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Monday, April 29, 2013

Advice to Little Girls: Young Mark Twain’s Little-Known, Lovely 1865 Children’s Book


Advice to Little Girls: Young Mark Twain’s Little-Known, Lovely 1865 Children’s Book

by 
A labor of love nearly two years in the making.
In the summer of 2011, I chanced upon a lovely Italian edition of a little-known, playful short story young Mark Twain had written in 1865 at age of 30, with Victorian-scrapbook-inspired artwork by celebrated Russian-born children’s book illustrator Vladimir Radunsky, mischievously encouraging girls to think independently rather than blindly obey rules and social mores. I was instantly in love. So I approached my friend Claudia Zoe Bedrick of Brooklyn’s Enchanted Lion Books, whom I’d befriended through her beautiful books and with whom I’d already begun collaborating on another side project, to see if she’d be willing to take a leap of faith and help bring this gem to life in America. It took a bit of convincing, but we eventually joined forces, pooled our lunch money to pay Vladimir his advance, and found a printer capable of reflecting the mesmerism of the Twain/Radunsky story in the book’s physicality — rich colors, crisp text, thick beautiful paper with a red fabric spine.
I’m enormously delighted to announce that Advice to Little Girls (public library) is officially out this week — a true labor of love nearly two years in the making. (You might recall a sneak peek from my TED Bookstore selections earlier this year.) Grab a copy, enjoy, and share!
While frolicsome in tone and full of wink, the story — like the most timeless of children’s books — is colored with subtle hues of grown-up philosophy on the human condition, exploring all the deft ways in which we creatively rationalize our wrongdoing and reconcile the good and evil we each embody.
Good little girls ought not to make mouths at their teachers for every trifling offense. This retaliation should only be resorted to under peculiarly aggravated circumstances.
If you have nothing but a rag-doll stuffed with sawdust, while one of your more fortunate little playmates has a costly China one, you should treat her with a show of kindness nevertheless. And you ought not to attempt to make a forcible swap with her unless your conscience would justify you in it, and you know you are able to do it.
One can’t help but wonder whether this particular bit may have in part inspired the irreverent 1964 anthology Beastly Boys and Ghastly Girls and its mischievous advice on brother-sister relations:
If at any time you find it necessary to correct your brother, do not correct him with mud — never, on any account, throw mud at him, because it will spoil his clothes. It is better to scald him a little, for then you obtain desirable results. You secure his immediate attention to the lessons you are inculcating, and at the same time your hot water will have a tendency to move impurities from his person, and possibly the skin, in spots.
If your mother tells you to do a thing, it is wrong to reply that you won’t. It is better and more becoming to intimate that you will do as she bids you, and then afterward act quietly in the matter according to the dictates of your best judgment.
Good little girls always show marked deference for the aged. You ought never to ‘sass’ old people unless they ‘sass’ you first.
There are no words to describe how much Advice to Little Girls makes my heart sing — let’s make a choir.

"The Splendor Falls" sounds about as good as a poem can sound.


"The Splendor Falls"
by Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809-1892)


The splendor falls on castle walls
    And snowy summits old in story;
The long light shakes across the lakes,
    And the wild cataract leaps in glory.
Blow, bugle, blow, set the wild echoes flying,
Blow, bugle; answer, echoes, dying, dying, dying.
O, hark, O, hear! how thin and clear,
    And thinner, clearer, farther going!
O, sweet and far from cliff and scar
    The horns of Elfland faintly blowing!
Blow, let us hear the purple glens replying,
Blow, bugles; answer, echoes, dying, dying, dying.
O love, they die in yon rich sky,
    They faint on hill or field or river;
Our echoes roll from soul to soul,
    And grow forever and forever.
Blow, bugle, blow, set the wild echoes flying,
And answer, echoes, answer, dying, dying, dying.

