Unreal Nature

February 29, 2008

Leap Day

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:56 am

February 29 only happens every four years, so I have decided that this will be the official day off from talking about ART on the Unreal Nature blog. Mark your calendar for four years from today for you next break.

For you reading pleasure on this holiday, I highly recommend the blog “Stuff White People Like“. It’s good, it’s funny, and it gets a huge amount of response. Don’t miss the comments.

Also, today’s posting on the Freakonomics blog is pretty good. They did a survey asking people to vote on the “New Six Word Motto for the U.S.”  The results were, in order:

Our Worst Critics Prefer to Stay (194 votes)

Caution! Experiment in Progress Since 1776 (134)

The Most Gentle Empire So Far (64) votes

You Should See the Other Guy (38)

Just Like Canada, With Better Bacon (18)

You Canadians will not be surprised to note that out of 34 comments (as of this moment early on Friday morning), fourteen are arguments about the Canada motto (last in the voting) — partially inflamed by an early comment adding beer to the mix:

“Perhaps then it should have read, “Like Canada, but with better beer.”

Tomorrow, I’ll  be back on topic.



February 28, 2008

Odd But Not Ill

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 7:02 am

Artists are strange — at least to non-artists. From an artist’s point of view, it’s the non-artists that are weird.

From an article in today’s Science Daily called, “This Is Your Brain on Jazz: Researchers Use MRI to Study Spontaneity, Creativity”  here is what the study found. (I always wondered how the people being studied got the necessary material (tools, books, whatever) into the MRI. Now I know.):

“Though many recent studies have focused on understanding what parts of a person’s brain are active when listening to music, Limb says few have delved into brain activity while music is being spontaneously composed.

The researchers designed a special keyboard to allow the pianists to play inside a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) machine, a brain-scanner that illuminates areas of the brain responding to various stimuli, identifying which areas are active while a person is involved in some mental task, for example.

Because fMRI uses powerful magnets, the researchers designed the unconventional keyboard with no iron-containing metal parts that the magnet could attract. They also used fMRI-compatible headphones that would allow musicians to hear the music they generate while they’re playing it.

The scientists found that a region of the brain known as the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, a broad portion of the front of the brain that extends to the sides, showed a slowdown in activity during improvisation. This area has been linked to planned actions and self-censoring, such as carefully deciding what words you might say at a job interview. Shutting down this area could lead to lowered inhibitions, Limb suggests.

The researchers also saw increased activity in the medial prefrontal cortex, which sits in the center of the brain’s frontal lobe. This area has been linked with self-expression and activities that convey individuality, such as telling a story about yourself.

…. He and Braun plan to use similar techniques to see whether the improvisational brain activity they identified matches that in other types of artists, such as poets or visual artists, as well as non-artists asked to improvise.”


Following are extracts from a 2005 article from Science Daily called, “Odd Behavior and Creativity May Go Hand-in-Hand“:

“New research on individuals with schizotypal personalities – people characterized by odd behavior and language but who are not psychotic or schizophrenic – offers the first neurological evidence that they are more creative than either normal or fully schizophrenic individuals, and rely more heavily on the right sides of their brains than the general population to access their creativity.

Psychologists believe that a number of famous creative luminaries, including Vincent Van Gogh, Albert Einstein, Emily Dickinson and Isaac Newton, had schizotypal personalities.

“In the scientific community, the popular idea that creativity exists in the right side of the brain is thought to be ridiculous, because you need both hemispheres of your brain to make novel associations and to perform other creative tasks,” Folley says. “We found that all three groups, schizotypes, schizophrenics and normal controls, did use both hemispheres when performing creative tasks. But the brain scans of the schizotypes showed a hugely increased activation of the right hemisphere compared to the schizophrenics and the normal controls.”

The researchers believe that the results offer support for the idea that schizotypes and other psychoses-prone populations draw on the left and right sides of their brains differently than the average population, and that this bilateral use of the brain for a variety of tasks may be related to their enhanced creativity.

“The lack of specialization for certain tasks in brain hemispheres could be seen as a liability, but the increased communication between the hemispheres actually could provide added creativity,” Folley says.”


