Book: Mail / Art / Book curated by Jennie Hinchcliff and John Held, Jr.

Cover of Mail / Art / Book

Mail / Art / Book
curated by Jennie Hinchcliff and John Held, Jr.
published by San Francisco Center for the Book
2014

This is another stellar catalog from the SFCB’s shows, and from longstanding teacher and author Jennie Hinchcliff (co-author of the fun book, Good Mail Day).

Mail art – art that is specifically intended to be sent through the mail, and enjoyed by other mail artists – is small and can be difficult to display, but this book does a solid job of arranging and photographing this exhibit in a way that preserves the many 3-D items, as well as the relationships between envelope and contents (when there is a distinction).

The submissions were fun and varied widely, and it was great to see all the complex, thoughtful, colorful, creating works that made it through the mail!

Book: Calligraphies In Conversation, 6th Annual Exhibition curated by Arash Shirinbab

Cover of Calligraphies in Conversation

Calligraphies In Conversation, 6th Annual Exhibition
curated by Arash Shirinbab
published by San Francisco Center for the Book and Ziya Art Center
2019

This is a beautiful, fully illustrated catalog of an exhibit of calligraphic writing from multiple traditions, and it is really gorgeous. Work from fourteen artists shows a lovely stylistic and creative range. I had been expecting Chinese calligraphy for its local (SF Bay Area) popularity and long tradition, plus some western-language calligraphy, and was delighted to see those PLUS work in Urdu, Hebrew, Arabic, and more. My favorite piece is in a Devanagari / Sanskrit script over gorgeous shades of blue – the composition and color are WONDERFUL.

This is a beautiful and inspiring catalog.

News: States During the Coronavirus

I haven’t mentioned that the past few months have been all about obsessively reading the news. Having a highly contagious global pandemic break out, one so severe that China closed internal borders and quarantined millions of people during its early peak, is A BIG DEAL – it’s a worldwide concern that everyone sensible wants to know something about.

Once it reached my country (& my coast!), and the voluntary precautions kicked in, my news-reading increased further. And once the MANDATORY precautions took effect, I could devote time I used to spend commuting, enjoying the outdoors, or running errands ENTIRELY to news reading.

Which isn’t entirely healthy: no one really wants to see a global death count on the front page of their device the moment their alarms go off. But that appears to be what it takes to get some people to take this seriously. (Though I suspect the people who aren’t taking it seriously DO NOT READ, which would explain many things.)

With infection counts and deaths rising, and routine business activities temporarily halted, the economy has been upended, and states – which rely on business running for revenue – have been struggling. And then things got weird, because a bunch of senators starting talking about having US States go bankrupt. Which… is not a thing US States DO. Also, I couldn’t see the point. I was missing something.

This article in the Atlantic explains what I was missing:

Why Mitch McConnell Wants States to Go Bankrupt

The gist: States would give up their sovereignty over their finances if they declared bankruptcy, and hand control over to the current federal legislators, who are majority Republican in the Senate; the wealthy blue states could come under the control of senators from the least wealthy red states, and have their larger budgets/populations forced to match red state priorities.

Ohhhhhhhhhh! NOW it makes sense! It is not at all democratic, and that is the way red state senators (many of whom are funded by business interests beyond their own borders, and remain in power through gerrymandering and voter suppression) prefer things. Which is terrible, but never surprising.

This is a good, clear read.

Book: Artificial Condition : The Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells

Cover of Artificial Condition by Martha Wells

Artificial Condition: The Murderbot Diaries
by Martha Wells
published by Tor
2018

This is volume 2 of the 4-so-far series of novellas by Martha Wells, describing the ongoing adventures of a Security Unit with a bloody past.

In this book, our Murderbot journeys to investigate that ‘bloody past’ story, since its digital memory has been wiped, and its organic memory is confused. Can a lone bot, without funds or travel papers, visit the mining colony where things may have gone so wrong?

The short answer is YES, and Murderbot makes some friends along the way.

