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Dan Phiffer Dan Phiffer is an Internet enthusiast based in Troy, NY

Bryan Denton in today’s NY Timeswww.nytimes.com

It’s pretty thrilling to discover someone you know doing amazing work. I went to elementary school with Bryan Denton, a photojournalist working for the New York Times. He has some great photos accompanying this front page article about attacks on U.S. soldiers by their Afghani trainees.

Capt. Mohamed Qasem of the Afghan Army, left, lighting a cigarette for Lt. Jason Davis of Greenville, S.C. At the personal level, the Sangesar attack was a nightmarish betrayal for the units involved, whose commanders initially struggled to figure out how the Afghans and Americans who share the base could possibly cooperate again.

He was also featured last year on the NYTimes Lens blog:

Q: You returned to Misurata after Chris Hondros and Tim Hetherington were killed there. Why?
A: It was hard. I had this knot of dread in my stomach the entire time we were on the boat on our way back to Misurata. I had a lot of confidence in the way Chris [Chivers] and I were working and moving around the city, but more than any other moment on this assignment, I seriously considered the prospect of getting hurt or killed.

Link

Throw-away manifestos and the New Aestheticwww.thestate.ae

Adam Rothstein’s response to Bruce Sterling’s essay on the New Aesthetic:

The only manifesto for such a thing could be a Tumblr, and the confusion and consternation that such a lack of directness would cause is its own militancy. It may be irritatingly meta, but that an aesthetic that is largely about glitchy digital networks should be discussed only via glitchy digital networks is hardly surprising … There is a consistency in the drive to move past the manifesto itself, to let the aesthetic actually take over. The aesthetic may be a gooey sort of object-oriented ontology, or it might be a fetishization of pixels, but at some point we move past the urge to talk about what it is that we’re doing, and just start doing it. The forced rhetorical conviction becomes superfluous as the proposition becomes reality.

Link

Taryn Simon’s China vs. Rian Dundon’s China

Two very different approaches.

Changsha by Rian Dundon (support his book project on emphas.is)

“I always thought of it as a kind of collaboration,” he said. “I’m here, I’m hanging out, and I don’t really know anything. So I’m going to let people lead me and see what kind of threads I can be led along. And if I give it enough time, those threads will lead to other threads.”

Dundon lived in China for six years, unofficially documenting his experience there. In contrast, Taryn Simon used the process of seeking officially sanctioned representation as a kind of material for her project.

A Living Man Declared Dead and Other Chapters by Taryn Simon

China’s State Council Information Office (SCIO) was solicited in 2009 to select a multi-generational bloodline that would “represent China” for this project … Previously known as the Office of Foreign Propaganda, the SCIO researches, develops, and manages China’s external publicity activities.

This is just a small part of Taryn Simon’s exhibition that’s up at MoMA, Taryn Simon: A Living Man Declared Dead and Other Chapters I–XVIII.

Occupy as a series of failuresnonviolentconflict.wordpress.com

Natasha Lennard:

What a long chain of failures Occupy has been over the past seven months. Think about it: It didn’t shut down Wall Street on September 17th; it couldn’t set up camp in its first-choice location, Chase Manhattan Plaza; it barely marched a third of the way across the Brooklyn Bridge roadway before getting kettled; the Oakland General Strike did not exactly generalize; and occupations have been driven from plazas, squares, vacant buildings, and sidewalks across America. Again and again, plans of action have not materialized as projected.

But maybe these failures are okay?

I was arrested on the Brooklyn Bridge while reporting on the day’s events for the New York Times. When I stood in plasticuffs with other arrestees, flanking the bridge’s Brooklyn-bound roadway awaiting our carriage in police buses, it was cold and rainy; the bridge and its iconic view have never looked so exhilarating and beautiful to me. As far as failing to cross a bridge goes, this was pretty spectacular.

See also: Occupy Did What?

Link

Kenneth Goldsmith on the New Aestheticwww.poetryfoundation.org

I’ve been too distracted by other things to write much about the New Aesthetic, which started as a a blog post, then expanded into a Tumblr blog, then a SXSW panel (which I saw, and enjoyed very much). Now it’s become a kind of meme, I see equal parts “what is this thing” and “how do we talk about this?” And some jokey dismissals.

I’m not sure I’ve arrived at anything I could add to the conversation, but I like Kenneth Goldsmith’s take on it, published in the Poetry Foundation’s Harriet blog:

The Twenty-first century is invisible. We were promised jetpacks but ended up with handlebar moustaches. The surface of things is the wrong place to find the 21st century. Instead, the unseen, the Infrathin—those tiny devices in our pockets or the thick data-haze which permeates the air we breathe — locates us in the present. And in this way, The New Aesthetic is not so much a movement as it is a marker, a moment of observation which informs us that culture—along with its means of production and reception —has radically shifted beneath our feet while we were looking the other way.

He compares the New Aesthetic to New Writing (something I’m not familiar with), and points out that newer approaches in poetry are still ultimately relying on tree pulp for their final presentation:

Beginning with Mallarmé and ending with Language Poetry, the emergence of digital culture signified a break with modernism, replacing deconstructive tendencies with strategies informed by the workings of computers and the web: word processing, databasing, recycling, appropriation, intentional plagiarism, identity ciphering, and intensive programming, but to name a few. Yet the odd thing is that these practices, born of digital immersion, have not shown up exclusively on the screen, but more often have manifested themselves on the printed page.