And, finally, from a 2003 article called, “Biological Basis for Creativity Linked to Mental Illness”  they place us perilously close to the edge. But not quite over it:

“Psychology says the brains of creative people appear to be more open to incoming stimuli from the surrounding environment. Other people’s brains might shut out this same information through a process called “latent inhibition” – defined as an animal’s unconscious capacity to ignore stimuli that experience has shown are irrelevant to its needs. Through psychological testing, the researchers showed that creative individuals are much more likely to have low levels of latent inhibition.

“This means that creative individuals remain in contact with the extra information constantly streaming in from the environment,” says co-author and U of T psychology professor Jordan Peterson. “The normal person classifies an object, and then forgets about it, even though that object is much more complex and interesting than he or she thinks. The creative person, by contrast, is always open to new possibilities.”

“Scientists have wondered for a long time why madness and creativity seem linked,” says Carson. “It appears likely that low levels of latent inhibition and exceptional flexibility in thought might predispose to mental illness under some conditions and to creative accomplishment under others.”

For example, during the early stages of diseases such as schizophrenia, which are often accompanied by feelings of deep insight, mystical knowledge and religious experience, chemical changes take place in which latent inhibition disappears.”


It’s kind of amazing that anybody can be uninhibited while in an MRI apparatus. Or that any uninhibited person would agree to get into the thing. Maybe they used a trap; something like a camouflaged bear-trap with artist-tempting goodies on the trip plate as bait.



February 27, 2008

Broken Birds

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 11:03 am

This purple finch has only one eye. Imagine trying to fly with no vision for half your field of vision. Erm … I guess flying may not be an option for you even with both eyes. How about imagining having only one eye that is stuck on your head about where your right ear is now. Now, try to find your dinner. (In the photo on the right, it looks sort of like he has an eye; I’m not sure if that is a remnant or just crud, but it’s not an eye. They have black eyes.)


The nuthatch shown below has either a broken leg or some kind of nerve damage because the curled up foot does not work. He drags it along behind him as he hops along on one leg. Nuthatches forage by running up and down tree trunks. I have not looked to see how he manages that with only one working foot (I’m behind the bird blind with a very small field of view).

He’s been coming to the morning feeding all winter, so apparently he’s able to make do. Once, during hunting season, there was a wild turkey on my property with only one leg. He couldn’t scratch or roost and he didn’t last long.


For some reason, this winter many of the birds I’m photographing have little ticks all around their eyes. I’ve never seen this before and it seems especially odd since ticks are not normal in Virginia in February. It’s gross.



Intent: Other Points of View

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 7:33 am

You are much more likely to make art if you intend to do so, but it is by no means necessary for there to be any intent in order for art to be made. That’s my opinion on the question of intent.

Most people don’t agree with this. By far, the majority feel that the viewer must feel that there is some form of intent apparent in/behind the artwork (though it is not necessary to know precisely what that intent was), and quite a few feel that the viewer must strive to know the artist’s exact intent in order to fully appreciate the art.

Below are extracts from blog postings that I think represent these types of attitudes. The first is from J.T. Kirkland’s blog “Thinking About Art”.  Scroll past the posting header to the comments for the good stuff.

Below, first I have one woman’s comment from the linked posting, then, following that is a very well-written dialogue between J.T. Kirkland and “Scott” on their differing views about the intent question.

[woman’s response]  “Surely you would prefer images to open up meaning rather than clamp down to the artist’s intent. Surely as an artist you would prefer your work to exceed your intentions. This position undermines the authority of artworks and reduces a possibly fecund and imaginative role for the viewer as interpreter to that of reader of and believer in artist statements.”

[J.T. Kirkland comment from mid-dialogue]  “I would venture to guess that all artists are aware of their intent in making art. They did not subconsciously set out to paint something, photograph something, sculpt something. They set out in the creative process for a reason. However, as in your case, you may uncover further meaning that you captured, didn’t understand then, but you do now. It’s the difference between photographing a homeless man because you thought the scene and colors were interesting, versus you wanted to capture a poor man’s condition and make a political comment. Either way, when the print is made and you see it years later, it may take on new significance to you. Personally, I’m interested in knowing why you snapped the picture when, where and why. That gets me in the artist’s mind. Significance gained later, when it wasn’t your intent, doesn’t get me into the artist’s mind, it gets me into your mind as viewer. Am I making the difference, to me, clear?

