View current page
...more recent posts
Edward B. Rackley has been traveling in the Congo and has a report and some photos in the Old Town Review.
The human catastrophe of Eastern Congo is, for visitors, a bundle of numbness and raw nerves. In September, at the invitation of a British think-tank, I visited the unstable region to assess the causes of ongoing violence against civilians. With close to 15,000 peacekeepers on the ground, a transitional government anticipating national elections in six months, and well-funded efforts to disarm, demobilize and reintegrate combatants into civilian life—the “DDR process”—why are civilians still being killed with such impunity? Scores of interviews with humanitarian actors, UN staff, and Congolese revealed the usual suspects: predatory governance, uncontrolled armed groups, endemic impunity, and the inaccessibility of civilian populations due to ongoing combat.Read the rest here.
None of these factors is particularly well understood by outsiders; this opacity keeps the “heart of darkness” myth alive. For insiders, Africa remains a Dark Continent by sole virtue of its ability to generate degrees of suffering that surpass human comprehension. Unfettered anarchy it is not. Recent African crises have birthed a new truism: “If it looks like anarchy, then you don’t understand what you see.” Eastern Congo fits the adage well: “chaos” and “senseless tragedy” are the inevitable, indelible impressions etched on any visitor’s memory. But behind the barrage of extreme scarcity, mute agony, and feverish suspicion is a clear pursuit of economic interest, a highly dexterous application of disorder as political instrument.
Here's what Paul Slocum's bad jpeg (see below) looks like as a cross stitch pattern, after running it through knitPro. Pretty good--I mean, bad. This works, no? Now, who's going to sew this?
UPDATE: From the comments: "The problem might be finding all those colors of thread. How many blues are in there?" One answer would be first to ascertain that all the blues could be reproduced using cyan, magenta, black, and yellow, and then to break open some Epson cartridges and use the pigments to make dyes for the thread. Just a thought.
Paul Slocum suggests using knitPro to upload bad JPEG images so they could be rendered as cross stitch or needlepoint projects. Good idea, but man, that would be difficult to pull off. My sense is the stitched piece would have to be both enormous and extremely detailed to show the horrible "bicubic mush" that results from poor compression (which only the extremely perverse are apt to find funny anyway). Nevertheless, I have a candidate: it's a late Op Art piece by Julian Stanczak on the Stefan Stux website [Since removed]. In real life those stripes are super hard-edged, but on the Web, well...
UPDATE: Here's Paul's draft of a proposed "bad JPEG" fiber art project. He has more to say about it in the comments. I'll be away from the computer for a while but the obvious next step is to run this through knitPro.
More opinions on what the Stanczak image suffers from would be welcome--Paul pegs it as a bad resolution issue rather than a too much compression issue. I realize it's hard if you haven't seen the actual painting, but assume it's a black and white image with razor sharp lines. The whole thing is out of focus but mushy spots with added color at regular intervals look like the type of thing you see when saving something too many times at the "low quality" setting. It's important to know why things are an utter failure at communicating.
UPDATE 2: Another comment, from Dan, persuasively identifies the problem with the Stanczak image as one of bad resolution, not bad compression, but it's academic now because Stux has removed the murky black and white pic from its website. A new show of Stanczak work opens soon so I'm sure it was because of that. For bad jpegs of famous Canadian paintings, please see this post on Sally McKay's weblog, which she explains was inspired by a now somewhat quaint 1953 article by George Elliot warning that art should not be shown on television. " A painting needs an intellectual presence before it can work its magic. Placing anything between the viewer and the painting kills the viewer ."
Dubious NY Times Op Ed of the Week. Here's what seems to be the gist of Simon Singh's argument regarding what he calls Albert Einstein's "greatest failure" (not really sure what Singh is saying--and if you thought the "failure" was E's inability to find the unified field theory you're wrong):
1. Albert Einstein published papers in the same year (1905) proving the existence of the atom, showing the validity of quantum physics and introducing special relativity. He was not a "perfect genius," however.Previous Dubious NY Times Op Eds:
2. We can learn much from his greatest failure, which was hypothesizing antigravity to justify his stubborn belief that the universe neither expanded or contracted.
3. We now know the universe expands after the big bang; Einstein eventually admitted his error.
4. Except it turns out he called it correctly after all. Scientists now believe that a propulsive force called "dark energy" makes the universe keep expanding instead of collapsing in a big crunch.
5. Except Einstein wasn't talking about an expanding universe but a steady state universe, one that just sits there, making his notion of antigravity seem not very applicable to the current model.
6. So we actually don't learn much from Einstein's being wrong. The reason he's a "better than perfect genius" is he admits his mistakes, which is a very good quality.
1. The tsunami had nothing to do with restoring balance to the ecosystem but it's really cool to talk about Gaia.
2. We shouldn't do something because it's right but because scientists have learned monkeys do it.
"Pops at 49" [mp3 removed]. Noisy, dirty micro-trance. If it was a car someone would write "wash me" on it. Pops commencing at :49 are pretty jarring but as Pee Wee Herman would say, "I meant to do that" (I think); gratuitous filter sweep at 1:49 takes you to climax, meaning the loud end of the song.
"XP Hardware Failure: Intro and Main Theme" [mp3 removed]
Made this awhile back and never put it up. Inspired by Clown Staples' immortal "Windows Noises," I did what many did on hearing that music--said "I could do that." Of course I couldn't, but it's taken a few months to see the charm in my own klutzy hubris. It's all done--poorly--using the little sndrec32.exe editor lurking in every Windows OS, with some help from Goldwave, a shareware .wav editor. Think I'm ready for drum and bass now.
This is one of my pixel art pieces rendered as a knit, crochet, needlepoint and/or cross-stitch pattern (I'm a little out of my depth as to which would be the most applicable). An actual size screen shot is here. I generated it using microRevolt's knitPro, where you can "upload jpeg, gif or png images of whatever you wish -- portraits, landscapes, logos... and it will generate the image pattern on a graph sizable for any fiber project." The application was conceived as a "protest tool that generates knit patterns of sweatshop offenders"--an excellent idea, but I don't see anything that would prevent the current program from generating, say, swastikas or confederate flags. (I admit I didn't try that.) So with all this in mind, go browse the site and see what they're up to. Also, kudos to microRevolt founder Cat Mazza for an excellent stint reBlogging at Eyebeam these past few weeks.
Interesting article in Wired on the "shadow internet"--haven't read it all yet but am intrigued by what it's saying about file-sharing being an alternate form of broadcasting. Only a tiny portion of peer to peer file sharing consists of people ripping CDs and putting them online--mostly it's the same few pirated (crappy) CDs or movies spreading virally really fast. This suggests that the RIAA and MPAA lawsuits are a worse than useless form of kicking-the-dog--like going after pot smokers because crack dealers are hard to catch. Or maybe that's not a good analogy: maybe it's like going after Perrier-sharers because you can't have a global monopoly on tap water.