New NYC Artists Wanted

Carol Vogel in the New York Times:

Ms. Heiss, director of the P.S. 1 Contemporary Art Center in Queens, and Klaus Biesenbach, a curator at P.S. 1 and its big-sister affiliate, the Museum of Modern Art, were heading over the Brooklyn Bridge into Manhattan. It had been a long afternoon tramping through snow banks and navigating obscure streets in Brooklyn to visit artists’ studios. Now, Ms. Heiss and Mr. Biesenbach were on their way to Columbia University to call on a 27-year-old art student whose work Mr. Biesenbach had spotted in December at a fair held by the New Art Dealers Alliance in Miami.

This is more or less how they and their colleagues on a team of curators have spent the last 10 months – stopping by studios, inviting artists to P.S. 1 and poring over thousands of submissions from painters, sculptors and conceptual artists to photographers and film and video artists, all in the New York metropolitan area.

From more than 2,400 submissions, museum directors and curators will choose the work of 175 artists who they say best capture the city’s contemporary art scene for “Greater New York 2005,” a giant survey show opening on March 13 at P.S. 1.

More here.

More on the New Anti-Evolutionists

Chris Mooney in American Prospect:

It’s official. With recent news of lawsuits over the teaching of evolution in both Georgia and Pennsylvania, even Time magazine now considers the fight over Charles Darwin’s theory a live issue again. The New York Times and The Washington Post have both come out against the new anti-evolutionism, while on FOX News, a braying Bill O’Reilly recently announced that “there are a lot of very brilliant scholars who believe the reason we have incomplete science on evolution is that there is a higher power involved in this.” O’Reilly then proceeded to call the American Civil Liberties Union “the Taliban” for opposing the teaching of anti-evolutionist perspectives in public-school science classes.

More here.

Why the Ground Zero Design is So Bad

Martin Filler in the New York Review of Books:

“When the gods wish to punish us,” Oscar Wilde wrote in An Ideal Husband, “they answer our prayers.” That seems to be true in architecture, whose modern history is replete with eagerly contested public commissions that have turned out to be quite the opposite of the triumphs their winners first imagined them to be. Rarely in the past century have the most memorable buildings resulted from competitions, no matter how promising their rosters of participants. The 1922 contest for a new Chicago Tribune headquarters is now best remembered for the losing entries of leading early modernist architects such as Walter Gropius, Eliel Saarinen, and Bruno Taut. Indeed, Adolf Loos’s iconic design for a tower in the form of a colossal Doric column is far more famous today than the tepid neo-Gothic pastiche by Raymond Hood and John Mead Howells that was constructed.

More recently, the coveted commission for the Getty Center in Los Angeles, which took thirteen years and a billion dollars to complete, has done little for the reputation of the once envied Richard Meier, whose limited powers of invention were exposed by a project of great magnitude, resources, and duration. The recent renovation and expansion of the Museum of Modern Art in New York is another example of that phenomenon. After a widely publicized competition that included several stars of the present mid-career architectural generation— among them Rem Koolhaas, Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron, and Tod Williams and Billie Tsien—the job went to a little-known museum specialist, Yoshio Taniguchi. A minimalist and a perfectionist, Taniguchi discovered, to his dismay, that in America, working on the mammoth scale of the new MoMA, he could not attain the lyrical delicacy of his smaller and more finely crafted buildings in Japan.

More here.

Tin can creativity

03tinn Our esteemed editor-in-chief, Abbas, has, for years, housed his hi-res digital camera in an Altoids tin, which he carries in his pocket, so this one’s for him:

“WHEN Limor Fried, who recently earned a master’s degree at M.I.T., decided to build an MP3 player not long ago, she went looking for the right case for her new device.

“People put a lot of interesting stuff in Altoids tins,” Ms. Fried said. “Usually it’s one of two options, either drugs or condoms.”

Actually, said Chris Peddy, marketing director at Callard & Bowser-Suchard, which makes Altoids, the tins are far more useful than that, and have been for a long time.

“Altoids have always been what we call a curiously strong lifestyle accessory,” Mr. Peddy said. In fact, Mr. Peddy said, the history of Altoids goes back 100 years, to England, and the tin itself was long seen as a “gentlemanly accessory”.”

Take the Altoids Challenge, but first read the rest.

Body Worlds, The Anatomical Exhibition of Real Human Bodies

The Body Worlds exhibition attracts a lot of attention and controvesy, made up as it is of real plastinated human corpses.Corpse_1_1

“In 1977, Gunther von Hagens invented the plastination technique which marked the beginning of a second anatomical revolution. Andreas Vesalius who created precise anatomical drawings as early as in 1543 was the pioneer of modern anatomy. Since then human corpses have slowly disappeared again from the human eye with the establishment of medical schools. A taboo emerged.