When you say you’ve struggled to figure out the meaning of your most successful pieces, this says to me that what you’ve done is capture a meaningful scene (almost by accident), versus creating a meaningful scene. I could randomly snap pictures blindfolded all day, everyday and eventually stumble upon a meaningful, even successful, image. But I want to know if the artist saw the meaning before or after the snap. Again, your successful photos are likely great, but asking that additional question about intent uncovers a great deal about the artist. Accidents can be wonderful… but I like to know when they happen, though it doesn’t necessarily effect my enjoyment of the piece.

Artwork never creates itself, at least in my definition. That reduces the artist to a role of manufacturer and not creator. I firmly believe, and reiterate for the hundredth time, that there are many interpretations associated with art. It’s ambiguous. Several interpretations can be enjoyable, successful, meaningful… but not accurate.

I don’t believe artwork has intent on its own terms. Definitionally I don’t think that is possible. A viewer should never limit themself [sic] to just the artist’s intent or meaning. There is a ton of art that I think fails in many respects, but I can find stuff about it, perhaps completely unintended by the artist, that still affords me some enjoyment. And that is valuable… but the credit then goes to the viewer and not the artist.

I don’t feel that knowledge of the artist’s intent is essential. I think it is important, very important to me, and that explains why people question art. It’s not essential to the enjoyment of art, but it is essential to the complete and accurate understanding of an artwork. I just don’t see how it can be otherwise. The reason it is important to historians and other academics is because they want the complete view.”

[Scott’s response to the above, again, taken from mid-dialogue]  “My main point is that you cannot conflate the intent of the artist with the intent of the artwork. The artist may have no idea what is really going on with the artwork. He or she obviously will know what they consciously were trying to do, but I think there is so much more that goes on with a really good piece of art. I agree that you as the viewer may not be able to figure out what the artist was trying to do without asking the artist. My only point is that the artist’s conscious intent may have little or no bearing on what is actually going on with the piece.

This brings up the issue of subconscious (I like to use the word “unconscious”) intent. Obviously, as you say, all artists are aware of their intent in making art. They don’t get up and paint or draw or photograph in some unconscious trance. But just because they know what their conscious intent is doesn’t mean they know what is going on unconsciously that is really driving the artwork. I actually believe that art which is limited to an artist’s conscious intent is pretty dry and lifeless. In order to get really interesting art, you have to tap into something beyond your conscious mind. I think that is what Anna means when she talks about art that is DOA versus art that has a “spark of life.” Art that is created entirely (or mostly) consciously is like a toaster or a widget — it has no life. It’s just a dead object. Art that is created using both the conscious and unconscious aspects of the mind, however,is alive, is distinct from the artist, and, yes, can have it’s own intent that is different from the artist’s intent.

You mention that you are interested in the intent of the artist when they create the artwork, not in the meanings that come to mind many years later. I think you misunderstood me. I’m not suggesting that the meaning of the artwork changes with time. I’m suggesting that it is a puzzle that must be solved — even to the artist — and that may take many months or even years. So the meaning of the artwork doesn’t change although the level of the artist’s understanding hopefully does.

You also raise a good question about whether these things are accidental, whether the artist (photographer) “saw the meaning before or after the snap.” I don’t think these things are accidental. I think you see the meaning before the snap. That’s why the scene interests you and resonates with you. But seeing the meaning and understanding the meaning are two different things. I believe that when a photograph, or any work of art, resonates with you, you are seeing/feeling/recognizing the meaning, but you don’t really understand the meaning until you have worked with it awhile. Again, this gets back to the conscious/unconscious dichotomy. Unconsciously, you certainly recognize the meaning of the scene, but it takes some time to understand it consciously.

Finally, you say that artwork never creates itself and that believing so would reduce the artist to a mere manufacturer. I believe the opposite is true. Artwork that is created solely by the artist’s conscious mind is little more than a lifeless widget, and the artist little more than a manufacturer of widgets. But an artist who can tap into the vast wellspring of the unconscious may not control every detail of the artwork, but will certainly be more than a mere manufacturer. I think they are more akin to a shaman, conjuring spirits from beyond and bringing them back for all to see.”

