- 21 April 2000
- One Million Hits, Infinite Hits
- It seems that Internet publishers gauge their success by the number of hits their sites receive. (Im not exactly sure about the technical bits, but in this context I think a hit occurs every time a server sends a piece of information out over the Internet that someone has requested.) I suppose advertisers need that sort of information, but monitoring statistics on ones popularity seems rather childish. Im a legend in my own mind, so I have no need of public validation or approval.
(As an aside, the perceived need for a large following reminds me of Gore Vidals remark: Some writers take to drink, others take to audiences.)
Despite my ostentatious charade of aloofness , I must admit that it would be fun to casually mention that my Internet site gets several million hits a day. With that thought in mind, I decided to make a piece that would generate a million hits a day, even if only one person visited.
For my first attempt, I created an Internet sketch that repeated the word hits one million times. In one sense, the approach worked: the ten-megabyte file should crash the computer of anyone who tries to look at it. The problem was, for my purposes, that even such a large file technically only generates one hit. I then ran into similar problems when I tried to work with real hits. Even by sending the same graphic image over and over again, the sketch that generated one million hits was over five hundred megabytes.
I finally came up with a printed solution in the form of an eight-hundred and two page printed piece, One Million Hits in Eight Hundred Tabs. I was not pleased with the result, though, and decided not to publish a PDF version of the piece.
By the time I went back to the medium of the Internet, I finally realized that I was no longer working with paper. I belatedly understood there was no need to limit myself to a finite number of hits. And so it was that I came up to the Internet-based piece, Infinite Hits.
- 22 April 2000
- An Uneventful Visit With Wayne
- I ran into Wayne Brill again during a fly-by-night visit to Interlochen. It was good to see a dear friend and exceptional mentor again after a long absence.
When I was a student at Interlochen a quarter century ago, Wayne embodied everything I loved about photography. He made beautiful, superbly-crafted prints. He had a closet full of Leicas, Nikons, Rolleis and Hasselblads. I was (and I still am) convinced that he knew everything there was to know about photographic technique.
To me, Wayne was a brilliant anti-teacher: he explained the basics of photography, would patiently answer any question, and he expectedno, make that demandedtechnical perfection. No coaxing, no threatening, no tricks, none of the methods one presumably learns when being formally taught how to teach. (I doubt Wayne ever took a formal course on how to teach, but youll have to look elsewhere for a biography.) He just sat there, sphinx-like, always questioning, almost never satisfied.
Theres a lot of Wayne in me, even though it certainly wouldnt appear so to the casual observer. I rarely make photographs any more except to serve as the visual element in image/text pieces; I fear the f64 aesthetic is stuck in the static purgatory of art history. But yet, even when I make a piece that has everything to do with ideas and nothing to do with retinal thrills, I still spend an inordinate amount of time making the best possible image (even if, for example, the print in question is a computer scan of a newspaper lingerie ad printed on a simple laser printer).
And on rare occasions when I do make a photograph, I use my embarrassingly large collection of Leicas, Nikons, Rolleis and Hasselblads. (Wayne once advised me If youre stuck, buy a new lens. If youre still stuck, get a new camera. Ive been repeating this for so many years I have no idea if he actually ever said it, but it makes a good anecdote.)
In addition to teaching me to be a good craftsperson (although Ill never be half as good as he was), Wayne also taught meif only by exampleto never be satisfied with my work. Wayne always seemed in a constant state of agitation about his photographs; they never were and never could be good enough. This may or may not be a paradox, but the impossible demands he put on himself as a photographer never seemed to prevent him from being quite at peace with himself as a human being. G. K. Chesterton was right: The artistic temperament is a disease that afflicts amateurs.
His many summers at Ansel Adams Yosemite workshops epitomized his approach to life. I cant imagine that he actually learned much from any of the workshop leaders, including crafty old Ansel. It was the perfect trip: a couple of weeks obsessing about photography while simultaneously enjoying one of the most beautiful spots on the planet.
Waynes stories and photographs of the west influenced me deeply. When I graduated from Interlochen, all I wanted to do was make 8x10 contact prints of the western landscape even though Id never been west of Chicago.
Havent heard from you in a while, Wayne said as we drove through the piney woods.
Im sorry about that; I heard you died in 1992, I replied. I even remember the datewasnt it the twenty-second of February?
Oh that, Wayne commented. (Wayne uses few words.)
What happened? I asked.
