Friday, November 28, 2008


New York Times photographer Robbie Cooper put together this creepy video of kids' expressions while playing video games:

Which kid is your favorite?

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving (iconography)!

Thanksgiving art is weird... Happy Thanksgiving anyway.

Winslow Homer, Thanksgiving in Camp, 1862

Jennie A. Brownscombe, The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth, 1914

Joseph Christian Leyndecker, Pilgrim, 1924

Louis Gerome Ferris, The First Thanksgiving, 1932

Doris Lee, Thanksgiving, ca. 1935

LIFE Magazine, A Turkey for President Roosevelt, 1936

Norman Rockwell, Freedom From Want, 1943

Thanksgiving Greetings Postcard, ca. 1950

Monday, November 24, 2008

The Etymological Hour: "Haina"/"Heyna"/"Hayna"

Hailing from the coal-baron (now coal-barren) lands of NEPA (Northeastern Pennsylvania), one of the "armpits of America," is rarely a point of pride. Those of us who have escaped Luzerne County (Wilkes-Barre and surrounding areas) in particular carry on a futile attempt to shed every last tattered tether from our Susquehanna roots. And one notable inheritance is dialectological. There are countless linguistic corruptions traceable to NEPA, but none more notorious than "haina" (alternately spelled "heyna" or "hayna").

Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania Historical Photo

The Dictionary of American Regional English (1986) provides the following entry for "haina":
Putting haina on the end of a statement makes the statement a question. It doesn't matter who you're talking to, or when the thing happened. "You're going dancing Friday night, haina?" means "Are you going dancing Friday night?" "He did that last night, haina?" means "Did he do that last night?"

The blue-collar region—once overflowing with anthracite—is in close proximity to a number of more metropolitan areas, but still geographically and (more importantly) psycho-sociologically cut off from more urban regions. (It's worth noting that even larger Pennsylvania cities like Pittsburgh have their own peculiar concentrated dialects.) This symbolic isolation has allowed a number of odd dialectal and vernacular ticks to survive, many residually from the Pennsylvania Dutch. The linguistic history of the anthracite region is a complex one. The early settlers of the area imported the "Yankee" dialect from upstate New York and Connecticut, but this soon blended with the Eastern European features of the Pennsylvania Dutch dialect and absorbed other distinct traces from an influx of Slavic immigrants. This almost creole-like mix evolved further with the more-recent introduction of slang phrases traveling up from Philadelphia. There are noticeable parallels with certain New York City pronunciations, especially the tendency to replace 'th' with 'd' ("Look at dat der hoagie!")

"Haina" appears to have evolved from the slang "ain't it?," and is often delivered with an appended "or no?" for emphasis ("The river level's gettin' high, heyna or no?").

From Coalspeak, a glossary of the NEPA anthracite region:
hayna or heyna or henna or haynit: request for affirmation, like "ain't it so?" or "isn't that right?". See hain't. This is primarily a Luzerne County word, very common in Hazleton, Wilkes-Barre, and surrounding areas. On a related note, many Pennsylvania Dutch sentences end with the phrase "say not". That sure smells like sulfur, henna?" "It sure is cold tonight, heyna or no?"

I still catch myself nearly slip now and then. And I continue to blame my Wyoming Valley upbringing for my inability to differentiate between "pool" and "pole" (or "bull" and "bowl"... or, more significantly, "cool" and "coal"!). But we all have our own vernacular, our own linguistic eccentricities, and that's in part what makes each of us so special, ... haina?!

(This site HERE has some additional interesting tidbits.)

We ♥: Rachel Maddow + Conan O'Brien

Saturday, November 22, 2008

New Cory McAbee Film Premiering at Sundance '09

Here's the trailer for the upcoming musical space western from Cory McAbee, the writer and director of The American Astronaut. It's called Stingray Sam and features music from McAbee's band, which recently changed its name from The Billy Nayer Show to American Astronaut. Narration is by David Hyde Pierce. It will premiere at Sundance Film Festival 2009.

Friday, November 21, 2008

The Nietzsche Family Circus

I'm in the planning stages of a new personal website, one that pairs photographs (mostly mine) with words (mostly Walter Benjamin's), primarily as a way to get me to think more multidisciplinarily about how I experience my surroundings—and maybe also as a means to let others understand what I talk about when I talk about seeing.

Somehow, though, I feel like this website does a better job of producing new meaning from the pairing of word+image. Behold the Nietzsche Family Circus:

"It is by invisible hands that we are bent and tortured worst."