* Laura Cronk Comments:
National Poetry Month seems to me to be about connecting with the absolute pleasure of poetry. "The Splendor Falls" is the first poem I ever memorized just because I wanted to.  When I was fifteen I found it in my text book for English class and sat up late in my room memorizing it by the light of my great grandmother’s lamp.
"The Splendor Falls" sounds about as good as a poem can sound.  It is constructed with the rhythm and cadence of walking outside, alone.  One of the things it is about is sound — there’s the command to make sound (“Blow, bugle, blow,”), the command to answer sound (“answer echoes”), the elevated command to listen (“O, hark, O, hear!”).  The poem opens with a glorious description of the movement of light across a mountain scene.  We see the scene because we hear it — the open, languorous sounds of “falls” and “walls”, the light picking up speed reflecting on the s sounds of “snowy summits old in story” and then the masterful “long light shakes across the lakes” giving the scene perspective and sense of actually being there, the sound startling us into seeing the movement of the glittering waves on the water.  When the waterfall is introduced, the sound of the word “cataract” helps us experience the water flying, “leaping.”
In the second stanza we listen to the sounds of the bugles (always interesting to me that he chose this word, with its military feeling, its relative ugliness) “thin and clear,” again giving a sense of scope and distance and we hear the notes bouncing off the sides of the mountains and diminishing “thinner, clearer, father going!” And then elves! Tennyson claims in a brilliant metaphor that the echoes are produced by elves from “purple glens.” We experience the wonder of hearing echoes. The urge to make more sound just to hear it answered. The sound of the echoes are created especially in the ing sounds of “replying” and “dying, dying, dying” During the second refrain, it becomes clearer that the word "dying" is used deliberately and not just for its echoing sound.
The shift of the final stanza to addressing the beloved directly, “O love, they die” slays me with its sudden intimacy, and sudden killing off of the sounds of the poem “they die in yon rich sky.” Tennyson gives us their gradual fading, “they faint on hill or field or river;” I want, as the speaker here does, to believe the next lines, that the calling out and answering between two people who love each other could possibly never end, “Our echoes roll from soul to soul, / And grow forever and forever.” Tennyson’s heaven is being outside, illuminated, in exquisite communication. But this world that is our only sure experience is made of “dying, dying, dying.”

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Herrick's poem makes me aware of the tension between order and chaos that animates...


"Delight in Disorder"
by Robert Herrick (1591–1674)

A sweet disorder in the dresse
Kindles in clothes a wantonesse:
A Lawne about the shoulders thrown
Into a fine distraction:
An erring Lace, which here and there
Enthralls the Crimson Stomacher:
A Cuffe neglectfull, and thereby
Ribbands to flow confusedly:
A winning wave (deserving Note)
In the tempestuous petticote:
A carelesse shooe-string, in whose tye
I see a wilde civility:
Doe more bewitch me, than when Art
Is too precise in every part.