This back-and-forth between J.T. Kirkland and Scott goes for two pages. If you read it, be sure to look for the arrows at the bottom of the first page to get to the ending.


Another blog entry that includes interesting comments on intent is Petra Voegtle’s “About the Intent of Art”. She goes back and forth with J. Alan. I’ll give you an extract of J. Alan’s statements, followed by one from Petra Voegtle. This blog posting is a  little harder to read than J.T. Kirkland’s, but it’s a good one if you have the time to work through it (it’s not that long).

[J. Alan]  “There is one indubitable indication distinguishing real art from its counterfeit, namely, the infectiousness of art. If a man, without exercising effort and without altering his standpoint on reading, hearing, or seeing another man’s work, experiences a mental condition which unites him with that man and with other people who also partake of that work of art, then the object evoking that condition is a work of art. And however poetical, realistic, effectful, or interesting a work may be, it is not a work of art if it does not evoke that feeling (quite distinct from all other feelings) of joy and of spiritual union with another (the author) and with others (those who are also infected by it.

If the work does not transmit the artist’s peculiarity of feeling and is therefore not individual, if it is unintelligibly expressed, or if it has not proceeded from the author’s inner need for expression – it is not a work of art. If all these conditions are present, even in the smallest degree, then the work, even if a weak one, is yet a work of art.”

[Petra Voegtle’s response (missing some intermediate dialogue)]   “I also see the other side of the coin – the artist. Although I also feel that in many many works exactly that purity and intent is missing and many artists seem to have lost exactly what you are talking about, I feel that many artists also give themselves too much importance, separating themselves from the “normal” people in a way that is simply ridiculous. There are lots of so-called artists out there who pretend something that is not there and I wished that the audience would identify them. But that will never happen.

I would like to say that artists are a special breed but they are just ordinary people who utilize skills and talents other people don’t have or don’t want to utilize. I would like to say that artists belong to the kind of people who are always looking behind the things – but that does not apply to too many. I would like to say that artists are the ones who are the keepers of the virtues in this world – but the media prove they are not. I would like to say that artists are changing the world – but I have not seen any proof for this either.”



February 26, 2008

The Field Theory of the Meaning of Art

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 9:41 am

Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart famously used the phrase, “I know it when I see it” as his definition for pornography (he did later recant in the Miller decision). I think most people also use that as their definition of art. The trouble is, it conveys absolutely nothing to anybody other than the speaker. At least in the case of art, you won’t be breaking the law if your idea of art is not the same as the person making the statement.

But though the phrase is meaningless for communicating anything to others, it does point up one fact about both pornography and art; their inclusions/exclusions are subjective and therefore any objective definition must leave room for subjectivity.

Luckily for those who are not Supreme Court Justices, we don’t have to worry about defining the meaning of either of these words. We can just “know it when we see it” and get on with our lives.

Unfortunately for me, if I’m going to keep writing about art day after day, I do need to at least describe what I am talking about when I use that word.

You will all agree with me that one of the top five most boring topics in all the world is “what is art?” So I will be as brief and as evasive as possible.

First, I will avoid claiming to “define” the word. That’s been tried. I will admit immediately that it can’t be defined. Rather I will treat it like the electron — which exists but which can never be precisely located. We know the field in which it will be found without ever being able to, or even needing to, know where any one of them is. I will give you a theory  which is a nice, tentative, fuzzy, elastic term. Lots of room for not saying precisely what I mean. The field theory of the meaning of art. Justice Stewart, eat your heart out.

Here we go. I know it’s messy, but it’s the best I can do in one day of trying to narrow it down:

1. But for the art, I would not have perceived whatever it is that it shows.

2. It must be attractive. I must want to look at it the first time, and further, want to look at it again and again.

3. It has to make sense.

That’s it. Anything that falls within the field of those parameters will be art.

A true scientific theory must, in theory, be falsifiable. In other words, if I make a statement that can’t be falsified, it’s not a theory, it’s an assumption or a principle, not a theory. Here is where the fun begins. Let’s see if we can find something that fits my three criteria but which is not art.

