Thursday, June 12, 2014

Observations 6.12.1

A bit of an introduction to my aunt from a post I totally forgot I had written. Click here to read the full post.

(April 14, 2013)

I'm not sure if I have ever mentioned my aunt before but I should have as she is probably one of the more interesting members of my family. In many ways I'm more like my aunt than I am my mom just as in many ways my aunt and mom are very different. Both loved art but my aunt made it her life as she graduated from two art schools and worked at a few museums including the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Never married she lived in Los Angeles and New York, at one time having an apartment just blocks from where I live now, as well as Brooklyn, Philadelphia, and Atlanta. The Atlanta stop I should ask her about because I never could figure that one out.

My aunt is the world traveling rebellious sister while my mom was the much more serious and at times philosophical one. In that way the two remind me a lot of my sister and I. In art my mom's interests ran more towards classical art and history while my aunt loves all things modern and abstract. When my mom lost her hair during chemo she religiously wore a Penn State cap her daughter forced on her. Last year, after being diagnosed with the same rare cancer as my mom, my aunt refused all offers from my rather large hat collection and acquired a large collection of her own, long printed scarves that flow behind her.

Observations 6.12

It's become the worst possible form of deja vu. Some fifteen years ago I watched as my mom was consumed by cancer and as many years later I watch as the disease slowly but ever so surely takes her sister, my aunt.

With my mom I found myself consumed with rage, rage against a world I felt had deserted me. In many ways I took it out on myself because I reasoned if the world had deserted me it was perfectly acceptable to desert myself. Essentially I was selfish. Now I find I'm more retrospective, thinking more about my life, what I've done and what I want to do with it. I think a lot about my family.

I'm sure one explanation of the difference in reactions is simply age, that magic wand called maturity, the different way a thirty year old's mind reacts to a situation compared to a teenager's mind. How much of the difference comes from the knowledge that I carry the same gene that destroyed both my mom and my aunt I can not say. Along with maturity comes knowledge and with that knowledge comes questions, some of those questions never have an answer. Probably the main question is the simplest, why? It's ironic how the simplest question is also one that has no answer.

It's so hard to put any of what I'm thinking or feeling into words but I had to try if for no other reason than my sanity. When I write, ramble as I might at times, I can see concrete thoughts, this is what I'm thinking. When I talk about my feelings on this or any subject I sometimes change my thoughts before the conversation is over. Normally I like that, I like that my mind is constantly changing, evolving to use an overused word. But in this case I find it all too emotional and feel like my brain is on the verge of burning out. Maybe this will help, maybe not.

But than there are the times I just can't get Birdy's "Wings" out of my head. It is what it is.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Observations, Pride 2014

Presidential proclamation declaring June LGBT Pride month ....

"I call upon the people of the United States to eliminate prejudice everywhere it exists, and to celebrate the great diversity of the American people."

The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release May 30, 2014

Presidential Proclamation -- Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month, 2014

As progress spreads from State to State, as justice is delivered in the courtroom, and as more of our fellow Americans are treated with dignity and respect -- our Nation becomes not only more accepting, but more equal as well. During Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Pride Month, we celebrate victories that have affirmed freedom and fairness, and we recommit ourselves to completing the work that remains.

Last year, supporters of equality celebrated the Supreme Court's decision to strike down a key provision of the Defense of Marriage Act, a ruling which, at long last, gave loving, committed families the respect and legal protections they deserve. In keeping with this decision, my Administration is extending family and spousal benefits -- from immigration benefits to military family benefits -- to legally married same-sex couples.

My Administration proudly stands alongside all those who fight for LGBT rights. Here at home, we have strengthened laws against violence toward LGBT Americans, taken action to prevent bullying and harassment, and prohibited discrimination in housing and hospitals. Despite this progress, LGBT workers in too many States can be fired just because of their sexual orientation or gender identity; I continue to call on the Congress to correct this injustice by passing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. And in the years ahead, we will remain dedicated to addressing health disparities within the LGBT community by implementing the Affordable Care Act and the National HIV/AIDS Strategy -- which focuses on improving care while decreasing HIV transmission rates among communities most at risk.

Our commitment to advancing equality for the LGBT community extends far beyond our borders. In many places around the globe, LGBT people face persecution, arrest, or even state-sponsored execution. This is unacceptable. The United States calls on every nation to join us in defending the universal human rights of our LGBT brothers and sisters.

This month, as we mark 45 years since the patrons of the Stonewall Inn defied an unjust policy and awakened a nascent movement, let us honor every brave leader who stood up, sat in, and came out, as well as the allies who supported them along the way. Following their example, let each of us speak for tolerance, justice, and dignity -- because if hearts and minds continue to change over time, laws will too.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim June 2014 as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month. I call upon the people of the United States to eliminate prejudice everywhere it exists, and to celebrate the great diversity of the American people.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this thirtieth day of May, in the year of our Lord two thousand fourteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-eighth.