* Catherine Barnett Comments:
When I was a child I loved the "What's Wrong With This Picture?" page in the Highlights my dentist kept in his waiting room, which were never as unsettling as Bishop's National Geographic but which nonetheless helped pass the time. I find I'm still fascinated and compelled by mistakes, by the pleasure of unexpected juxtapositions, and by imperfections whose "sweet disorder" can often carry the mind into its own eddies of "fine distraction." (Teeth that are separated by a gap, and therefore "imperfect," are called "les dents du bonheur"—teeth of happiness.) A friend of mine, the wonderful documentary photographer John Lucas, once took a series of portraits of his friends and doctored the photos so that the two sides of the face were exact mirror images of each other; the face's natural asymmetry was transformed into an eerie perfection, leading us perhaps into the uncanny valley against which Herrick, in "Delight in Disorder," protests.
Herrick's poem makes me aware of the tension between order and chaos that animates, destabilizes, and makes wonderfully mysterious my own practice of both writing and living. It also makes me think of some of my favorite poems, which address similar concerns, sending me back to Yeats's "Adam's Curse," to so much of Stevens, and to Bishop, including "The Bight," whose "untidy activity continues, / awful but cheerful," and "Filling Station," where "Somebody / arranges the rows of cans / so that they softly say: / ESSO—SO—SO—SO / to high-strung automobiles. / Somebody loves us all." In Bishop's "At the Fishhouses," the speaker's eye looks back and forth between order and chaos, between "the scales, the principal beauty" and the "unnumbered fish" scraped "with that black old knife, / the blade of which is almost worn away."
Watching poets at work—by looking at their drafts, their "stitching and unstitching"—illustrates the tug-of-war between chaos and order. Sometimes what starts out orderly moves toward the disorderly, as in Dickinson's drafts for "Tell all the truth but tell it slant" in which she changes her initial "bold delight" to "infirm delight," a change that holds the same kind of paradox found in Herrick's wonderful "wilde civility," which is my favorite moment in Herrick's poem. (In an 1862 letter to T. W.  Higginson, Dickinson asked, "Are these more orderly? I thank you for the Truth—I had no Monarch in my life, and cannot rule myself, and when I try to organize—my little Force explodes—and leaves me bare and charred—I think you called me 'Wayward.'") 
"Delight in Disorder" also feels like a stay against death insofar as death's "Art / Is too precise in every part." In Dickinson's "It was not Death, for I stood up," for example, "The Figures I have seen" are "Set orderly, for Burial." Plath's "The Munich Mannequins" asserts "Perfection is terrible, it cannot have children." But the verbs in Herrick's poem—"kindles", "enthralls," "bewitch"—contrast dramatically with the passive "Is" of the final precision; the close of the poem is much more orderly than the preceding lines—it's only here that the rhyme is perfect, too perfect perhaps.


 About Catherine Barnett:
Catherine Barnett has received the 2012 James Laughlin Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Whiting Writers' Award, the Glasgow Prize for Emerging Writers, and a Pushcart. The author of The Game of Boxes (Graywolf Press, 2012) and Into Perfect Spheres Such Holes Are Pierced (Alice James Books, 2004), she has been the visiting poet at Barnard College, currently teaches at the New School and NYU, and works as an independent editor.

Monday, April 22, 2013

In 1929, despite the vocal protestations of Kahlo's mother, Frida and Diego were wedded and one of art history’s most notoriously tumultuous marriages commenced.