Immediately, many of you will be thinking of things not intended  as art (and I know who you are). For example the earthrise picture (better seen with the moon vertical, though I don’t know how the linked site can claim which way is “correct”):

[photo from the Wikipedia Commons]

Or the Hubble Space Telescope pictures. Or the Mars rover pictures  from Spirit and Opportunity. To me, all of those are art if they are attractive (even though presumably by accident). Scanning electron microscopy pictures are good, again, if they are beautiful for whatever reason.

I do start to hesitate when I see the IBM ‘art’  created with the electron tunneling microscope, but I think that violates my third parameter; it doesn’t make sense to me.

How about the Bassett Collection? Incredibly detailed photos of human dissection by David L. Bassett. Absolutely! Love ’em!

Or Jens Knigge’s x-ray series on Foreign Bodies and the Bowel already discussed in an ealier post? Sure, though not in the dining room. 

What about something like the Oxford English Dictionary? It seems to meet all three criteria. Luckily, I claim only to be theorizing about visual art.

My very broad field of inclusion probably explains a lot of what I have been saying about the irrelevance of intent. More on that tomorrow…



February 25, 2008

There is No Fear in Making Art

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 7:25 am

There’s a well known book, much favored in the art community, called “Art and Fear” by Bayles and Orland. I think they are fundamentally wrong, from the title onward, even though they do a nice job of describing art-making.

Firstly, “fear” is a purely negative word. Fear means “an emotion experienced in anticipation of some specific pain or danger (usually accompanied by a desire to flee or fight)”; or in its milder form, “an anxious feeling”. [definitions taken from WordNet]. The authors mix together the feelings of the person in the process of making art with the artist’s fears about the reaction of others to that art:

“Fears about art-making fall into two families: fears about yourself, and fears about your reception by others.”

Lets start with a thought experiment. Suppose everybody had no inhibitions about making art. It just poured out of them as easily as breathing. Gorgeous pictures everywhere. What would happen? It wouldn’t be called art. It would be called a nuisance. And some few among them or us would start trying to go further. To make things not yet conceived of. That would be the new art. That is the new art. Art is about going beyond what we are already capable of. So by definition, it’s about being uncomfortable; about striving to see around corners. I won’t use the word ‘fear’ because that’s not right at all, even though struggling to make art is difficult and/or uncomfortable.

Art and this difficulty or discomfort are inextricably interwoven. If it’s not difficult and uncomfortable, then it’s not art. Art is pushing your brain to do things for which it has only the rudimentary, even accidental, capability. Doing things for which we are not yet evolved to do; it’s like trying to fly, or see in the dark, to read other people’s minds. We’re not made to do it, but, if we try very, very hard, we can do it … sometimes.

The difficulty (what Bayles and Orland call ‘fear’) in making art is exactly what makes it art. It’s why people want to see what you have done (or not); we all want to see around the corner, to know things that are (almost) beyond the natural abilities of our species, ourselves.



February 24, 2008

Art and Cognition

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 7:50 am

It’s Sunday, so I’m going to try pitching you some heavy-duty, but, I think, very interesting reading. All of it is from the Art and Cognition workshops web site. I’ve picked those papers that I think are most relevant and readable. The chosen titles are linked, followed by one brief extract/sample from the article. The first two are particularly recommended.

Ambiguity and Intention by David Cohen

“”Is it art?”, ubiquitous in the experience of much innovative art of the last century, places ambiguity center-stage in the appreciation of modern and contemporary art. The critic Harold Rosenberg coined the phrase “the anxious object” to describe this situation.

Ambiguity is equally the hallmark of very fine and very poor art, and knowing this in itself breeds ambivalence. What I am looking at could be very fine, it could be very poor. …. My contention is that, more than any other characteristic of art, ambiguity brings into question the notion of intentional fallacy. ”

Art and Neuroscience by John Hyman

“Up to now, most of the people studying art have been historians, some of whom can read Latin, but hardly any of whom have mastered even the rudiments of brain science. And aesthetics has been in the hands of philosophers, who still disagree among themselves about ideas that were stated in the fourth century BC. Neuro-aesthetics is different. As Ramachandran says:

“These ideas have the advantage that, unlike the vague notions of philosophers and art historians, they can be tested experimentally.”