Barack Obama

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Observations 5.20

So a day after a judge ruled Oregon's same sex marriage ban was unconstitutional Judge John Jones ruled the same in a case against Pennsylvania's ban. This one was fascinating for a number of reasons but it was special too because I still consider Pennsylvania my home state. I'll try to get to the fascinating later but for now I want to post a quote from Judge Jones' ruling. It should be noted that Jones was appointed by President George W. Bush.

"In the sixty years since Brown (vs the Board of Education) was decided, 'separate' has thankfully faded into history, and only 'equal' remains. Similarly, in future generations the label same-sex marriage will be abandoned to be replaced by simply marriage.

We are a better people than what these laws represent, and it's time to discard them into the ash heap of history."

United States District Judge John E. Jones III

Monday, May 19, 2014

Observations 5.19

"With discernment we see not shadows lurking in closets or the stereotypes of what was once believed; rather, we see families committed to the common purpose of love, devotion, and service to the greater community.

Where will this all lead? I know that many suggest we are going down a slippery slope that will have no moral boundaries. To those who truly harbor such fears, I can only say this: Let us look less to the sky to see what might fall; rather, let us look to each other ... and rise."

United States District Judge Michael J. McShane at the conclusion of his ruling today which declared Oregon's ban on same sex marriage unconstitutional.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Observations on Art 4.22

I've posted a few timelapse videos over the years, they're something I really love, a love I probably picked up from my roommate in State College who was a film major. I never did anything with that love but maybe that will change next year. At the moment Geoff Tompkinson is one of the best timelapse video producers in the world and one of the few good hyperlapse producers. The now defunct website Inspiredology once called him the man who controls time. Next year he and his wife Liz will be giving one of their workshops in New York and I'm seriously considering attending.

The Independent described hyperlapse as basically "shorthand for large distance stop motion timelapse," hyperlapse is a much easier word to use. When asked the difference between timelapse and hyperlapse Tompkinson answered; "It’s quite similar in that the footage is a series of photographs that are put into sequence and sped up to play at 24 frames per second only, with timelapse it’s normally from a single static position or incorporating a small rail-based move. With hyperlapse, I’m moving the camera long distances during the sequence to offer a very different experience as we can journey around a place or through a building, as opposed to just seeing everything unfold all from one spot." The trick is to transition from photo to photo without the video looking jerky.

Below is Tompkinson's latest video, Moving Through New York.

Moving Through New York from Geoff Tompkinson on Vimeo.
Posted April 8, 2014

Here is a link to the Tompkinson film The Lake which was the overall winner of the 2013 Chronos Film Festival. The festival celebrates the art of altered time perception cinematography including time-lapse, slow motion, and stop motion photography.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Observations on Art 3.31

"Art is anything you can get away with" is a quote widely attributed to Andy Warhol that says all you need to know about his theory of art. I say the quote is attributed to Warhol because, while I'm sure he said it and just as sure he lived it, the quote is actually by a Canadian media philosopher, Marshall McLuhan.

It doesn't really matter who said it because the quote isn't the topic of this post. It just makes a perfect opening for a Warhol story I heard last week that I hadn't heard in some time.

On April 21, 1964 Eleanor Ward's Stable Gallery* held one of the first major exhibitions of Andy Warhol's work. The Stable exhibition was the first time the world saw Warhol's Brillo Boxes. Among those attending the show was James Harvey who had originally designed the box for the Brillo Manufacturing Company. Harvey and a friend had wandered into the Stable to see a show by a than still minor artist, Warhol. Upon seeing the stack of  boxes Harvey supposedly said to his friend "oh my god, I designed those."

Art critic Arthur Danto once asked, "What distinguishes Warhol’s Brillo Box from the Brillo boxes in which Brillo comes?" That's literally a million dollar question because on that day in 1964 Warhol's Brillo boxes were selling for hundreds of dollars and have since sold at auction for as much $5 million. For all practical purposes Harvey's Brillo boxes were worthless.

James Harvey died of cancer less than a year after the Stable Gallery show. One of the only remaining examples of Harvey's Brillo box is owned by Art Historian Irving Sandler. He keeps the box, an autographed gift from Harvey, in a case in his apartment not far from what was once the site of the Stable Gallery.

* trivia, the Stable Gallery was so named because it was originally housed in an unused livery stable on West 58th Street in New York.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Observations 3.13

If you're just a fan HBO's Game of Thrones it would be a dream job. Throw in being a fan of Annie Leibovitz, or just a fan of photography, or just a photographer and it becomes simply a dream. The cover story of the April issue of Vanity Fairavailable March 13th, is a GOT preview called "The Gathering Storm" and the cover was shot by Leibovitz in Northern Ireland.

One bit of trivia in the article is that President Obama, always known to be a GOT fan, receives early screenings of the show. In an e-mail to Vanity Fair the creators of the show replied, "One perk of being the most powerful man in the world: yes, you get to see episodes early."

Above the Leibovitz video is a link to a fourteen minute trailer for Season 4 of Game of Thrones which premiers April 6th on HBO.

