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 Two books are work-related, the other was fun.

Crossing the Chasm: Marketing and Selling High-Tech Products to Mainstream Customers by Geoffrey A. Moore. This is the 2014 update to the marketing classic, with new and timely examples. The author discusses and analyzes the challenges of bringing high tech products to market. He starts by clearly explaining his terms and how he sees the issues. The crux is how to make the jump from a niche to a wider market. I found the discussion extremely helpful. I think his ideas apply to intangibles as well as tangible products. It changed the way I thought about some of the Internet collapses we’ve seen over the past few years. Even if you aren’t in the field, the business insights are worth reading.

Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products by Nir Eyal. This was an interesting discussion of getting people to return to your product, whether it’s web content, an online game, or something tangible. He uses the model of Trigger => Action => Variable Reward => Investment to describe his ideas. The power of variable rewards comes from differences each time the user clicks. The difference can just be more or different photos (as on Pinterest). Investment can be time, not just money. He also offers exercises to apply his process to the reader’s project.

In Montmartre: Picasso, Matisse and the Birth of Modernist Art by Sue Roe. I was fortunate to receive an ARC for this book. In 1900 a teenaged Pablo Picasso arrived in Paris. Already there or soon to arrive were Derain, Vlaminck, Rousseau, Leo and Gertrude Stein, Paul Poiret, Diaghilev and of course Henri Matisse. The first decade of the 20th century changed the world for art, cinema, dance and fashion. The author keeps the focus tightly on culture – there isn’t much mention of political or scientific events. I learned a great deal about this remarkable decade and the development of Fauvism, Cubism and Modernism. She makes a persuasive argument that the development of cinema had an important effect on artists of the period. It is well written and interesting.

vamysteryfan: (books)

Found In Translation by Nataly Kelly and Jost Zetzsche.
The Churchill Factor: How One Man Shaped History by Boris Johnson
The Monuments Men by Richard Edsel and Bret Witter
The Soul of a Chef by Michael Ruhlman
How We Got to Now by Steven Johnson

Found In Translation by Nataly Kelly and Jost Zetzsche. I never think about the little instruction booklets that come with my new electronics. Thanks to this book I’ll never look at them the same way again. Translators and interpreters affect out lives in subtle ways. They have a hand in many areas, from the religious books we follow to peace treaties to YouTube videos and beyond. I never considering the difficulties in translating porn or TED talks. Most of us know at least one funny mistranslation (all your base are belong to us, anyone?) but think how dangerous a mistranslation could be in safety directions. The book is full of interesting anecdotes that will make you think.

The Churchill Factor: How One Man Shaped History by Boris Johnson. I really enjoyed Boris Johnson’s unabashedly exuberant The Churchill Factor. I lucked into an ARC and it’s worth reading. It took some time to get used to his slangy style, but it was worth it and even eventually seemed appropriate. Johnson’s premise is that Churchill was exactly the right man in exactly the right place to make the choice for good that benefited history. The year 1940 was pivotal in the fight against the Nazis and he made a decision to end appeasement. I loved the stores about his past, his relationship with Clemmie, and his prodigious writing output. I learned a lot about Russia’s activities in the war – my history classes glossed over a lot of that. The only chapter I didn’t like was the one where Johnson listed all Churchill’s worst decisions and then proceeds to excuse/explain them away. He really reached on some. All in all an enjoyable read for someone looking for more information about Churchill written in a casual style.

The Monuments Men by Richard Edsel and Bret Witter. This is an extremely detailed account of about a year during World War 2 after D-Day in the European theatre. Hitler and his crew systematically looted the great treasures of Europe. If they were in museums or in the hands of private collectors, especially Jewish ones, they ended up in the hands of the Nazis. The were shipped east and kept in repositories, many of those underground. The Monuments Men tried to track down these repositories. Remarkably, the Allies made the decision to return the artwork to where it belonged, even to Germany, instead of claiming it for reparations. I will never be able to look at the Castle of Neuschwanstein in the same way after learning it sheltered so many looted treasures.

The Monuments Men worked without much in the way of resources. It was remarkable that they were able to return so many treasures. Visiting European museums would be a very different experience today if it weren’t for their efforts. I was particularly moved by the story of Rose Valland. She has been given short shrift in many historical accounts. If it weren’t for her recordkeeping, many items would still be lost. The Monuments Men were gifted art curators and historians. Many of them went on to distinguished careers in the best known museums in the world.