It's a website that pairs random Family Circus cartoon with a random quotation from Nietzsche. And it can be hilarious—just keep hitting the refresh button for new pairings.

As for my own website—well, I'll let you guys know when I've succeeded in producing something more unexpectedly insightful than the stuff above. [The Nietzsche Family Circus.]

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Hamster Eating Broccoli

(I'm usually a bit averse to these cute, viral video memes, but this one got to me for some reason...)

(Thanks Krista!)

Stars of the Lid Score Environmental Defense Fund Ad

Now this is good advertising!

This video combines three things we enjoy to make a compelling point:
1) A song by Stars of the Lid ("A Meaningful Moment Through A Meaningless Process")
2) Subway-grate art by Joshua Allen Harris
3) A good cause (fighting global warming by taking public transit)

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A Question...

Who are some of your all-time favorite dancers? Think of those people—entertainers, friends, movie stars, whoever—who have reminded you that dancing is prelinguistic human expression, a primal instinct... Whose moves have you emulated in front of your bedroom mirror? List some of your personal favorites in the comments...

Sound & Vision: Stormy Weather, 1960

Eric Dolphy Clyfford Still

A recording and a painting. Both from the year 1960. Both evoking a turbulent climate, psychic or otherwise.

Jackson Pollock said of Clyfford Still: "[He] makes the rest of us look academic."

Eric Dolphy's music was described as "too out to be in and too in to be out."

Both artists epitomized the avant-garde. Both flirted with both the abstract and the minimal. This credo from Still could easily apply also to the swinging bebop practiced by Dolphy: "It's intolerable to be stopped by a frames edge."

Throughout their respective careers, Dolphy and Still employed jagged lines that pushed at the boundaries of beat and frame, but they paired this improvisational roughness with an abstract minimalism. (It's tempting to contrast the two against their more polished contemporaries; Miles Davis and Mark Rothko, for example.)

The idea of an uncontainable nature and a volatile climate representing some inner psychic state was a prevalent one in the early 60's, and these two were among the vanguard. Still once stated, "I paint only myself, not nature." And Dolphy's introspective take on the Arlen-Koehler standard "Stormy Weather" takes full advantage of the original lyrical metaphor (listen to Billie Holiday's version here), while lending it a more ruminative emotional complexity.

Both pieces capture the same dichotomy. It's almost a paradoxical, tempestuous calm that we hear in Dolphy's performance and see in Still's painting...

Clyfford Still painting at SFMoMA

Sound: "Stormy Weather" by Eric Dolphy
Vision: Untitled | 1960 | oil on canvas | by Clyfford Still (on view at The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art)

Sunday, November 16, 2008

"Close My Eyes"

One of the best things I've heard this year is the latest Arthur Russell reissue from Audika. It rounds up some never-released recordings that lean toward the folkier/poppier end of Russell's wide spectrum of influences. It also makes a great companion piece to the superb documentary released this year, Wild Combination.

Arthur Russell — "Close My Eyes" (download)

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Strange Attractors

(I'd forgotten about this and enjoyed rediscovering it just now, so I figured I'd repost it for the heck of it.)

Video by Mike Wechsler
Music by Ben Kupstas

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Sound & Vision: Autumnal

This week's Sound & Vision pairs a haunting tune that melds piano, strings, and field recordings with a gorgeous Polaroid shot by Hong-An.  

The song is from Swedish neo-classical composer/pianist David Wenngren (aka Library Tapes), with help from Peter Broderick (whose own superb album Float we discussed here). "A Summer Beneath the Trees"—the title-track from the project's forthcoming album—may nominally evoke a different (now-distant) season, but the resonant echoes and found-sound backdrop couldn't any more limn the fading ephemera of autumn.

The photo, to me at least, evokes the same transitory sense. A nostalgia for one thing; a gazing out toward something else. A fading warmth; a bracing for the cold. Bright rays through crisp air. Sitting alone, enveloped in filtered light. Fall.

Or something...

Sound: "A Summer Beneath the Trees" by Library Tapes (from A Summer Beneath the Trees)
Vision: Autumnal [Polaroid 340] by "naftels"

Monday, November 10, 2008

200 Steps Toward a Better Tomorrow

The Washington Post reports that Obama's adviser's have compiled a list of "200 Bush administration actions and executive orders that could be swiftly undone to reverse White House policies on climate change, stem cell research, reproductive rights and other issues."

