(Visual) Notes on Culture
What are your work habits like? My "real" work takes up about 50 hours per week, in a cubicle that resides in a space that was not meant for offices. The constant cold air, loud noises, and stream of passers-by makes it a tough place to get much done. However, I always look forward to getting home and doing the sort of work that interests me.
While much of my casual routine gets done on a laptop in another room, I really love having a default space for serious tasks. I'm a bona-fide bibliophile, so close proximity to my books is a must. Because of space constraints, my volumes are organized more by size than through any logical system.
The shelf at left
contains all of my literature, fiction, drama, and science-ficiton, as well as a few books on television. A selection of interesting beer bottles sits on top. I don't have enough space for a permanent filing system, so many of my notes, copies, and loose papers are in an elegant egg crate.
is the main reason that I like working in this office...my film reference section!
I've been collecting seriously collecting books since about 1999 - I had the great luck of stumbling upon a Friends of the Library sale in Chantilly, VA for their Sunday clearance. I had been too book sales before, but never one like this. There were throngs of people lined up outside, holding boxes that had been distributed my the staff. What the hell was going on? Turns out, the sale was in red alert mode...each box of books was only $5! I think I bought three boxes worth, most of which was literature. What didn't start my paperback classics hedge fund was sold to other used book stores, the result of which was the first few of my film books. Once I became serious about film (roughly 2001), it just took off. My book collecting is not like most - I'm not interested in first edition Hemingways or obscure Latin tomes from the Renaissance. Rather, I'm committed to buying obscure-ish film and art history books from unsuspecting used book stores. As you can see, I'm running out of room!
So, thus surrounded with books, I work. Of course, what I write here as a boon can sometimes be a distracting mess. But so much of what I do on the internet owes itself to cluttered shelves, dusty hardbacks, and an organizational system that creeps around like kudzu.
Announcing: GAMECULTURE JOURNAL
Volume 1, Number 1.
is a free PDF format video game periodical, to be published quarterly. Seeking to bridge the gap between game academics and fan discourses, GameCulture Journal
marries the approaches of the two in an attempt to bring intelligent criticism, comment, and assessment to video games.
Volume 1, Number 1 contains articles on the ideology of the beat 'em up genre, a look at the term "gamer," a piece on the general critical neglect of game sounds, and a range of news, book reviews, and announcements.
Read the premiere issue of GameCulture Journal
Cataloging and Access in Britain
An alarming, baffling, and very interesting November 9th article
from The Art Newspaper informs that a large number of publicly owned paintings in Britain are in danger of slipping through the cracks. Most organizations with pictures (libraries, town halls, etc) had dodgy, sometimes totally incomplete records of their works. Most did not have an adequate visual record (let alone an updated, digital, color record) of their paintings.
I am slightly surprised. In the back of my mind, I’ve always suspected that the British harbored a meticulous, obsessive, borderline neurotic penchant for collecting. After all, the history of the crowded, ornate, yet surprisingly ordered Victorian living space has been laboriously chronicled. Proof positive, I guess, that not all Victorian sentiments have persisted – though their moral legacy still grimly lingers on.
The article mentions an entity called the “Public Catalogue Foundation,” which seems like a step in the right direction. My suspicion is that the museums and National Trust properties included in this survey do have their act together. Several years ago, I purchased an excellent catalogue of the holdings of Stourhead Manor – though not annotated, it provided me with a solid reference while touring the grounds and was useful as something that I could later consult.
As the study of art grows inevitably more plural – that is, more polyvocal and more necessarily obscure (we will invent new Old Masters as we grow tired of our old Old Masters), these Public Catalogues will be indispensable. I feel that these will be useful (on the one hand) to an academic researcher or a student writing a thesis and (on the other) to the casual picture-viewer.
Concert Review: Sangam 11/08/06
Coolidge Theater, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.
Charles Lloyd – flute, sax, piano, percussion
Zakir Hussain – tabla, vocals, percussion
Erik Harland – drums, vocals, piano
Seeing as concert in the Coolidge Theater is a bit of a bizarre experience. The room is obviously multipurpose, seemingly more geared toward lecture tours and archival film screenings than live music. The stage itself is a small space with pseudo-illusionistic decorum that recalls a mix of Inigo Jones’ stage designs and Colonial Williamsburg. The theater staff seems to regularly work at the library, but the transition from reference assistant to usher is a bit uneasy – the noisy crowd was still shuffling in the door as Charles Lloyd began his solo musings on the piano.
Charles Lloyd was once the most popular bandleader in the world. His seminal work from 1966-1972 remains some of the best of the century, making the giant steps of Coltrane, Davis, and Coleman accessible to the open-minded masses. Lloyd’s bands were among the first jazz acts to cross-polinate into Billy Graham’s Fillmore West, opening for folk and psychedelic groups. He self-consciously disappeared into obscurity for a time, emerging with a renewed zeal but an erratic touring ethic. He has been quite prolific of late, largely due to his current, inspiring lineup.
Lloyd launched Sangam’s set with solo piano work, later joined by Hussain and Harland. Harland and Lloyd played a rotating game, as a solid wall of rhythm (Hussain’s tables, Harland on vamping piano, Lloyd commandeering Harland’s drums) eventually yielded to a pastoral flute sequence.
The group played several recognizable pieces, a few of which are off their recent SANGAM
album. I swear I heard Lloyd’s seminal “Forest Flower” in the mix at one point. Lloyd’s on-stage animation (he jerks about and high-steps while playing) complimented the playfully dueling percussive sensibilities of Harland and Hussain. The group played a highly cerebral set, brimming with vitality and confirming Harland as a star to be watched (Lloyd also affectionately informed the audience that it was Harland's birthday).
QOTW: Writing and Urgency
"The reader of these pages should not look for detailed documentation of every word. In treating the general problems of culture one is constantly obliged to undertake predatory incursions into provinces not sufficently explored by the raider himself. To fill in all the gaps in my knowledge beforehand was out of the question for me. I had to write now, or not at all. And I wanted to write."
Johan Huizinga, Leyden, 1938. From Homo Ludens: A Study of the Play Element in Culture