Frida Kahlo's Passionate Hand-Written Love Letters to Diego Rivera

"Only one mountain can know the core of another mountain."
Mexican painter and reconstructionistFrida Kahlo is among the most remarkable figures of contemporary culture. At a young age, she contracted polio, which left her right leg underdeveloped – an imperfection she’d later come to disguise with her famous colorful skirts. A decade later, as one of only thirty-five female students at Mexico’s prestigious Preparatoria school, she was in a serious traffic accident, which resulted in multiple body fractures and internal lesions inflicted by an iron rod that had pierced her stomach and uterus. It took her three months in full-body cast to recover and though she eventually willed her way to walking again, she spent the rest of her life battling frequent relapses of extreme pain and enduring frequent hospital visits, including more than thirty operations. As a way of occupying herself while bedridden, Kahlo made her first strides in painting – then went on to become one of the most influential painters in modern art.
Two years after the accident, in 1927, she met the painter Diego River, whose work she’d come to admire and who became her mentor. In 1929, despite the vocal protestations of Kahlo's mother, Frida and Diego were wedded and one of art history’s most notoriously tumultuous marriages commenced. Both had multiple affairs, the most notable of which for bisexual Kahlo were with French singer, dancer, and actress Josephine Baker and Russian Marxist theorist Leon Trotsky. And yet her bond with Diego was one of transcendental passion and immense love.
Kahlo's love letters to Rivera, found in The Diary of Frida Kahlo: An Intimate Self-Portrait (public library) and stretching across the twenty-seven-years span of their relationship, bespeak the profound and abiding connection the two shared, brimming with the seething cauldron of emotion with which all fully inhabited love is filled: elation, anguish, devotion, desire, longing, joy. In their breathless intensity, they soar in the same stratosphere of love letters as those exchanged between Georgia O’Keeffe and Alfred StieglitzAnaïs Nin and Henry Miller, and Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville-West.
Diego:
Nothing compares to your hands, nothing like the green-gold of your eyes. My body is filled with you for days and days. you are the mirror of the night. the violent flash of lightning. the dampness of the earth. The hollow of your armpits is my shelter. my fingers touch your blood. All my joy is to feel life spring from your flower-fountain that mine keeps to fill all the paths of my nerves which are yours.
Auxochrome – Chromophore. Diego.
She who wears the color.
He who sees the color.
Since the year 1922.
Until always and forever. Now in 1944. After all the hours lived through. The vectors continue in their original direction. Nothing stops them. With no more knowledge than live emotion. With no other wish than to go on until they meet. Slowly. With great unease, but with the certainty that all is guided by the "golden section." There is cellular arrangement. There is movement. There is light. All centers are the same. Folly doesn't exist. We are the same as we were and as we will be. Not counting on idiotic destiny.
My Diego:
Mirror of the night
Your eyes green swords inside my flesh. waves between our hands. All of you in a space full of sounds – in the shade and in the light. You were called AUXOCHROME the one who captures color. I CHROMOPHORE – the one who gives color. You are all the combinations of numbers. life. My wish is to understand lines form shades movement. You fulfill and I receive. Your word travels the entirety of space and reaches my cells which are my stars then goes to yours which are my light.
Auxochrome – Chromophore
It was the thirst of many years restrained in our body. Chained words which we could not say except on the lips of dreams. Everything was surrounded by the green miracle of the landscape of your body. Upon your form, the lashes of the flowers responded to my touch, the murmur of streams. There was all manner of fruits in the juice of your lips, the blood of the pomegranate, the horizon of the mammee and the purified pineapple. I pressed you against my breast and the prodigy of your form penetrated all my blood through the tips of my fingers. Smell of oak essence, memories of walnut, green breath of ash tree. Horizon and landscapes = I traced them with a kiss. Oblivion of words will form the exact language for understanding the glances of our closed eyes. = You are here, intangible and you are all the universe which I shape into the space of my room. Your absence springs trembling in the ticking of the clock, in the pulse of light; you breathe through the mirror. From you to my hands, I caress your entire body, and I am with you for a minute and I am with myself for a moment. And my blood is the miracle which runs in the vessels of the air from my heart to yours.
[…]
It's not love, or tenderness, or affection, it's life itself, my life, that I found what I saw it in your hands, in your month and in your breasts. I have the taste of almonds from your lips in my mouth. Our worlds have never gone outside. Only one mountain can know the core of another mountain.
Your presence floats for a moment or two as if wrapping my whole being in an anxious wait for the morning. I notice that I'm with you. At that instant still full of sensations, my hands are sunk in oranges, and my body feels surrounded by your arms.
For my Diego
the silent life giver of worlds, what is most important is the nonillusion. morning breaks, the friendly reds, the big blues, hands full of leaves, noisy birds, fingers in the hair, pigeons' nests a rare understanding of human struggle simplicity of the senseless song the folly of the wind in my heart = don't let them rhyme girl = sweet xocolatl[chocolate] of ancient Mexico, storm in the blood that comes in through the mouth – convulsion, omen, laughter and sheer teeth needles of pearl, for some gift on a seventh of July, I ask for it, I get it, I sing, sang, I'll sing from now on our magic – love.