Goldsmith’s essay reminded me of a counter-example, not meant to contradict what he’s saying, but maybe a model for a New Aesthetic approach to poetry. It’s a project called The Archanoids by Mathew Timmons, that collectively vocalizes sound poetry through online video and voice telephony.

There are still a few items in my Instapaper queue I want to finish before writing more substantially on the New Aesthetic, but if you haven’t read this Bruce Sterling essay on the topic, you should!

Link

Two stories read by Colum McCann

I’d like to point out two New Yorker Fiction podcast episodes read by Colum McCann.

  1. “Transatlantic”, a story by McCann about the first non-stop transatlantic flight from Newfoundland to Ireland. It’s interesting how much less familiar I was with this earlier instance than Lindbergh’s first solo flight across the Atlantic.
  2. “Bluebell Meadow” by Benedict Kiely, about a romance between a Catholic and Protestant in Northern Ireland. There’s something very real about how this story conveys young love, remembered later.

Also, here’s a Q&A with McCann in text form instead of the usual interview before and after the reading.

David Simon on Stand your grounddavidsimon.com

From a blog post by David Simon on how the news media is focusing too much on Trayvon vs. Zimmerman, in terms of character, and missing the larger story about what Stand your ground legislation really means:

And now, quietly, by dint of both cash infusions from the gun lobby to legislators and scant attention from a hollowed-out press corps, this cautious standard is gone in twenty states. Now, anyone—regardless of their role, training or ultimate purpose—can bring a gun to an argument and take a life. And then, if they can manufacture enough of a threat to their person, they can justify the act. Maybe witnesses will be present to contradict their version of events; maybe not. Maybe there will be physical evidence to invalidate their claims; maybe not. But now, the baseline for responsibility lies not with the shooter, but with the state.

Guns don’t kill people, people do—this is the mantra that for generations has defined the prevailing ethos of the firearms lobby. But now, the argument has moved on: Guns don’t kill and neither do people; now, folks are just killed. Shit happens is the new credo for this quiet, epic revolution in our country–one that has already led to many more homicides that defy prosecution in the affected states.

Link

The Guardian on The World Tomorrowwww.guardian.co.uk

Julian Assange kicked off his television show on Russia Today interviewing Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah. The Guardian doesn’t pull any punches:

There is a long dishonourable tradition of western intellectuals who have been duped by Moscow. The list includes Bernard Shaw, the Webbs, HG Wells and André Gide. So Assange—whether for idealistic reasons, or simply out of necessity, given his legal bills and fight against extradition to Sweden—isn’t the first. But The World Tomorrow confirms he is no fearless revolutionary. Instead he is a useful idiot.

Link

A proposal for Penn Stationwww.nytimes.com

Michael Kimmelman in the New York Times:

To pass through Grand Central Terminal, one of New York’s exalted public spaces, is an ennobling experience, a gift. To commute via the bowels of Penn Station, just a few blocks away, is a humiliation.

What is the value of architecture? It can be measured, culturally, humanely and historically, in the gulf between these two places.

The original Pennsylvania Station was razed in 1963.

I wholeheartedly agree with this, tear that sucker down:

The only way to fix Penn properly is to move Madison Square Garden.

Link

Three links about SOPA/PIPA

On Twitter a lot of people have been linking to the @herpderpedia account, which is retweeting people’s confused reactions to today’s Wikipedia blackout. On a mailing list I subscribe to, somebody wrote of this phenomenon:

It’s really amazing
A. how completely oblivious people are to the issues
B. how completely oblivious people are to the page they’re looking that explains why wikipedia is blacked out
C. how much I don’t want to live on this planet anymore

I share his sense of disappointment, but this kind of ironic distance is exactly what we don’t need right now. Instead, let’s have a little compassion for each other. Send those people links to help them understand why Wikipedia has gone dark today. That sharing capacity is exactly what this issue is all about.

On the ownership of MLK’s speechesmotherboard.vice.com

The rights to the “I Have a Dream” speech are owned by EMI. They are only legally available through buying a $20 DVD.

What would King have made of all this, and of SOPA? I think he might have reframed the question, with poetry: how does ownership of ideas effect how we exist together in the world? How does the spread of ideas help push forward better understanding among men. What price are we willing to pay to keep ideas free? How do we decide who deserves access to ideas, who gets to build on them, and who gets to “own” them? Who gets to censor them, and at what cost?

See also: On the Media’s MLK segment

Link

Two photos titled Los Angeleswww.getty.edu

When I’d posted that Henry Wessel interview on Friday I hadn’t realized the Getty had so much content online from the exhibition. 24 out of the 30 photos are available, including these two photos by Garry Winogrand and Henry Wessel Jr., both titled Los Angeles.

Los Angeles, 1964, Garry Winogrand. Gelatin silver print. 9 x 13 7/16 in. © 1984 The Estate of Garry Winogrand
Los Angeles, 1971, Henry Wessel Jr. Gelatin silver on Dupont Veragam paper print. 7 15/16 x 11 7/8 in. © Henry Wessel

This third photo seems struck me as a spiritual ancestor to Doug Rickard’s Google Street View photos. It’s hard to see in this low resolution image, but the man’s face is blurry, much like Google’s face blurring policy.

Automotive Landscapes #5: Los Angeles, 1978, Anthony Hernandez. Gelatin silver print. 11 3/4 x 17 1/8 in. © Anthony Hernandez

There are also short audio pieces that accompany many of the works:

The show is up until May 6th. But if you’re not in LA, be sure to explore the online gallery!

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