Gunther von Hagens’ plastinated bodies obviously touch upon this taboo and trigger controversial reactions throughout the world. The high number of visitors, however, proves the general population’s need to learn more about the structure and functions of their bodies.

Since the first exhibition in Mannheim in 1997 more than 15 million people have viewed the interior of the human body. The BODY WORLDS is hence the most successful touring exhibition world-wide.”

You can donate your body to the project if you want to, as 300 deceased and 6000 living people have done.

(Thanks to Elke Zuern for pointing out the exhibition.)

US Military Bases in Iraq

Alex Cooley and Kimberly Marten have this piece in the International Herald Tribune on some problems the US may encounter in making military bases in Iraq permanent.

“Both Congress and the Bush administration have been hotly
debating the future of the American troop presence in Iraq in the wake
of Sunday’s elections. A key question is whether some small number of
forces should be stationed at U.S. military bases after most troops

Discussion tends to focus on U.S. geostrategic interests in the Gulf,
while ignoring experiences with overseas bases elsewhere. The
nonmilitary aspects of bases have political consequences that can trump
security concerns. Planners might consider three factors that help
explain why bases are welcomed (or at least tolerated) in some
countries but not others.”

Make your art and eat it too

03chef “We can create any sort of flavor on a printed image that we set our minds to,” Mr. Cantu said. The connections need not stop with things ordinarily thought of as food. “What does M. C. Escher’s ‘Relativity’ painting taste like? That’s where we go next.”

“Food critics have cheered, comparing Mr. Cantu to Salvador Dali and Willy Wonka for his peculiarly playful style of cooking. More precisely, he is a chef in the Buck Rogers tradition, blazing a trail to a space-age culinary frontier.

Mr. Cantu wants to use technology to change the way people perceive (and eat) food, and he uses Moto as his laboratory. “Gastronomy has to catch up to the evolution in technology,” he said. “And we’re helping that process happen” .”

All this refers to the creations of Homaro Cantu, who may well be America’s first chef to throw himself into the science lab style of culinary creativity pioneered by Ferran Adria of Spain.

“… the sushi made by Mr. Cantu, the 28-year-old executive chef at Moto in Chicago, often contains no fish. It is prepared on a Canon i560 inkjet printer rather than a cutting board. He prints images of maki on pieces of edible paper made of soybeans and cornstarch, using organic, food-based inks of his own concoction. He then flavors the back of the paper, which is ordinarily used to put images onto birthday cakes, with powdered soy and seaweed seasonings. “

“(A customer) described a recent meal at Moto as “dinner theater on your plate.”

Read the article.

Dr. Ecstasy: Alexander Shulgin has created more than a hundred hallucinogens

Drake Bennett in the New York Times Magazine:

30ecst1…the continuing explosion in options for chemical mind-manifestation is as natural as the passage of time. But what Shulgin’s narrative leaves out is the fact that most of this supposedly inexorable diversification took place in a lab in his backyard. For 40 years, working in plain sight of the law and publishing his results, Shulgin has been a one-man psychopharmacological research sector. (Timothy Leary called him one of the century’s most important scientists.) By Shulgin’s own count, he has created nearly 200 psychedelic compounds, among them stimulants, depressants, aphrodisiacs, ”empathogens,” convulsants, drugs that alter hearing, drugs that slow one’s sense of time, drugs that speed it up, drugs that trigger violent outbursts, drugs that deaden emotion — in short, a veritable lexicon of tactile and emotional experience. And in 1976, Shulgin fished an obscure chemical called MDMA out of the depths of the chemical literature and introduced it to the wider world, where it came to be known as Ecstasy.

More here.

How Arab papers spun the election in Iraq

Joseph Braude in Slate:

How do you spin democratic elections in Iraq when your boss is an authoritarian ruler with a restive population?

First option: Pretend those elections never happened. I scoured this Monday’s major Libyan papers online for any evidence that Iraqis voted the day before and found nothing. Well, almost nothing: The Tripoli daily Al Zahf al Akhdar buried–under reports of momentous African conferences and ambassador meet-and-greets–a piece titled, 27 People Killed in Iraq. The article noted that “Police sources in Iraq said that no less than 27 people were killed in attacks targeting voting centers in sundry parts of the country.” Voting centers? Whatever for? It seems unwise for a government-run propaganda sheet to print stories that create more questions than they answer–advice apparently heeded by the Sudanese daily Al Ra’i al Am, which in contrast to its Libyan counterpart, simply printed nothing about Iraq in its Monday edition.