The Soul of a Chef by Michael Ruhlman. This book attempts to explain what the CIA’s Master Chef examination, Michael Symon, and Thomas Keller have in common. It explores what makes a great chef from several different viewpoints. Is it adherence to classical cooking, a sense of fun, creativity? This book was written in 2001 so it was interesting to read in light of what we know now. Michael Symon is a big name on television and Thomas Keller is still revered as the chef for the French Laundry. I hadn’t heard about the Master Chef designation. It was interesting to read about the challenges the aspirants went through. The exam tests a chef’s knowledge of classical French techniques thoroughly. If you haven’t read and practiced the recipes in Escoffier, there’s no point. It’s a good addition to any foodie-file’s shelf for the behind-the-scene tales. Very enjoyable

How We Got to Now by Steven Johnson. It’s a companion book to a series currently being broadcast on PBS. What would history be like if an artificial intelligence wrote it? It would likely focus less on human interactions and more on the development of technologies. Robots wouldn’t care as much about social evolution as they would about technological innovation. The hummingbird effect is in contrast to the well-known butterfly effect where tiny actions can have enormous unknown consequences. The hummingbird effect is linked chain of causality that might be unanticipated but traceable. I enjoy these kinds of books about the development of technology. I like the background information about how inventions came to be and the changed our lives.

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And other books.

Nothing: Surprising Insights Everywhere from Zero to Oblivion edited by Jeremy Webb. It turns out there's a lot to consider in nothingness, whether you are talking about zero or oblivion. From the placebo effect to absolute vacuum to voodoo curse efficacy - this book covers it all. I found this collection of essays alternately charming and exasperating. Most of the essays are well written and informative and discuss interesting concepts. They tried to be a little too cutesy in the organization of the book. The chapters aren't logically arranged. Instead they have chapter headings like Surprises and Mysteries. Instead of grouping like essays together, they tried to make a "create your own story" arrangement. At the end of some (not all) essays, they offered suggestions to skip around in the book to follow particular topics. I didn't care for the approach.

Supreme Justice by Max Allan Collins. A really good suspense novel. The story is set in the near future and covers the murders of Supreme Court Justices. The protagonist is a former Secret Service agent good at reading body language. There are clever plot twists. The guy I pegged as doomed to die a heroic death turned out to be a bad guy. I liked the little chapter quotes from justices and others buried at Arlington National Cemetery. It's almost compulsively readable.

After I'm Gone by Laura Lippman I thought this was an absorbing read. Normally I don't like books with shifting points of view but she carries it out very well. The protagonist is investigating a decades-old disappearance and a murder. The book changes viewpoints and eras among the protagonist and the five women left behind in the disappearance. Each character is sharply drawn and believable. I don't want to spoil it for any readers, so I'll just say her resolution is fair and she leaves enough clues. Tess and Crow make a couple of appearances, but mostly in the epilogue. It's definitely worth reading.

Show Your Work by Austin Kleon A sequel of sorts to Steal Like An Artist, this book focuses on developing a reputation and sharing your work on the Internet and social media. Artists' communities are a time-honored tradition and we can create those communities virtually. He talks about the necessity of sharing and the importance of not oversharing. One piece of advice I've seen many times is to do something every single day. He encourages sharing work in progress. The book's design looks elementary but it contains useful information and encouragement.
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This weekend, artists around Logan Circle/ 14th Street in DC opened their studios for walk-ins and tours. I really enjoyed doing that. Partly, it's getting to see how the artists integrate what they do with their living space. It's fun to talk to them and see what they are working on.

Many of them seemed to like found objects even if they didn't incorporate them into their art. They'd have them on shelves around the place. Brian Petro had all sorts of little things around. He'd been in the same studio in the lower level of a design shop for more than 10 years. He talked about finding an animal crackers box and using it in several paintings. Sally Kauffman had these little forks she'd added to a box. George Shomori used old leather and cowrie shells as well as little silver elephants.

Several of the photographers liked images of abandoned buildings. One man went to Spain and took photos of all these abandoned movie sets from the old spaghetti Westerns. Another guy did an abandoned racetrack.

Lucinda French is inspired by science and that scientists know only about 10% of the universe. That leaves a lot of room for creativity.

My photos are here
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This is cool. The Getty Museum's "Open Content Program" has over 4700 hi-res images (12 MB) available to the public for free download and unlimited use.

There's some potential for new icons there :)
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Last night I went to an interesting art exhibit at the Jerusalem Fund. They are a group that encourages understanding of the issues in the Middle East from a different poitical perspective. Sometimes it's nice to have one's assumptions challenged.

The exhibit had a number of landscapes and cityscopes showing Jerusalem as well as some portraits. The colors were really vibrant. Last night an artist played oud music while she worked on a portrait. It was a nice relaxing evening.

a couple of examples )
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On Saturday I toured the studios of a group of artists loosely grouped around the U Street and 14th Street corridors in DC. It was really enjoyable.

