(Visual) Notes on Culture
This Charles and Ray Eames film pertains primarily to commercial graphic arts design, but is really pertinent to any type of visual communication. The film itself is pretty amazing in its oscillation between straight-ahead documentary and cool experimental montage. Check it out!

[The above link connects to a streaming mpeg4. Other options are here. The embedded video, below, may work depending on your Shockwave accessibility.]

  Discovering Lloyd McNeill
The internet is most noteworthy as a place for amateur archeology. Part of my leisure time is always consumed by discovering something (book, artist, architect, musician, game designer, the list is endless) and then scouring the public domain for information about said person or topic. While much of the search inevitably leads back to the market place - after all, advertising revenue runs the world wide web, regardless of what anybody says to the contrary - there is always hope for enlightenment regain'd.

The vinyl-thrift blog Waxidermy does a great service to music lovers on the internet. The editors find incredibly obscure albums from all sorts of genres and remind the world of their existence. Their efforts increase our capacity to collect and provide a whole new avenue into obscure music.

Their jazz section contains much of note. However, I was drawn to these two (1 and 2) records released through the Baobob label. Long out of print and almost virtually inaccessible (save through McNeill's own website, below), these two records show a sophisticated meeting of spirtual, funk, fusion, and straight-ahead that has elsewhere rarely been reached. After a bit more searching, McNeill's credentials came to my attention. He is a true Renaissance man. A practicing gallery artist who makes drawings, paintings, and digital images, he also has an impressive portfolio of photographs, has published collections of poems, and has been a respected underground flautist since the late 1960s. His work, across the board, fuses radical avant-garde sensibilities with accessible moments of insight. He was a friend to Pablo Picasso, studied at the Ecole des Beaux Arts, Howard University, New York University, and Morehouse College, and now mixes his artistic life with work as a teacher and adviser. After surveying it all, the real shame seems to be that his work - especially his music - is not more well known and widely available. Thanks to the internet, his ideas can be digitally disseminated for all.

It is refreshing to see an artist who is engaged in almost every contemporary art form. At the very least, give his music a listen and look at some of his works. An inspiration to us all!
  Where Design and Theory Meet

Archinect (http://www.archinect.com - "Making Architecture More Connected Since 1997) is a unique site. A very unique site, in fact. It is a community hub for architects and designers (and architecture students and design students). It has one foot planted firmly in the job market, one foot in academia, and a third foot (!) planted in some obscure space for interested parties who are neither.

The site was initially founded and developed by Paul Petrunia, but now has a worldwide staff of nearly 30. While the mission of is vague - "Make architecture more connected" - the effects are solid. Archinect has a booming jobs listing site, making it the Craig's List of the architecture world. There are details about design competitions, the bread & butter of up-and-comers for instant recognition. The site reminds that the architecture job market is actually driven by an intense kind of cutthroat competition that reminds one more of the "business" world than other art industries.

But Archinect rounds out the discipline with an erudite listing of recent architecture books, complete with user-generated reviews. Complete with their features about people, designers, cities, and firms, I feel that the site paints a very fair picture of the discipline.

What ices the sweet, sweet cake is the site's strong design sense. My friend Bokista recently completed a job with a web design firm. A great part of each weekend was a chance to see all of the horrible design ideas that customers wanted, in action. Archinect adopts a design approach acceptable to the topic at hand - at times minimal, but sharp, uncluttered, and very contemporary.

My one complaint about the site is its over its lack of original historical material. I think that the readers - casual and hardcore alike - could gain a lot from fresh, well-researched historical writing. A small blemish for an otherwise masterly site!

Fear of Fear, 1975
Rainer Werner Fassbinder
R1 DVD from Wellspring

Fear of Fear is an underspoken moodpiece very much unlike anything produced today. Neither hyper "stylish" nor slavishly naturalistic, it is indicative of the serious, ambiguous concerns of the New German Cinema.

Margot (Margit Christensen) is a young, slender, pretty, pregnant and bored housewife. Husband Kurt (Ulrich Faulhaber) is some sort of vague, disinterested academic and requires a quiet life of solitude in order to complete his work. The two have a child, Bibi (Constanze Haas), and live in the same apartment building as Kurt's mother and sister. Margot begins to notice that she is prone to intense anxiety attacks. Despite giving birth, she feels under-appreciated and increasingly constrained. Turning to drugs, alcohol, adultery, and self-laceration, Margot desperately seeks a way out.

Fear of Fear sounds like the sort of film that could easily lapse into melodrama. Instead, this chamber drama breeds its acute alienation through slightly disembodied acting. Margot has moments of intensity that are signified by a visual ripple of the film stock. Fassbinder uses calculated zooms in order to isolate characters and situations as necessarily, never to the point of abuse. Her moments of affect are rendered all the more powerful by the containment of the settings. Most of the film is contained within a single apartment, and Margot's life is mostly limited to a series of interiors. In this respect, it is fair to compare Fear of Fear - a tale middle class woe, loneliness, and terror during a period of great social and industrial change - with the plays of Henrik Ibsen. Fassbinder (here the writer and director) and Ibsen bring phenomenal fidelity to their female characters, a rare conceit for male genius.

Though shot for television and on a small budget, Fear of Fear shows the ground zero matter of New German Cinema - relationships, fear in time (often of the past, equally of the future), and personal freedom poised against social expectation. Wellspring's DVD is approved by the Rainer Werner Fassbinder Foundation and probably exhibits this work in as good a form as its ever going to be. Even a seemingly minor work like Fear of Fear, as opposed to canonized experiences like Ali: Fear Eats the Soul (1974) and Berlin Alexanderplatz (1980), confirms Fassbinder's irreproachable genius.
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