For two years, two months and two days, he walked, observed, listened, wrote and read. The result was “Walden,”


A Man for All Seasons

Illustration by R. Kikuo Johnson
On July 4, 1845, Henry David Thoreau moved to a small cabin at Walden Pond, about a mile and a half from his hometown, Concord, Mass. “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately,” he explained, “to front only the essential facts of life.” For two years, two months and two days, he walked, observed, listened, wrote and read. The result was “Walden,” the book that made him one of the most beloved American writers, regarded by many as the country’s first environmentalist.
Yet today it’s another aspect of Thoreau’s work that’s proving vital, this time to ecological research. For the past decade, Richard Primack, a professor of biology at Boston University, has collaborated with colleagues at Harvard to use the observations in Thoreau’s journals as the basis for groundbreaking studies in climate change. From 1852 to 1861, Thoreau recorded the exact blooming and leafing-out dates of several hundred flowers, shrubs and trees in the Concord area, compiling charts and lists so meticulous that Primack and his associates — after the onerous task of deciphering Thoreau’s handwriting and matching 1850s plant names to their modern equivalents — have been able to compare them with present-­day observations at the same location.
In the nine years it took Thoreau to write and rewrite “Walden” — during which he struggled to align his passion (or, one might say, obsession) for detailed nature observation with his love for poetry — he walked the countryside, noting plant species and their growing seasons. He measured the depth of streams and ponds, took temperature readings, pressed samples of plants and recorded the arrival and departure of migrating birds. Instead of “calling on some scholar,” he marched miles through the woods for his appointments with plants. At times, he worried that “this habit of close observation” might harm his literary endeavors. One day, after a long boat trip, scribbling page after page of notes, he finished his journal entry by remarking that “every poet has trembled on the verge of science.”
During the years when Thoreau was redrafting “Walden,” he underwent a personal evolution — from a Transcendental poet who adored nature to one of America’s most influential nature writers. It was then that he began to use his journal as a precise record of his encounters with the natural world, developing a daily routine of serious study in the morning and evening, punctuated by a long afternoon walk. “I omit the unusual — the hurricanes and earthquakes — and describe the common,” he wrote in August 1851. “This has the greatest charm and is the true theme of poetry.” The journal entries, which had previously contained fragments and jottings, now became regular and chronological, documenting the seasons in all their intricacies. “This is my year of observation,” Thoreau proclaimed in July 1852. Armed with his hat as a “botany box” in which he kept plant specimens, a music book as his plant press and his walking stick as a measuring tape, he developed a deep appreciation of nature’s cycles and interrelationships.
All the great passages of “Walden” have their origin in Thoreau’s journals, engaging us on every level, from the grand sweep of the earth as “living poetry” to the humble frogs that “snore in the river” to the joy in bird songs heard in the early spring. His journal was “a book of the seasons,” “the record of my love” and of his “ecstasy” — some two million words altogether. Thoreau questioned whether anything he wrote would be better than his journal, comparing his words to flowers and wondering if they would look better artificially brought together in a bouquet (a book) or in the meadow where he had found them (his journal).
Andrea Wulf is the author of “Founding Gardeners: The Revolutionary Generation, Nature, and the Shaping of the American Nation.” She is an Eccles British Library writer in residence for 2013.

Friday, April 19, 2013

I would join in, but I felt like a kazoo player sitting in with Coltrane.