The other tactic–and the more popular one–takes into account the fact that most Arab majorities have alternative sources of information, making a news blackout on the Iraqi elections infeasible. In these countries, the role of the pro-government press isn’t to hide facts, but rather to spin them to the benefit of the ruling regime. Which explains why so many Arab newspapers dwelled on the negative Monday in their pieces on the Iraqi election.

More here.

Two books about Hollywood

Louis Menand reviews a couple of books about the movies in the New Yorker:

The cinema, like the novel, is always dying. The movies were killed by sequels; they were killed by conglomerates; they were killed by special effects. “Heaven’s Gate” was the end; “Star Wars” was the end; “Jaws” did it. It was the ratings system, profit participation, television, the blacklist, the collapse of the studio system, the Production Code. The movies should never have gone to color; they should never have gone to sound. The movies have been declared dead so many times that it is almost surprising that they were born, and, as every history of the cinema makes a point of noting, the first announcement of their demise practically coincided with the announcement of their birth. “The cinema is an invention without any commercial future,” said Louis Lumière, the man who opened the world’s first movie theatre, in Paris, in 1895. He thought that motion pictures were a novelty item, and, in 1900, after successfully exhibiting his company’s films around the world, he got out of the business. It seemed the prudent move.

More here.

Considering the Last Romantic, Ayn Rand, at 100

Edward Rothstein in the New York Times:

Rand184What did Ayn Rand want?

Today is the centennial of her birth, and while newsletters and Web sites devoted to her continue to proliferate, and while little about her private life or public influence remains unplumbed, it is still easier to understand what she didn’t want than what she did. Her scorn was unmistakable in her two novel-manifestos, “The Fountainhead” (1943), about a brilliant architect who stands proud against collective tastes and egalitarian sentimentality, and “Atlas Shrugged” (1957), about brilliant industrialists who stand proud against government bureaucrats and socialized mediocrity. It is still possible, more than 20 years after her death, to find readers choosing sides: those who see her as a subtle philosopher pitted against those who see her as a pulp novelist with pretensions.

More here.

The New Maginot Line: Missile Defense

From Seed:

In August of 1939, Winston Churchill paid a visit to the Maginot Line, a network of French defenses built to safeguard the country’s eastern border against an invasion from her perennial enemy, Germany. “My first impression, the strongest,” Churchill said upon inspecting the vast expanse of forts, “is that France is protected by a shield of material and, above all, by a shield of men, which should assure you of absolute security in this region and defend you from the horrors of war.” Less than a year later, of course, the German Blitzkrieg swept around the defenses and conquered France, transforming the Maginot Line from military wonder to metaphor.

The Maginot analogy will almost certainly be employed by missile-defense critics this fall when the Bush administration publicly declares operational the first piece of the nation’s ballistic missile defense system. After all, similarities between the two generations of defense are easy to find: The line’s elaborate network of fortresses and underground bunkers were advertised as the technological marvel of their time, just as the “hit to kill” ground-based midcourse defense (GMD) system—which by year’s end will consist of six missile interceptors based in Fort Greely, AK, and another four at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California—is described by military and government officials. The Maginot Line’s construction contributed to France’s prewar budget deficits, in much the same way that missile defense—at a cost of roughly $10 billion next year and $70-plus billion over the last 20 years—has drained its share of the U.S. treasury.

More here.

Populist History of Electricity

Pedro G Ferreira reviews David Bodanis’s history of electricity, Electric Universe, in The Guardian:

The story unravels at breakneck speed. In his sensual, almost impressionistic tour, Bodanis does what he knows best: he unearths the quirks and passions that drove some of the main characters and uses vignettes to slip in brief, but clear explanations of physical phenomena. He describes Alexander Graham Bell, who falls passionately in love with his deaf, mute student, Mabel. Faced with the social objections of her family, he envisions the telegraph as paving the way to a prosperous and loving marriage. He succeeds and, at his wedding, gives her “…pearls, a silver pendant in the shape of a telephone and 1,497 shares of stock in the fledgling Bell Telephone company… worth several billion dollars today”.

More here.

New roads can cause congestion

Kate Ravilious in New Scientist:

Traffic should flow best in cities when only a limited number of roads lead to the centre. This counter-intuitive finding could allow planners to prevent gridlock by closing roads rather than building new ones.