What struck me was how cleverly the artists created spaces to do their work. Some people used part of their homes, others found other spaces to work. One young artist had set aside a small part of his living room, carefully set off by a room divider. One side held his CDs and DVDs. The other side nearer the light held his paints and supplies. Other artists had converted their garages. A few had joined together to rent spaces to share. It was fun to walk down the street and learn that there were studios hidden everywhere. I felt like I'd won a scavenger hunt every time I found one. I was really intrigued by the people who had remodeled spaces. Those narrow spiral staircases were very popular. A couple of the artists even used the bathrooms to hang color wheels and swatches.

The artists ran the gamut from abstract to concrete, photographers to found materials artists. I had an impromptu lesson from one man in printmaking. He'd been an art educator for 40 years. One artist told funny stories about his former studio in New Orleans where the rules about house paints can be persnickety in the French Quarter. Another described an upcoming commission from the Absolut Vodka folks.

just a couple of photos )

I think some of the shared rented spaces are destined to disappear as the area gets trendier and the construction increases. It's happened along a couple of the past art corridors and it'll happen to these. Fun to enjoy while we have them though.

The website is here if you'd like more information about the artists
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The Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that “the law does not require that a secondary use comment on the original artist or work, or popular culture” but only that a reasonable observer would find the work to be transformative.

The ruling affects the original artist as much as the transformer. The transformative artist made millions from the art he created from the photographs. Is it fair that the photographer didn't share in those profits? Work that appropriates from others is fairly common in current art circles.

The New York Times has an article here
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Cupid's Garden is a stainless steel sculpture on a traffic island on a busy street in Arlington VA. The arrows are supposed to suggest Cupid's arrows but to me they symbolized the usually messy traffic around Rosslyn.

As part of a street art project, a group called the Guerrilla Stitch Brigade "yarn-bombed" the sculpture with hand-knitted and crocheted animals, flowers, and banners. It looks a lot more light-hearted and romantic now.

Yarn Bomb 1


Alas, since I took the photo, someone "adopted" a goose. The bunny and frog are still there. So cute! More info here
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I haven't been doing much in the way of visiting art galleries the past few months. I went to two openings last night despite bad weather and both were worth it.

Anna Tsouhlarakis is a Native American artist who used Surveymonkey to gather information from other DC residents. She turned the survey results into wall art along with some natural found art from Rock Creek Park. More info about the artist here

Native Primer

Corinne Whitlatch creates glass wall sculptures that reflect her travels in Palestine and the Middle East. She uses a lot of beach glass and found objects too. More info about the artist here

Tunisia Memoir

She also had a small homage to Judy Chicago with themed dinner plates for six people she'd like to have dinner with. It was an interesting assortment, from Thomas Jefferson to Nadine Gordimer to modern-day Palestinian activists.

Washington Dinner Party
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This month's lecture on astronomy covered Africa's role in space. The closer launch sites are to the equator, the more fuel efficient they are. The lecture was a little unfocused - the speaker spent too much time on the earth's formation and not enough on current events - but it was still interesting.

Afterwards, I saw African Cosmos, Stellar Arts at the National Museum of African Arts. Really interesting. Some were artifacts from ancient times and some exhibits were modern art. I saw this and instantly thought of a stargate.

African Cosmos, Stellar Arts

Actually, it's the Yoruban equivalent of Ouroboros, the worm that eats itself. It's made from gasoline cans. To the right is a fabric hanging entitled "Starkid" The print was made using ancient adinka techniques. They also had a couple of short films from South Africa modeled after the ones done by Georges Melies.
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Jeff Gates has brilliantly reimagined World War 2 posters for the upcoming election. It's an effort to return some civility to the political process. They are on view at the Curator's Office this week.
Here are two of them:

You can view all 44 (and buy a bumper sticker!) at his website They are tiny but mighty!

The Contemporary Wing has a popup gallery with some amazing artists through November 23. Shepard Fairey, Elizabeth Catlett, and the Guerrilla Girls are among those featured. An interesting documentary by Ralf Schmerberg plays in a side room. He asked different people the same set of questions and got fascinating responses.

At Civilian Art Projects, Judy Jashinsky has 13 Days and Nights: the Cuban Missile Crisis. The exhibit includes portraits of figures from the time with their thoughts, the moon phases for each night, and other works. It's hard to realize what it was like fifty years ago.
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I had a really nice weekend. Busy but with things I wanted to do.

I spent one whole day learning about designing (or redesigning) websites for mobile telephone users. I got a lot of very good information about it. It's put the emphasis back on content for sure. Met some nice people too. I took notes like a mad woman and the organizers will be posting them as part of the overall summary of the event.