A Madman, but Angelic

ABC, via Photofest
Jonathan Winters, seated, with Robin Williams and Pam Dawber on the sitcom “Mork & Mindy.”
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My father’s laughter introduced me to the comedy of Jonathan Winters. My dad was a sweet man, but not an easy laugh. We were watching Jack Paar on “The Tonight Show” on our black-and-white television, and on came Jonathan in a pith helmet.
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Jonathan Winters filling in for Jack Paar in 1960.
“Who are you?” Paar asked.
“I’m a great white hunter,” Jonathan said in an effete voice. “I hunt mainly squirrels.”
“How do you do that?”
“I aim for their little nuts.”
My dad and I lost it. Seeing my father laugh like that made me think, “Who is this guy and what’s he on?”
A short time later, Jonathan was on Paar again. This time Jack handed him a stick, and what happened next was extraordinary. Jon did a four-minute freestyle riff in which that stick became a fishing rod, a spear, a giant beetle antenna, even Bing Crosby’s golf club complete with song. Each transformation was a cameo with characters and sound effects. He was performing comedic alchemy. The world was his laboratory. I was hooked.
Not only was Jonathan funny on TV, but his comedy albums are also auditory bliss. One of my favorite routines involved a mad scientist who sounded like Boris Karloff. But instead of creating a Frankenstein, he made thousands of little men that he unleashed on the world. His shocked assistant cried out, “What are they looking for?”
The professor replied, “Little women, you fool.”
He also created comic characters like Maude Frickert and the overgrown child Chester Honeyhugger. In one classic pre-P.C.-era routine, he had Maude being molested by a huge farmhand. She protested, “Stop, I’m church people.” After he had his way, he was off to do his chores, and she called out, “Don’t be long.”
Mort Sahl said Jonathan was seen as a great improviser, but to him he was just being himself. He was a rebel without a pause, whether he was portraying the WASP who couldn’t get a decent martini in Mombasa or the cowboy who couldn’t ride a horse and backed out of frame. Jonathan’s wife, Eileen, maybe had the best quote. She said that Jonathan went through his terrible 2’s but that they lasted 20 years.
In 1981, my sitcom “Mork & Mindy” was about to enter its fourth and final season. The show had run its course and we wanted to go out swinging. The producers suggested hiring Jonathan to play my son, who ages backward. That woke me out of a two-year slump. The cavalry was on the way.
Jonathan’s improvs on “Mork & Mindy” were legendary. People on the Paramount lot would pack the soundstage on the nights we filmed him. He once did a World War I parody in which he portrayed upper-class English generals, Cockney infantrymen, a Scottish sergeant no one could understand and a Zulu who was in the wrong war. The bit went on so long that all three cameras ran out of film. Sometimes I would join in, but I felt like a kazoo player sitting in with Coltrane.
On one of his first days on the show, a young man asked Jonathan how to get into show business. He said: “You know how movie studios have a front gate? You get a Camaro with a steel grill, drive it through the gate, and once you’re on the lot, you’re in showbiz.”
No audience was too small for Jonathan. I once saw him do a hissing cat for a lone beagle.
His comedy sometimes had an edge. Once, at a gun show, Jon was looking at antique pistols and a man asked if he was a gun proponent. He said: “No, I prefer grenades. They’re more effective.”
Earlier in his life, he had a breakdown and spent some time in a mental institution. He joked that the head doctor told him: “You can get out of here. All you need is 57 keys.” He also hinted that Eileen wanted him to stay there at least until Christmas because he made great ornaments.
Even in his later years, he exorcised his demons in public. His car had handicap plates. He once parked in a blue lane and a woman approached him and said, “You don’t look handicapped to me.”
Jonathan said, “Madam, can you see inside my mind?”
If you wanted a visual representation of Jonathan’s mind, you’d have to go to his house. It is awe-inspiring. There are his paintings (a combination of Miró and Navajo); baseball memorabilia; Civil War pistols and swords; model airplanes, trains, and tin trucks from the ’20s; miniature cowboys and Indians; and toys of all kinds.
We shared a love of painted military miniatures. He once sent me four tiny Napoleonic hookers in various states of undress with a note that read, “For zee troops!”
But the toys were a manifestation of a dark time in his life. Jonathan was a Marine who fought in the Pacific in World War II. When he came home from the war, he went to his old bedroom and discovered that his prized tin trucks were gone.
He asked his mother what she did with his stuff.
“I gave them to the mission,” she said.
“Why did you do that?”
“I didn’t think you were coming back,” she replied.
Jonathan has shuffled off this mortal coil. So here’s to Jonny Winters, the cherubic madman with a stick who touched so many. Damn, am I going to miss you!
Robin Williams is an Oscar-, Emmy-  and Grammy-winning actor and comedian.  He recently completed filming “The Angriest Man in Brooklyn” and is in production on “A Friggin’ Christmas Miracle.”