Game of Thrones Season 4: Ice and Fire, A Foreshadowing


Published on Mar 10, 2014
Watch Annie Leibovitz photograph the cast in Northern Ireland.
Subscribe to the all-new Vanity Fair channel here.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Observations on Sochi 2.9

Andy Wong, Associated Press
I haven't written in some time but I'm not going to get into that. I'll just say I've been busy with other things and leave it at that for now. It isn't surprising that a combination of two of my loves, sports and photography, snapped me out of that non-posting funk.

What I want to share is quite possibly the coolest thing ever. With the start of the Olympics in Sochi The New York Times launched what they call The Firehouse. It's a real time live stream that streams still photos instead of video. The stream includes photos from the Times along with the Associated Press, Reuters, Getty Images, Agence France Presse, and the European Pressphoto Agency. The name derives from the fact that the photos can stream by quickly and they have no caption or description other than the photographer's name and agency.

I have no idea if it's a one event trial or if the Times will use it for other things. Either way it's pretty damn awesome.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Observations 2014

This is the start of my fifth year writing this blog, a fact I find rather mind boggling. For various reasons I haven't been posting much lately and I'm not sure when that will change. Too many projects and too little time is one of the reasons, increasingly writing in 140 character bytes is another.

A major reason for that recent lack of posts is that I haven't felt like writing about politics lately. Actually I haven't been paying as much attention to national politics as I normally do. Fair and balanced was once just a joke on Fox News but increasingly it could be used on the political reporting of the MSM in general.

It's hard to find a news source, televised or otherwise, that doesn't cater to a certain segment of the population. While many Republicans are rightly criticized for talking exclusively to their base more and more everybody is talking to somebody and nobody is just reporting the news. Than there is the ratings game where reporting has taken a backseat to profit. Watch one of the network evening news shows sometime. If it can't be reported in apocalyptic tones in all likelihood it isn't going to be reported at all.

Don't get me wrong, opinion has its place and is necessary, it's just that today it's hard to find political news that isn't partially political opinion. Panel shows have become the worst because it's like the talking heads are just talking to the heads on the other side of the table. Being a talking head, no matter what the politics, has become a very profitable career choice and they need to protect it. I suppose the problem is that the heads and other reporters are as much trapped in the bubble as the politicians they accuse of being trapped in the very same bubble. I still have my favorites, I'll always love Rachel, but I don't watch them as religiously as I once did.

It's just hard to find anybody to believe that isn't already telling you what you already believe and therein lies the catch 22. In the end you just have to believe yourself. Traditionally I don't believe in New Year's resolutions because I think they are doomed to fail but I may make an exception this year. I think I'll try to read a better mix of things this year and believe myself more without subconsciously looking for somebody to tell me what I want to hear. It might be a good New Year's resolution for the nation as a whole.

Happy New Year people.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Observations from the Window 12.12

This is just an update to my post on International Human Rights Day which you can read here. On Wednesday, the day after International Human Rights Day, the Supreme Court of India threw out a four year old ruling by a lower court, the Delhi High Court, which had decriminalized gay sex. Section 377 of India's penal code bans "sex against the order of nature" and dates to the 19th century. The Supreme Court said the lower court had no authority in the matter and that only the Indian government could change the law.

The ruling stunned even the federal government. Several ministers openly criticized the court's verdict and the home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde said they would propose a new law that would negate the court ruling. Also the United Nations human rights chief Navi Pillay said today that the ruling violates international law.

After the ruling was announced protests erupted in various cities including Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai and Bangalore. Activists have threatened to continue the protests until the judgment is overrules either by further court review or through a new law in parliament.

But for now my list of countries in which homosexuality is crime now includes India.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Observations from the Window 12.10.2

Today was International Human Rights Day which marks the 1948 signing of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. A sign of how far we have come is the little noted use of three words in President Obama's remarks at today's memorial for Nelson Mandela:

"Around the world today, men and women are still imprisoned for their political beliefs, and are still persecuted for what they look like, and how they worship, and who they love."

"It always seems impossible until it is done," Nelson Mandela.

Observations from the Window 12.10.1

Today was International Human Rights Day which marks the 1948 signing of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. A measure of how far the world has to go in one category is the fact that homosexuality is still illegal in 76 countries:

Afghanistan, Algeria, Angola, Antigua and Barbuda, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belize, Bhutan, Botswana, Brunei, Burundi, Cameroon, Comoros, Dominica, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gambia, Ghana, Grenada, Guinea, Guyana, Iran, Jamaica, Kenya, Kiribati, Kuwait, Lebanon, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritania, Mauritius, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nauru, Nigeria, Oman, Pakistan, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Qatar, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, São Tomé and Principe, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Solomon Islands, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Swaziland, Syria, Tanzania, Togo, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Turkmenistan, Tuvalu, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan, Yemen, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

In addition to that, in five countries, Iran, Mauritania, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Yemen, being queer can get you executed.

Thursday, December 5, 2013


"It is said that no one truly knows a nation until one has been inside its jails. A nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens, but its lowest ones."

Nelson Mandela who died today in his Johannesburg home, he was 95.