles, like actors in a play.  Seeing these voices and memes face to face can be of great therapeutic value, as shunned voices are known and recognized, and points directly to non-self. For Genpo, the self is like a corporation: it's a set of agreements, a point of reference, and nothing more. All these voices are just the employees -- only, unlike actual employees, most of them have no idea what the mission of the corporation actually is.
At some point, you may want to take a stand, draw a line, and insist on some turf that's your own. That's fine. You learned that somewhere else too.
I remember sitting at Penn Station in New York one morning, and the obviousness of nonduality simply appeared, in the midst of the crowd. All around me, I watched as thousands of people were replicating memes unconsciously, mistaking memes for self. Habits learned, dispositions, instincts. And suffering the predicament: natural desires to make more, do more, be more. If it weren't for the desire, we'd be extinct; in this sense, happiness is "unnatural." But it is possible too for consciousness to awaken, see what is happening, look around, and then happiness becomes most natural thing in the world. Life a profusion, flowing in a trillion faces, ants to adam, eagles to eve. And no separateness, no arrogance: Jay is also a feature of the ocean, and this voice too, though perhaps more aware of conditions. But that morning in Penn Station, early morning, tired and awaiting the train platform to be called, there was an I behind the I, that is awake and full of compassion and joy.

Image by dottie maecourtesy of Creative Commons license.

A strange, sexy, mechanical shrine occupied Marcel Duchamp for the last two decades of his life.

Famous Artists’ Last Works
3:30 pm Monday Apr 18, 2011 by Marina Galperina
From a strange, sexy, mechanical shrine that occupied Marcel Duchamp for the last two decades of his life to Vincent van Gogh’s and Jean-Michel Basquiat’s disputed paintings — final works of famous artists are always something of a curiosity. What were their near-death obsessions? What was that artist’s last artistic hurrah? From a loving tribute to Stalin to the act of dying itself, find the controversial, surprising and affirming end chapter pieces from art history’s heroes in our gallery.
For the last twenty years of Marcel Duchamp’s life, when everyone thought he’d given up art to play chess, the Dada Mack Daddy was secretly building a complex, erotic tableau in a Greenwich Village studio. Inside the studio, there was a nude figure sculpted from pig skin, linoleum and glass, a motorized landscape, and a glowing lamp — all this could only be seen through two peep holes in the wooden door. Étant Donnés (1946-1966) or Given: 1 The Waterfall, 2. The Illuminating Gas came with a large, 4-ring binder of instructions to disassemble, assemble and display the work… only after the artist’s death.

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