Thursday, April 18, 2013

They are the Nisei of cyberspace—the first generation born into a world that has never not known digital life


1993

Meet the First Digital Generation. Now Get Ready to Play by Their Rules
By Jerry Adler Photographs by Dan Winters


ANNA DANISZEWSKI, a sophomore at Bard College, takes a dozen or more cell phone pictures daily, usually around dusk or after dark—moody shots of found objects, bare branches against a gray sky, or lighted windows in the distance, evoking the way sensitive, artistic young men and women have always felt about life. You can totally imagine Goethe doing the same thing, preserving each precious instant of angst for the posterity that would someday recognize his genius. Except Daniszewski doesn’t preserve them all; some she sends out with Snapchat, so they appear on friends’ phones for around six seconds before vanishing irretrievably. In an era when everyone has the tools to be an artist and everything is recorded and stored—potentially forever—this counts as provocation. Daniszewski is embracing the ephemeral.
For Daniszewski’s cohort, the roughly 4 million Americans born in 1993 (she herself was born in the second week of 1994), such contradictions must constantly be negotiated: public versus private, virtual versus real, active versus passive. On one hand, millennials consume so much media they can’t concentrate, torn as they are between texting, posting on Facebook, and watching YouTube. And yet they also have an astonishing ability to focus on elaborate videogame play for six-hour stretches or to watch complex, multistranded television dramas in binge sessions that can swallow a weekend. They are experts in driving games like Gran Turismo 5, but they’re not that interested in actual driving. (When Americans born in 1978 turned 16 years old, 42 percent had driver’s licenses; the comparable figure for millennials is less than a third.)
They are the Nisei of cyberspace—the first generation born into a world that has never not known digital life and so never had to adjust to it as the rest of us settlers have. Like all Nisei, they understand the new world in ways their parents never will and speak its language with far more fluency. If you want to understand the past two decades, they are perhaps the perfect subjects. The drumbeat of disruption and technological advance that has defined the past 20 years is their natural rhythm.
I was born in 1949, so the first 20 years of my life spanned a similarly disruptive era. But the forces that molded my generation were political and cultural, not technological. Nothing in my use of vinyl records or radio or the telephone set me apart from people who were born in 1929 or 1909.
The digital Nisei are different: Technology has shaped not just how they navigate the world but how they see themselves. Each generation imagines itself as rebellious and iconoclastic. But none before has felt as free to call bullshit on conventional wisdom, backed by a trillion pages of information on the web and with the power of the Internet to broadcast their opinions. They have thrown off the shackles of received culture—compiling their own playlists, getting news from Twitter, decorating web pages with their own art.
But at the same time that technology has empowered the digital Nisei, it has also exerted control over them. The way they interact is influenced and mediated by the available tools. A Pew Internet survey from 2010 ranked the seven main ways teenagers communicated. Among then-17-year-olds, who are 20 now, in descending order these were text messaging, cell phone calls, landline calls, face- to-face, social networks, instant messaging, and—dead last—email. (Written letters didn’t even merit a footnote.) Teenage girls averaged 80 texts a day, Pew found. Boys, around 30.
Texting is perhaps the most efficient form of communication ever invented, stripping messages to a fine-grained, asynchronous channel. It is at once intimate, allowing communication on a level of informality that would be unthinkable in any other medium, and distant—replacing a commitment to a conversation with a series of one-sided communiquès. “Phone conversations make me anxious,” says Jennifer Lin, a freshman at Parsons the New School for Design. “I don’t like calling people and having them not answer. I don’t want people around me hearing what I’m saying. I don’t want to have to think about how to end the conversation—OK, bye, later, see you. I don’t want to talk to people. And it kills my batteries.”
Then again, texting—or DMing, or chatting on Facebook, or commenting on Instagram—comes with its own set of anxieties. Notes are worked over and polished to convey just the right balance of sincerity and indifference. And the lack of immediate feedback cuts both ways, psychologically. To be 20 is to wonder why you haven’t received a response to your latest message, to live in fear that your sarcasm was misunderstood. The younger the person, says Amanda di Bartolomeo, a Los Angeles psychologist, the more impatient they are for a reply. They devise elaborate theories involving lost phones, sudden term papers, and cool parties to which the sender wasn’t invited. Moreover, one of the great advantages of digital communication, the ability to present yourself in an ideal light, can be problematic: “I have friends who made boyfriends online and spend an inordinate amount of time composing emails to impress them,” says Maryam Mashayekhi, a 19-year-old from Washington, DC, taking a break from college for AmeriCorps. “What will they do when they meet in person and have to talk?”