It comes from a new way of thinking about complex networks developed by Neil Johnson, Douglas Ashton and Timothy Jarrett at the University of Oxford, UK. The researchers began by approximating a complex city network to just a ring road and a number of the arterial roads that cross at the centre.

They then worked out how the average time for journeys changes as the number of roads increases.

More here.

Evolution ignored in U.S. Classrooms

Cornelia Dean in the New York Times:

In districts around the country, even when evolution is in the curriculum it may not be in the classroom, according to researchers who follow the issue.

Teaching guides and textbooks may meet the approval of biologists, but superintendents or principals discourage teachers from discussing it. Or teachers themselves avoid the topic, fearing protests from fundamentalists in their communities.

More here.

Finland tops 2005 Environmental Sustainability Index

Michael Hopkin in Nature:

Political leaders at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, have got something new to think about: a league table showing who has outperformed whom on environmental issues.

The 2005 Environmental Sustainability Index, produced by experts at Yale and Columbia universities in the United States, combines 21 indicators of environmental performance, such as greenhouse-gas emissions and water quality. A country’s rank reflects its average score.

The 146-nation list runs from Finland, at the top, to North Korea, in last place. Finland’s supreme position is a product of its wealth, sound environmental policies and low population density, says Alex de Sherbinin of Columbia University in Palisades, New York, who helped to compile the index.

More here in Nature. See the actual report here.

Wax models to predict plate movements on the ocean floor

Physicists have developed a way to use wax to help predict tectonic microplate movements on the ocean floor.


“Physicists in the US have proven that wax is an excellent model of the ocean floors. Using a tub of wax, geophysicists at Cornell and Columbia have produced a predictive model of tectonic microplates – one of the most important and poorly understood features of plate tectonics – for the first time. This research is reported today in the New Journal of Physics ( published jointly by the Institute of Physics and the German Physical Society (Deutsche Physikalische Gesellschaft).

This breakthrough gives scientists a clearer understanding of the mechanisms of plate tectonics: how the landmasses of the Earth shift and change over time, how earthquakes are generated, volcanoes erupt, and precious metals are concentrated in rich seams. Tectonic microplates could also help identify whether this process, which many scientists argue was a key factor in triggering the evolution of life on Earth, occurs on other bodies in the Solar System.”

See some footage of the models here.

Song and Dance for a Minimalist

          Srbio               “Steve Reich was sitting in Starbucks: a logical enough place to meet a man who has been described as the most caffeinated individual in New York. Around him, ambient noise recreated the atmosphere of his 1994 piece “City Life,” which incorporated recordings of pile-drivers, snatches of speech and other downtown New York noises. He was talking about his latest piece, “You Are (Variations),” which had its premiere in October in Los Angeles. “


“It’s a time when a person might be expected to wax valedictory. Mr. Reich is being honored with a couple of miniretrospectives this season: a three-concert series at the Metropolitan Museum (the second is tomorrow; the last, on April 2), and a Composer Portrait at the Miller Theater (March 25), which will include a performance of one of his best-known works, “Drumming,” by So Percussion. (A recording of the piece by the group will be released on March 11.)

And all of this is just a warmup for the 70th-birthday festivities. “New York Counterpoint: New York Celebrates Steve Reich” will involve some of the city’s major presenting organizations: the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall, each relying on its particular strengths. Dance performances by Anne Theresa De Keersmaeker and Akram Khan will open the Next Wave festival at the academy. Carnegie will offer a workshop with Mr. Reich and his ensemble coaching young musicians, and present the Kronos Quartet and other instrumentalists at Zankel Hall. Lincoln Center will focus on the vocal music, including “You Are (Variations)” in its first New York performance. “

Read more here and here about Steve Reich, one of the foremost composers of our time and a pioneer of minimal music.

Reich’s music is also being featured in an upcoming concert of the Boston Modern Orchestra Project. Nico Muhly’s wonderful Program Notes for this concert give a historical perspective on minimal music. Thank you Nico, for telling me about it!

A giant step closer to molecular electronics

The New York Times reports that Hewlett-Packard has made a major break through.

“A group of Hewlett-Packard researchers will report on Tuesday that they have created a molecular-scale alternative to the transistor. The device could increase the viability of a new generation of ultrasmall electronics that would one day be smaller than what is possible with today’s silicon-based technology.

In an article to be published Tuesday in The Journal of Applied Physics, three researchers at the quantum science research group of Hewlett-Packard Labs, based in Palo Alto, Calif., describe how they have designed a “crossbar latch,” making it possible to perform a type of logic operation that is essential to the functions of a modern computer.”