My reward was an evening of wandering around art galleries. Six Georgetown galleries joined together to create an evening out. Gorgeous art, snacks, and I had a chance to talk to some of the artists. Plus Georgetown is such a pretty walking area. It deserves a separate post because I love sharing it with you all :)

One day was spent cleaning many things and doing some cooking ahead with my nice veggies from the farmers market. There's spicy mushroom pasta sauce in the freezer and the rest of a tasty chickpea/red onion/cucumber salad marinating in the fridge. It's good the second day.

And to top it all off, we have a new Butterstick! Mei Xiang, the DC panda, had a new cub! The first few days are always fragile, but I hope the little cub thrives.
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They keep the shutters closed most of the time because there are beautiful peacocks on them. And also to protect the room against destructive sunlight. But one afternoon a month, the shutters are drawn back and the light shines in.

Come right this way )
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Especially on TV (they cut off too much) and I don't usually think to go to performances. Last night I went to one called Public Displays of Motion. It was a sampler of some upcoming projects from a local choreographer. They looked really interesting. I might have to follow up as long as they aren't too expensive. The last part of the night was an excerpt from G&S's The Gondoliers with unusual staging. It was fun.

Whistler decorated the bejeebers out of a room for a railroad tycoon. They had words, another tycoon bought the whole thing and it ended up here in DC at the Freer Gallery. Normally, it's only viewed in artificial light. On the third Thursday of every month the Freer opens the shutters in the Peacock Room. It looks quite different in natural light. This was the first time I'd seen it.

ETA: Internet, why do you hurt me so? Until it lets me upload a few of my pictures, here's a link to the story behind the Peacock Room.
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I had a really nice art-oriented weekend.

The Corcoran Museum has an eclectic collection. It is one of the few DC museums that charge admission but it's free on Saturdays this month. I started out looked at a special exhibition from Richard Diebenkorn called the Ocean Park Series. They are abstracts but with very beachy colors. More info about the exhibit and the artist from the museum. I also wandered into a performance presentation. Kathryn Cornelius, Save The Date. As described by the Corcoran "This performance explores the life cycle of marriage and divorce, and the wedding ceremony’s complex mix of private emotion, public spectacle, social expectation, and state power." Museumgoers acted as the congregation and wedding guests. It was kind of wacky but fun. People were dancing!

I walked past the National Women's Art Museum. They replaced the exuberant dancers with these rather gloomy, spiky abstracts. Not such an enjoyable change to the cityscape.

The best was the last: an exhibit by a photojournalist who takes photos of abandoned military bases around the US. There's an awful lot of abandoned military material and land around the country. The Capitol Hill Arts Workshop had a fascinating display of his photos. Some of them can be seen here/ I had a nice conversation with the photographer and some other attendees about equipment and inspiration. Making the film is becoming a niche market.
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and she was NICE!

The SFWA is meeting in Crystal City, a hop, skip and Metro ride away. Friday evening they had a massive booksigning with many well-known authors. My friend Katherine and I both love Connie Willis' books so we decided to head over. We were first on line for her. She was very friendly, let us take pictures, and signed my book "Here's to the impossible."

I am wearing my monster t-shirt )

And I've found my "only in DC" for any June visitors. Artomatic returned after three years. They've taken over a ten-story building for the month, with all kinds of art on display. There's performance art, wearable art, etc. It's nonjuried so it can be a bit of a mixed bag. Katherine and I looked at three floors before getting overwhelmed. It's maybe two short blocks from Crystal City Metro, so is easily accessible for visitors.

Me eying some art )

All in all a really nice Friday evening!
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The first Friday of the month is usually a good day for local art gallery openings. Touchstone Gallery had fun popart-ish paintings of rollercoasters, focusing on the structures. No people, no cars, no clouds. The other half of the gallery had different works by the members.

Then I went up to Pleasant Plains Workshop. It's way up by Howard University, off my usual beaten path. It's a cute little gallery/shop/workspace. The exhibit was a little disappointing, but they had a bunch of cute notepaper I'd like to go back and get.

All in all, a fun Friday night and a good step to getting out of my rut.
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Spending another afternoon at the Art Cafe at SAAM. It's a nice quiet place to beat the heat and play with the Web.

LJ is still experiencing problems from the DDoS. LJ says the best way to visit the site is if you're not logged in. That seems to be the only way for me - it's not letting me log in. Some of my favorite places are only viewable if I log in and of course I can't post if I don't ::sigh::

Thanks to discord26, I can now explore the options available to paid members of Dreamwidth. What would I do without it? Except spam those of you on Twitter? Dreamwidth seems a little slow today, but that may just be me.
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Finally a little rain today! I'm hoping it will cut the heat a bit and not just add to the humidity.

I spent the afternoon at the Art Cafe in the Lunder Conservation Center at the SAAM. It's a quiet little corner on the third floor with Wifi. There some beautiful sculptures and upstairs you can watch art restoration in progress. Down the hall are some intriguing video art installations. It's definitely worth a visit.


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