Ms. Wells writing is speedy, clear, and direct. (This is not a Lovecraft book, where many pages will be devoted to the way a coffee table was decorated in the middle of a conversation.) Key technologies are applied without dwelling on any boring details about specific codes, just like we use technology in real life – it works, we don’t need to overthink it. Murderbot has endearing qualities which it is largely unaware of, and lots of anxiety, which is completely plausible in its situation.

I also enjoy the depiction of… let’s call it friendship between synthetic intelligences, and their willingness to use their processing power to meddle favorable and to pass the time! The relationship between Murderbot and an assertive (and sensitive) Transport ship gave this story a charming tone.

Book: No One Is Too Small to Make A Difference by Greta Thunberg

Cover of Greta Thunberg's Book

No One is Too Small To Make A Difference
by Greta Thunberg
published by Penguin Random House UK
2019

This pocket-sized book contains the English text of many of Greta’s recent speeches, in which she consistently tells world & business leaders to listen to scientists and reduce carbon emissions immediately. Because world & business leaders do not listen, she has said this in a variety of very clear, concise ways.

She caught on very quickly to the various arguments used by the not listening camp, which can be summarized by me like this:

Naysayer: you are not the right person to listen to, because
you are young (so you aren’t wise),
old (so you have no longer term future),
from the developed world (and I don’t believe you would give something up),
from the developing world (and you want to live like the developed world),
do have a plan (but I don’t like it),
don’t have a plan (so what are you expecting of me),
– are not the right person (but I won’t listen to the right people),
etc.

She breaks through that with a message that we must act, we must all act, and we must all act now. It isn’t about her, no matter how you try to make it about her, and she isn’t having it.

We talk about our children’s future, while destroying it in the same breath.

Also: what the hell is wrong with adults?

This is a quick read, and her speeches are very clear – perfect for our short-attention-span age, and our need to excerpt tiny snippets for the evening news. Ms. Thunberg is admirable, though she would prefer we just snap out of our stupor and DO something rather than admire her.

Digital Art: Seoul Triangle

Seoul Triangle

Would you believe I’d been planning this particular image for days and days and days? I wasn’t sure how it would turn out, but I’m happy with it. (It is based on the same photo as the prior two images.)

Digital Art: Seoul Tree (Light Burst)

Seoul Tree (Light Burst)

I worked late again this evening, and then got out my old Chromebook and started digitally manipulating photos to make unrealistic effects.

I’m a rather strict photographer: I don’t edit photos very much, due to analog habits. I try to capture things as I want them to be, so I don’t have to spend a lot of time “in post,” editing after the fact for hours on a computer. It just isn’t much fun – especially if I COULD have photographed it correctly, and gotten good results WITHOUT extra effort.

But this isn’t intended to polish a photo for regular consumption. This is PLAY. This is about making the photograph LESS realistic.

PLAY is FUN.

Waking up to… advice about not injecting disinfectants?

My alarm went off; I picked up my phone, and… failed to understand what it was trying to tell me. What it was trying to tell me didn’t have to be said.

Lyson warned me not to inject disinfectants into my body.

We must be clear that under no circumstance should our disinfectant products be administered into the human body (through injection, ingestion or any other route).
– a spokesperson for Reckitt Benckiser, the United Kingdom-based owner of Lysol (NBC news link)

Well, right. But… why would I need to be TOLD this?

‘Don’t inject Lysol’: maker of household cleaner hits back at Trump virus claim

The maker of a popular brand of household cleaner has urged users not to inject it into their bodies in the wake of comments by Donald Trump at the daily White House briefing that injections of disinfectant might be a treatment or cure for the coronavirus.

And then I read the Guardian article (above), and received a terrible reminder that someone who doesn’t know what disinfectant does to living things routinely proposes BAD, BAD, ignorant actions (such as drinking poison) in news conferences where mass fatalities are played down and conspiracy theories are celebrated, and that these unfortunate spectacles should never, ever, ever be carried live on television.