So, is neuro-aesthetics the next big thing?”  [the answer is “no!” Read it; it’s good.]

Authenticity in Art  by Denis Dutton

“This explains why aesthetic theories that hold that works of art are just aesthetically appealing objects — to be enjoyed without regard to any notion of their origins — are unsatisfactory. If works of art appealed only to our formal or decorative aesthetic sense, there would indeed be little point in establishing their human contexts by tracing their development, or even in distinguishing them from similarly appealing natural objects — flowers or seashells. But works of art of all societies express and embody both cultural beliefs general to a people and personal character and feeling specific to an individual. Moreover, this fact accounts for a large part, though not all, of our interest in works of art. To deny this would be implicitly to endorse precisely the concept of the eighteenth-century curiosity cabinet, in which Assyrian shards, tropical seashells, a piece of Olmec jade, geodes, netsuke, an Attic oil lamp, bird of paradise feathers, and a Maori patu might lay side by side in indifferent splendour. The propriety of the curiosity cabinet approach to art has been rejected in contemporary thought in favour of a desire to establish provenance and cultural meaning precisely because intra- and inter-cultural relationships among artworks help to constitute their meaning and identity.”

Any Way You Slice It: The Viewpoint Independence of Pictorial Content  by John Kulvicki

“… Thought of in this way, there is a sense in which pictures represent quite indeterminate states of affairs. If one takes this to its extreme, as John Haugeland does, “…all the photos ‘strictly’ represent is certain variations of incident light with respect to direction….” (1991, 189) Haugeland calls this minimal kind of content the “bare bones” content of a picture.

Bare bones content is a far cry from the “fleshed out” content that we usually ascribe to pictures: relatives, chairs, and so on. In fact, we rarely if ever ascribe bare bones content to pictures. For Haugeland, “The point is…to distinguish, within the undeniable contents of everyday representations, a substructure that is skeletal…” (1991, 189) Bare bones content and fleshed out content are not just two contents that pictures have. The former, though usually unnoticed, constrains the latter: all fleshed out contents must be consistent with a picture’s bare bones content. And though one can flesh out a picture’s content in a myriad of fashions, each picture has only one bare bones content.”


I hope you will at least take a look, even if it is to just skim the contents and jump to the conclusions. Also, note the comments in the column to the right of the given articles.



February 23, 2008

Your Reptilian Gatekeeper

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 7:22 am

Ever wonder why Ansel Adams best work was all done before he reached the age of 48? Why so many poets write masterpieces in their youth, but only dreck for the rest of their life? Why Picasso painted ‘blue’ for a particular period and then … no more blue? Why the old photojournalist saw, “F8 and be there” is so totally wrong?

Try this thought experiment. Suppose you, a photographer, have some place in your house which is lit only by artificial light and which never changes. A perfectly fixed, unchanging place. Light and objects remain the same year after year. You pass by this place all the time. Then one day, you see, recognize, find, capture … use your verb of choice … a great photograph of this fixed location. Why did you never see it before? Now, more time passes and again, suddenly, one day, you see and make another picture of this place. Picture #2. Suppose this happens four times over a long period of time.

Does this mean that you are developing your ‘eye’? That you are becoming sensitized to more and more things? Or, on the contrary, does it simply mean that you are changing; that you are different over time and so, what you see is different. Not better. Different. Can you still see all four pictures or do you now only respond to, recognize, see, the fourth? The first three are no longer apparent, attractive, meaningful to you. Which is to say, “F8 and be there” will only get you one of the four pictures, not all four. You can be there with all skills and equipment, but you will only see the one that you are ‘ready’ for.

If you conceive of your brain as a sort of dilating pupil, becoming ever bigger and more receptive/perceptive as you age and gain experience, then you will believe that your abilities accumulate, not replace. But if you conceive of your brain as a sort of focal-plane shutter, a slit in the curtain, exposing only one passing sliver of life at any given time, then Adams, Wordsworth, Picasso, and everybody else who sees one sort or type of thing at one time of his/her life, but can’t see that same thing, later — will make perfect sense. I believe the evidence supports this latter view.

