28 August 2008

Matthew Mitcham is Gay?

Hmm. I guess you wouldn't know that from watching the NBC coverage of the Olympics when Mitcham (pictured) came from practically nowhere to snatch a gold medal from the Chinese divers. Hmm. Major upset win, first men's diving gold for Australia since 1924 (1924!), China denied a clean sweep of gold in diving, the highest individual dive score ever awarded during an Olympic competition and -- hmm -- not one shot of Mitcham's significant other, not one mention that he is gay (and proudly out), nothing.

What does NBC say? “We don’t discuss an athlete’s sexual orientation” unless, of course, they are straight when they show the wife or husband, the kids, the parents, the cousins, the grandparents and the neighbor who lived next to them in 1972. Isn't being "straight" a sexual orientation? Hmm.

Well, here is a little shot at giving Mitcham (and his significant other) the attention they both deserve.

A report about the win will be found here.

A report about the snub will be found here.

NBC's apology will be found here.

Mitcham's official site is here.

24 August 2008

Smart Art

In March 1992 I took a trip to the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles (MOCA). I love art of all kinds, but am mostly ambivalent to contemporary "art." Art, to me, is something that was created that I could not have done. Is it art when an "artist" takes a doll, rips off its head, and puts an apple there instead? No. Is it art when someone carves a human figure from a block of marble? Yes.

It was during this 1992 exhibition (the name of which escapes me) that I first saw the "art" that consists of nothing more than a pile of candy in a corner (by Felix Gonzales-Torres). Is this art? No.

Clearly I am no fan of most of what passes as contemporary "art."

(My companion and I were driving to lunch after the museum visit and listening to the venerable KNX-1070 radio news station reporting a freeway closure. It appears some truck turned over and spilled thousands of empty liter soda bottles all over the roadway. Not missing my chance, I commented that someone was bound to take a photo of that and we would see it in the next MOCA show.)

I feel this same displeasure of art in public places. The world is full of art -- in public and private spaces, made by humans and made by nature. I do not believe art should be relegated to a certain place -- like the homes of the wealthy, inside buildings, or specially designated "art spaces." No, art is for everyone and should be everywhere.

Isn't it odd that I think most public art is crap?

Today's New York Times has an interesting article about good and bad art in public spaces. I think it's all crap. Giant paper clips? Crap. Plastic cows painted different colors? Crap. When we were in Riverside, California last month, our hotel had a giant plastic piece of fruit painted odd colors, part of one of those weird art projects where giant plastic things are painted differently by different people, planted around a city and labeled "art." Crap.

Personally, I would rather see a design aesthetic like that found in Paris in the early 20th century, where artists like Hector Guimard did not make public art, he made art public -- like the Metro train station entrances (pictured) that have become justly famous. One should not pick a piece of ground and say "Here shall appear a piece of art!" No, one should design that piece of ground (and whatever is on it) as a giant work of art. Do not erect a building and place a piece of art next to it; design a building that is art in itself.

There was a time in this world (mostly in Europe, not so much America) where this was the norm. Now, it appears it's the exception. That's pretty sad.

You may read the article here.

09 August 2008

Chinese Puzzle

First off, let me say that I am a huge fan of Asian culture. (I respect all cultures, but really admire Asian cultures). I think highly of the culture and histories of Japan, China, Hong Kong, Korea, etc.

But I want to ask a question:

How is it that China can demonstrate its competence so amazingly with its opening ceremonies to this year's summer Olympics games (last night, pictured), and not be able to do something relatively easy like clean up the Yangtze river to prevent the extinction of the rare baiji dolphin, or oversee the production of pet food to prevent poisons from getting into it, or prevent toys from being made with poisonous lead, or build schools that will not crumple during an earthquake, or coexist with people who are different from they?

I understand the basic tenet of communism is the state is all and the people serve the state. I agree with the (mercifully restrained) NBC commentators who said the trophy for best opening ceremony could now be retired because, really, how could you top the Chinese?

But I don't understand pollution, or poisoning, or shoddy construction of schools, or killing people just because they are different. Can someone please explain this to me?

07 August 2008

Snakes Alive!

Okay, so yesterday we took a trip to visit the production company that is working on this video that I wrote for work. When we were leaving, I opened the door and saw this thing slithering on the ground. It was long and thin, like vermicelli, but ALIVE! First I thought it was a huge earthworm, then I realized it was a little snake! Of course, the girls in the office shrieked and admonished me not to touch it. (It was, like, ten inches long and thinner than a pencil. It wasn't going to hurt nobody.) I wanted to rescue it 'cause it was snaking along a pretty busy walkway and could easily be hurt by some imbecile who does not understand the importance of nature to our world.

So, I caught the little beauty, spent a few moments bonding with him/her, walked across the parking lot and found a nice shady spot under a huge tree to release it. While it was in my hand, it was totally calm and relaxed, its little tongue going in and out. I took a few moments to admire its beauty, told it not to be scared, and then released it. It was only after it slithered away that I thought I should have asked if someone had a cell phone camera to take a snap! Oh, well.

I did some investigating and it was either a blackheaded snake (similar to the one pictured) or a garden snake. Either way, it was beautiful and I am so happy I got a few moments to interact with him/her.

Also, it pooped on me.

06 August 2008

Big Things in Small Packages

Leave it to a British newspaper to write an appreciation of small films -- and explain how mind numbing and debasing to the public at large are those giant blockbuster films that get all the attention.

05 August 2008

Happiness Is....

... coming home from work and finding out that your spouse bought you a Wallace & Gromit "The Curse of the Were-Rabbit" collector set (pictured).

01 August 2008

Truth or Consequences

I'm always fascinated by a single event that reverberates through time -- like when a volcano explodes and sends the entire planet into a year without summer, or when a space shuttle blows up and upends the entire space industry.

Few non-military events occurred in the 20th century with more long-lasting reverberations than the quiz show scandal that rocked television in 1959. It began three years earlier when a teacher, Charles Van Doren (pictured) unseated the reigning champion on a show called "Twenty One." It was a huge ratings winner, and (it turned out later) had been totally rigged.

The fallout from this event (and the congressional hearings that followed) last to this day. Then, it cast a pall over the insanely successful radio and television programs that gave away money to contestants who answered questions, it put an immediate end to single-sponsor programs (because the sponsor had control over everything that happened on their programs, and answered to no one), and game shows virtually disappeared from the air. Today, because there cannot even be a whiff of cheating on a program, questions are guarded and contestants are vetted.

Of course, Van Doren's life did not come to an end. He (and the dozens of others who confessed to cheating on various shows) went on and eventually the noise died down. But one thing never happened: Van Doren never gave an interview about his role in the scandal.

In this week's New Yorker magazine, that's all changed.

You can read all about the quiz show scandal here.