Rephotographing Atget


Christopher Rauschenberg writes:

Eugene Atget documented Paris from 1888 until his death in 1927. Like many people, I consider him to have been the greatest photographer of all time. Atget straightforwardly documented the city with photographs that give you the feeling that all the transitory things that people do and are have washed away, leaving only their transcendent accomplishments.

On a 1989 trip to Paris, I suddenly found myself face to face with a spiral-topped gatepost that I knew very well from a beautiful photograph by Atget (the photograph on the left). I rephotographed his gatepost from memory (the photograph on the right) and wondered how many other Atget subjects might still be holding their poses.

There, among the things and places that Atget had admired, I resolved to return and do a rephotographic exploration to discover if the haunting and beautiful Paris of Atget’s vision still existed. (

A selected archive of Atget’s photographs is hosted at George Eastman House.

Strategic Questions #2


The Strategic Questions series published by Book Works is "…an ongoing project to develop forty projects related to forty questions written by R. Buckminster Fuller. Each project is an artwork or a combination of artworks, developed in response to one of the questions."

Fuller’s forty questions, from Utopia or Oblivion (which is my new favorite book title, btw):

1. What do we mean by universe?
2. Has man a function in universe?
3. What is thinking?
4. What are experiences?
5. What are experiments?
6. What is subjective?
7. What is objective?
8. What is apprehension?
9. What is comprehension?
10. What is positive? Why?
11. What is negative? Why?
12. What is physical?
13. What is metaphysical?
14. What is synergy?
15. What is energy?
16. What is brain?
17. What is intellect?
18. What is science?
19. What is a system?
20. What is consciousness?
21. What is subconsciousness?
22. What is teleology?
23. What is automation?
24. What is a tool?
25. What is industry?
26. What is animate?
27. What is inanimate?
28. What are metabolics?
29. What is wealth?
30. What is intuition?
31. What are aesthetics?
32. What is harmonic?
33. What is prosaic?
34. What are the senses?
35. What are mathematics?
36. What is structure?
37. What is differentiation?
38. What is integration?
39. What is integrity?
40. What is "truth? "

Fuller: "It is my working assumption that the following 40 questions must be definitely answered before we may realistically discuss our respective philosophies and grand strategies."

The Most Ridiculous City in the World

Geoff at bldgblog articulates what makes living in Los Angeles so confounding, liberating and existentially raw:

Los Angeles is where you confront the objective fact that you mean nothing; the desert, the ocean, the tectonic plates, the clear skies, the sun itself, the Hollywood Walk of Fame – even the parking lots: everything there somehow precedes you, even new construction sites, and it’s bigger than you and more abstract than you and indifferent to you. You don’t matter. You’re free. (bldgblog)

Hat tip: E.G.

More/tangent: Mike Davis, Ecology of Fear

DFW Commencement Speech at Kenyon University (2005)

If there have been any truly great speeches in the past 20 years, then this must certainly be one of them. For those interested in living better and being more aware of just what it is we are modeling when we tell stories that "click."

[Excerpt: on worship]

This, I submit, is the freedom of a real education, of learning how to be well-adjusted. You get to consciously decide what has meaning and what doesn’t. You get to decide what to worship.

Because here’s something else that’s weird but true: in the day-to day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And the compelling reason for maybe choosing some sort of god or spiritual-type thing to worship — be it JC or Allah, bet it YHWH or the Wiccan Mother Goddess, or the Four Noble Truths, or some inviolable set of ethical principles — is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive. If you worship money and things, if they are where you tap real meaning in life, then you will never have enough, never feel you have enough. It’s the truth. Worship your body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly. And when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally grieve you. On one level, we all know this stuff already. It’s been codified as myths, proverbs, clichés, epigrams, parables; the skeleton of every great story. The whole trick is keeping the truth up front in daily consciousness.

Worship power, you will end up feeling weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to numb you to your own fear. Worship your intellect, being seen as smart, you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out. But the insidious thing about these forms of worship is not that they’re evil or sinful, it’s that they’re unconscious. They are default settings.

They’re the kind of worship you just gradually slip into, day after day, getting more and more selective about what you see and how you measure value without ever being fully aware that that’s what you’re doing.

And the so-called real world will not discourage you from operating on your default settings, because the so-called real world of men and money and power hums merrily along in a pool of fear and anger and frustration and craving and worship of self. Our own present culture has harnessed these forces in ways that have yielded extraordinary wealth and comfort and personal freedom. The freedom all to be lords of our tiny skull-sized kingdoms, alone at the center of all creation. This kind of freedom has much to recommend it. But of course there are all different kinds of freedom, and the kind that is most precious you will not hear much talk about much in the great outside world of wanting and achieving and [unintelligible — sounds like "displayal"]. The really important kind of freedom involves attention and awareness and discipline, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them over and over in myriad petty, unsexy ways every day.

That is real freedom. That is being educated, and understanding how to think. The alternative is unconsciousness, the default setting, the rat race, the constant gnawing sense of having had, and lost, some infinite thing. (

Salon Radio: Matthew Yglesias

Greenwald: I want to begin by talking about, somewhat briefly, the discussion that you and I were involved in together that concerned the coverage that a lot of campaign reporters give to the campaign and specifically to the McCain campaign. And it began when Marc Ambinder, former colleague of yours at The Atlantic, wrote a post in which he was essentially pondering why it is that the McCain campaign is able to disseminate one blatant lie after the next without any real repercussions. And you made the point, with which I wholeheartedly agree, that missing from his analysis was a discussion of the role that campaign reporters such as himself play in the McCain campaign’s ability to do that.

Yglesias: I think that people who get into the campaign coverage business, and are well-intentioned, quickly find out that it’s a rotten to the core enterprise, and wind up leaving, and the only people who make it to the top are, they’re sociopaths of some kind. (

H/T: didactic

Major ice-shelf loss for Ellesmere Island

The ice shelves in Canada’s High Arctic have lost a colossal area this year, scientists report. The floating tongues of ice attached to Ellesmere Island, which have lasted for thousands of years, have seen almost a quarter of their cover break away. One of them, the 50 sq km (20 sq miles) Markham shelf, has completely broken off to become floating sea-ice. Researchers say warm air temperatures and reduced sea-ice conditions in the region have assisted the break-up. "These substantial calving events underscore the rapidity of changes taking place in the Arctic," said Trent University’s Dr Derek Mueller. "These changes are irreversible under the present climate." (bbc)