I guess some people got the story wrong.
I always thought that death was pretty unambiguous, I replied.
Wayne just shrugged.
I guess thats that.
- 23 April 2000
- Jesuss Miraculous Bronze Underwear
- Today is Easter Sunday, the day when Christians celebrate their savior rising from the dead. According to the bible, Jesus was naked as the day he was born when he returned for his unprecedented encore. That makes perfect sense, clothes are of no use whatsoever to dead people.
Michelangelo Buonarroti also concurred with the biblical record that the recently undead Jesus was unambiguously nude. He said so in his marble sculpture, Risen Christ.
But the idea of the son of a god stripped bare is not universally acknowledged, at least by some of the popes of the Catholic church. For example, go to Santa Maria sopra Minerva in Rome. (You cant miss it; its basilica is just off the Corso, near the Pantheon.) There, youll see an astonishing site: Michelangelos half-a-millennium old Christ wearing a relatively new, wondrous, bronze loincloth. The heavy, metal cloth hugs the lords loins with no visible means of support whatsoever, clearly a gravity-defying miracle. Hallelujah!
The metal garment in question was commissioned by a pope a few decades ago, and its been on and off ever since. Thats not surprising; the introduction of fashion may be inextricably linked to the introduction of clothing.
According to this years fashion spotters, Jesus 2000 was again sporting his miraculous bronze underwear. The fashion cognoscenti are divided on predictions for next years holy apparel. With myriad plots for a new pope in various stages of gestation, anything could happen.
- 24 April 2000
- The Typo of the Millenium
- I ran across a wonderful chip shop today. I didnt sample any of the food on offer; I knew it was fine without tasting ityou cant go wrong by boiling potatoes in hot grease, then suffocating them in salt and vinegar.
I love the name of this particular chip shop: Millenium [sic] Take Away. The owners didnt merely misspell Millennium; anyone can do that. (I shouldnt brag, but I make a different typo almost daily without any conscious effort.)
The proprietors didnt stop at painting Millenium in huge letters on the window, they also did the same thing in neon! Thats my kind of mistake!
If youre going to make a mistake, make it decisive, make it memorable, make it huge. And, if the opportunity rises, use neon.
- 25 April 2000
- E Plurabis Vomitus
- A famous football player married a famous popular music singer, thus creating a famous couple. The famous couple take themselves very seriously. They also take their fame seriously, so seriously that theyve designed their own coat of arms.
The result is predictably hideous.
I didnt get a good look at it; I only remember that is used a lot of tacky olde English imagery above the text on the flowing banner: Love-Friendship. Or perhaps it said Friendship-LoveI didnt spend a lot of time looking at it.
The silly image really didnt merit a critique, but it received one anyway. In fact, Stephen Fry gave it one of the best reviews Ive ever heard: Sometimes theres just not enough vomit in the world.
- 26 April 2000
- Writing About Art
- Sonja asked me what I was writing about.
The usual, I replied, Im writing about art and the like.
Why dont you write about something you know something about? Sonja suggested.
That Sonjas quite the clever one! But then again, sos Ken Keysey, and so I dug up a relevant quote: Write what you dont know. What you know is almost dull. If you had a really interesting life, you almost surely wouldnt be writing.
- 27 April 2000
- It Goes Without Saying
- Many years ago Maia forbade me from using the phrase, it goes without saying. She told me that she learned that from her college English teacher, who advised her, if it goes without saying, then dont say it.
It goes without saying that I still include the phrase in my arsenal of bad writers tools.
- 28 April 2000
- Forgeries Redux
- Ive got a good story, even if I cant remember the specifics. Thats not a problem, though; a really good story is greater than merely the sum of its details. And this is such a story.
Once upon a time, there was a very talented forger. His forged paintings fooled almost all the experts almost all the time. As may be inferred from the two almosts, though, his less-than-perfect track record led to a few years in prison. The forger was one of those fortunate people whose time in the penitentiary only served to underscore his achievements, and he died a well-respected paint mechanic, not unlike those whose work he copied.
Then the story gets better.
The forgers work was so highly regarded that collectors started paying large sums of money to own his forgeries. And then the inevitable laws of the marketplace kicked in, and not a few collectors have been shocked to discover their recent acquisitions werent original forgeries. Theyd been swindled into buying forgeries of forgeries.
Will people never learn? Of course they wont; thats what makes the art worlds mercantile follies endlessly entertaining.