Your root brain, your reptilian, primal, boiler-room ‘gatekeeper’ moves the slit in the curtain of your consciousness — for better or for worse. If you want to make great photographs, you have to hope you are not only trained and awake, and in the right ‘out-there’ place, but that your brain-shutter is also in the right place.



February 22, 2008

Tasteful Erotica

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 7:31 am

Is that title an oxymoron? Is there such a thing as tasteful erotica, or are they inversely proportional?

I was going to write a long, historical posting on this until I realized that I was bored just thinking about it. You would have been, too, if I’d written it. It’s been done before a few thousand times.

So I’ll just give you links to two nice examples of a tasteful erotica:

Tasteful erotica: female

Tasteful erotica: male

Here’s the photo.net thread that started me thinking about the topic: Art or Crap

Here’s a second photo.net thread where a bunch of probably nice-middle-aged-fellows are giggling over private parts; male and female (concerns the Archibald Prize contestant who paints with his penis, and includes links to the vagina puppets web site).

Here is the Onion’s recommendation  for what is needed to spice up pornographic photography.



February 21, 2008


Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 12:09 pm

“Freezing rain is a type of precipitation that begins as snow at higher altitude, falling from a cloud towards earth, melts completely on its way down while passing through a layer of air above freezing temperature, and then encounters a layer below freezing at lower level to become supercooled. This water will then freeze upon impact with any object it encounters.[1] The ice can accumulate to a thickness of several centimetres, called glaze ice. The METAR code for freezing rain is FZRA.” –from Wikipedia


(image from the Wikipedia Free Commons)

 It’s a beautiful, clear, sunny day here in Virginia. Thin filmy clouds,  no wind, just an all-around nice day. But the weather forecast is for the dreaded “wintry mix” starting tonight and lasting all day tomorrow, with most of it being freezing rain.

I hate winter. I hate being cold and I especially hate frozen precipitation of any kind.

What the heck is “supercooled” anyway? I know roughly that it’s water that is below the freezing temp, but which is still liquid.

“A liquid below its freezing point will crystallize in the presence of a seed crystal or nucleus around which a crystal structure can form. However, lacking any such nucleus, the liquid phase can be maintained all the way down to the temperature at which crystal homogeneous nucleation occurs. The homogeneous nucleation can occur above the glass transition but can be supercooled at standard pressure down to its crystal homogeneous nucleation at almost 231 K (−42 °C).[1] If cooled at a rate on the order of 106 K/s, the crystal nucleation can be avoided and water becomes a glass. Its glass transition temperature is much colder and harder to determine, but studies estimate it at about 165 K (−108 °C).[2] Glassy water can be heated up to approximately 150 K (−123 °C).[1] In the range of temperatures between 231 K (−42 °C) and 150 K (−123 °C) experiments find only crystal ice.”  – from Wikipedia

Ummm … okay. I have no idea what most of that means, but there it is.

Prior to the invention of the telegraph in 1837, weather forecasting  was essentially not happening. The nice weather that I am seeing today, back then, would have given no hint of the misery that is going to happen tonight and tomorrow. Even today, it’s amazing that we get such horribly accurate predictions of doom.

“Imagine a rotating sphere that is 12,800 kilometres (8,000 mi) in diameter, has a bumpy surface, is surrounded by a 40 kilometres (25 mi)-deep mixture of different gases whose concentrations vary both spatially and over time, and is heated, along with its surrounding gases, by a nuclear reactor 150,000,000 kilometres (93,000,000 mi) away. Imagine also that this sphere is revolving around the nuclear reactor and that some locations are heated more during one part of the revolution and other locations are heated during another part of the revolution. And imagine that this mixture of gases continually receives inputs from the surface below, generally calmly but sometimes through violent and highly localized injections. Then, imagine that after watching the gaseous mixture, you are expected to predict its state at one location on the sphere one, two, or more days into the future. This is essentially the task encountered day by day by a weather forecast.”  — Bob Ryan of WRC-TV and previously the Today Show (quote taken from Wikipedia)

To make this post vaguely related to photography, look at this (old) picture from NOAA of Hurricane Hugo. I think the photo is just as beautiful as a lot of modern art that I’ve seen. Appearance completely divorced from meaning (pure misery down below).



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