Photography is big at museums of late — more exhibitions, more dedicated curators and so on


Carnegie Museum Bids To Become A “Living Laboratory”

Photography is big at museums of late — more exhibitions, more dedicated curators and so on – and today came an announcement from the Carnegie Museum of Art on the topic: With a gift from the William T. Hillman Foundation, it is launching the Hillman Photography Initiative — “a living laboratory for exploring the rapidly changing field of photography and its impact on the world.” Lynn Zelevansky (below), the museum’s director, said that “The Initiative positions the museum to be a leader in a subject area with broad appeal and profound relevance to contemporary society. We are deeply grateful for the [Foundation’s] support and partnership in this effort.”
LYNN2-235x300As a daughter of Rochester, home to Eastman Kodak and the George Eastman House, I have mixed emotions… but competition is good.
Let me quote from the press release –which admittedly is a little vague. Here goes:
For much of its history, photography has pervaded our world, but never more so than today, when non-stop technological innovations make it ever easier to take photographs and share them instantaneously. There are over eight billion pictures on the social media site Flickr; photographs on the Internet appear for seconds and then disappear, lost in a pictorial “newsfeed.” How does that affect their meaning? Our belief in their veracity? Our way of valuing them as keepsakes? And where in the midst of all these images and new technologies does art reside? What are the intellectual and aesthetic criteria by which we value photographs made with new means (for example, cell phones, computational photography) today? And how will we value those made by other means tomorrow?
the Hillman Photography Initiative is a special project within the photography department of Carnegie Museum of Art that will offer an adaptable framework for engaging with these provocative issues. Favoring an approach that is experimental and open to new perspectives, the Initiative will be driven by the collaboration of five “agents,” consisting of four external experts and Carnegie Museum of Art curator Tina Kukielski, who is also co-curator of the 2013 Carnegie International. The Initiative will follow a 12-month cycle, beginning with an intense three-month planning period during which the agents will work together with program manager Divya Rao Heffley to identify a key theme that will inspire a wide range of activities such as exhibitions, programs, collaborations, publications, commissioned works of art, artist residencies, and online experiences. Nathan Martin of the innovation/design studio Deeplocal will facilitate the process. Following the planning phase, Kukielski and Heffley will work with other museum staff to manage the implementation of the activities over the nine months that follow. Rollout of activities is expected in early 2014, although some may begin more quickly. Additionally, the Initiative will co-sponsor and/or collaborate on related projects at the museum and with other institutions.
See what I mean? A bit more:
The first group of agents includes, along with Tina Kukielski, Marvin Heiferman, independent curator and writer; Alex Klein, program curator at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia; Illah Nourbakhsh, professor of robotics and director of the CREATE Lab, Carnegie Mellon University; and Arthur Ou, assistant professor of photography and director, BFA photography, Parsons The New School for Design. The group will meet for the first time on April 21–22 to begin the development cycle.

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