Thursday, November 6, 2008

8th Graders' Perspectives

Continuing the theme...

Our good friend Jessie is an 8th grade teacher in Oakland, and her students have been blogging!

Here's some of what they've been writing:
"When Obama became president I was totally speechless! The first African-American president ever, and I was there to witness this. I was so proud and hopeful of America's future and I trust Obama will steer us toward the right direction. I can't realy explain how I felt when the T.V. people (lol :)) told us that Barack Obama was our elect- president. I feel really excited and I will remember this event forever, or at least until I die. This is so spectacular and I can't even begin to feel how African Americans might've felt that night."
"Right now I'm feeling good because this is the biggest moment ever in life. When I heard that Barack Obama won it meant the whole world to me and I just felt like walking all over the world screaming Obama real loud I can't stop moving I just keep moving and walking around and I'm talking about him nonstop. I think he will change gay marriage and schools, and how young people should act and I hope he will change the gas prices and high price stuff. If Barack Obama were here I would tell him how excited I was acting and how good this is for me and I would tell him how excited my cousins were. I would tell him how he changed my life already, and how I admire him."

Teach Your Children Well

(Thanks Megan!)

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Dancing in the Streets

What the Kids Think

The Victory Speech


No words can describe my emotions right now...

I would just like to share some of the text messages I've been receiving from my friends, people whom I would like to think represent a reasonably varied swath of the American experience. I was receiving these, for much of the night, at a bar in Manhattan, surrounded by a diverse group, mostly strangers—black/white, straight/gay, young/old—and it was an incredibly overwhelming experience to watch Obama's acceptance speech amidst the energy of all these people. A monumental shift was palpable. Tears ran involuntarily down my cheeks.

On my way home to my apartment in Bed-Stuy, an older African-American gentleman was exiting the subway next to me, his eyes glistening with reluctant tears... People on the street were cheering. Car horns were blaring.

"I don't know what to say."

He was smiling, but holding back tears.

"I've lived so long for this."

I don't know what prompted me, but I gave him a hug. What other night would that ever have happened?

A few houses down from my apartment, three young guys were sitting on a stoop.

"You hear the news?," one of the asked me.

"I sure did!"

"It's about time! You vote for my man Obama?"

"Of course!"

One of the guys came up to me and shook my hand. "We won."

"Yes we did."

The other two came and patted me on the back. "It's a good night. Go have a drink. Celebrate."

"I will. It is a good night."

Politics are so often impersonal, but tonight couldn't feel any more significant on a personal level. This is our night. This is a turning point. We will wake up tomorrow in a brand new world.

Here are some of the messages I received throughout the day and night...

7:30 AM - "Line is over a block long...Obama fever!"

8:06 PM - "Yay. Obama got PA!"

9:26 PM - "Woo! We might not have to move to Montreal!"

10:01 PM - "Go PA!"

11:07 PM - "Holy crap!"

11:09 PM - "Hell yes fuckin yes!"

11:09 PM - "Woohoo! God bless America!"

11:10 PM - "I'm emotional! Yay for all of us!"

11:16 PM - "Oh my god amazing!"

11:17 PM - "Eeeeee!"

11:26 PM - "Fuck yes! Nice job in PA!"

11:29 PM - "Now we can forget Palin."

11:30 PM - "Yeah!!!!!!!!!!!"

11:32 PM - "America Yes!"

11:42 PM - "I am in shock. Good job!!!!"

12:15 PM - "McCain's speech isn't half bad. His audience is another thing."

12:30 PM - "Tears of joy!"

12:44 PM - "!!!!YES!!!!"

12:47 PM - "OMG. So good."

12:51 PM - "Yes we can."

Monday, November 3, 2008

Videography: New Order

Here's a sample of New Order's exceptional video work:


Here's a summation of what I'm feeling right now:

Remember when you were little and you couldn't fall asleep on Christmas Eve? You were brimming with anticipation and anxiety to the point of insomnia...

Well, I feel like that, except with the added stress of not knowing whether it'll be Santa Claus coming down the chimney or some crazy "maverick" who is going to shoot my pets and throw coal (clean coal!) at me for not being a good, patriotic American boy.

You know what I mean?

1 Day...

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Rural America for Obama

Obama discussing rural and working class Americans in 2004:

Obama campaign ad from 2008:

2 Days...

(by Christopher Schulz)