Archive for the 'Arts & Culture' Category

Islamic art

Sunday, March 29th, 2009

Art museum ceilingI spent a few days in Qatar earlier this week and got to go to the recently-opened Museum of Islamic Art. The building itself is stunning (to the right here is the ceiling) and the art inside was wonderful.

In college, one of my favorite courses was Smith’s famous “Art 100” (since discontinued, * sniff *), a year-long course that covered art through the ages and across cultures. The time we spent on Islamic art was one of the highlights for me so I was thrilled to have the opportunity to see this wonderful museum in Doha.

Here’s a sampling of my collection of photos taken in and around the museum, click the various thumbnails for larger versions or see the Flickr set for more.

Museum of Islamic Art, Doha Old book in Arabic Art in the museum Patterns Ceramics
Monkey Museum fountain Turquoise Paintings of people, rare occurrence Art museum visitors
Rotational symmetry Rotational symmetry Arches Mask Museum of Islamic Art at night

Art through geek-colored glasses

Saturday, January 26th, 2008

Some of these images are excellent. The level of geek quotient required to understand/appreciate them varies.

[Thanks to Ethan.]

Is there a fire truck gene?

Friday, November 23rd, 2007

Thanks to Tina over at the new Scatterplot, I just found a fantastic blog: outside the (toy) box. Here is an excellent post about gender socialization through toys. Plus the author maintains a helpful list of anti-sexist/anti-consumerist children’s books. Additions to that list here or there are welcomed.

Cool visualizations

Sunday, March 18th, 2007

What do you get when you sort approximately 800,000 published papers into 776 scientific paradigms? If you have an interesting visualization expert working with you on the project then you get this map (or click here for an even larger version). Seed Magazine has more on the details and Brad Paley’s Information Esthetics Web site tells you how you can get your own copy just for paying shipping and handling charges.

This map is just one project of Katy Börner’s cool Places and Space: Mapping Science initiative at Indiana University. Check out that site for more goodies.

Brad also has some other intriguing projects, like this calendar (an alternative to what we usually use). One of my favorites, however, remains his TextArc work for alternative ways of visualizing text. For example, check out his representation of Alice in Wonderland.

UPDATE: I’ve been meaning to blog about Jim Moody’s related work as well so I should’ve remembered to include a link to his visualizations, too: co-citation of physical and bio sciences, dynamic visualization of sociology co-authorship network.

Ask the Rabbi

Monday, September 18th, 2006

Mighty Meth posted a photo of an intriguing billboard on his Flickr photostream. So I dutifully typed in the advertised URL: It’s just what it suggests, a site where users can ask a rabbi a question. The site gives a brief bio of the people who may respond (or so I’m assuming that’s who those people are).

Busy weekend

Monday, June 19th, 2006

Wow, the past few days were incredibly busy with lots of fun activities. Instead of writing lengthy descriptions, I offer you batches of photos if you’re curious.

First, my friend Olivia was graduating (Phi Beta Kappa, Magna Cum Laude and prize for her thesis in history) and celebrations (e.g. Phi Beta Kappa ceremony) started already early last week. See photos.

Second, my dance club, Chicago Dance, was hosting the annual Chicago’s Crystal Ball ballroom and Latin dance competition. Given everything else, I only made it to part of it, but even those few hours were super fun! See photos plus a video. No, there are no pictures of me dancing since I don’t compete. Granted, I did dance one cha-cha.. in front of hundreds of people.. wearing sandals. Hah.

Making an Oink

Finally, the Custer Street Fair, also known as Custer’s Last Stand was on this weekend. That’s my neighborhood summer art fair and also provided plenty of entertainment including the opportunity to create an Oink entry for this month’s Flickr scavenger hunt. See photos.

Museum hotel

Monday, May 29th, 2006

Recently I stayed at an intriguing hotel that is worth a mention: the 21C Museum Hotel in Louisville, Kentucky. (I was unimpressed by the reservation part of the experience, but the stay made up for the annoyances incurred at that stage.)

Upon entrance, you almost have to step on the projection of two people sleeping in bed to get to the receptionists and/or the elevators to access your room. I wonder how many people who notice this just walk right across the image versus how many decide to walk around the picture. Big plastic red penguins are scattered across the building, not just in the designated museum section, but also in the hallways. I didn’t care for some of the installations (like the film about a woman and a man having a seemingly pleasant dinner judging from their facial expressions despite the fact that mice are walking all over their food), but some of it was neat (like the falling letters on a screen where the viewer becomes part of the image).

The hotel just opened this Spring. It’s a museum-hotel mix with various contemporary art pieces all over. The visit was much more fun than your usual hotel stay and it made me wish more hotels would put some interesting twist on the experience.

The Tribe

Tuesday, May 23rd, 2006

An interesting short film on Barbie, Jews, identity and about a million other topics. It is so packed with material – some of which seems extremely random – that it is hard to know where to even start with any commentary. See what you think.

The Beauty Academy of Kabul

Thursday, May 11th, 2006

A few weeks ago I saw the documentary The Beauty Academy of Kabul and wanted to recommend it as I thought it was a very interesting film. It’s playing now in a few U.S. cities and will continue to show up in a few others over the summer. (Just click on “Where to see it” on the flash page.)

A small group of American women (a couple of them immigrants from Afghanistan) decided to open up a beauty school in Kabul to train local women about their craft. (It turns out that most of these Afghani women had already been pursuing this line of work previously, but they had not received any training in a while.)

The film does a nice job of giving some historical context starting with footage from the 70s about life in Kabul and the introduction winding up with images of all the destruction on Kabul’s streets today. It is really fascinating to see the transformation. The focus is mainly on day-to-day life, a perspective we don’t usually get to see much.

The movie seems to be very honest about portraying various sides of the parties involved. Although the American women go into all this with a reasonably open mind, not surprisingly they remain naive about the local women’s lives. This comes through clearly in the footage, there does not seem to be any attempt at making them seem more sophisticated or in-touch than they are. The toughest parts, for me, were the heart-wrenching realizations about the situation of women in Afghanistan today, regardless of certain changes.

It’s a bummer that films like this don’t get wider distribution. If you happen to be in one of the few towns where it’s playing, I recommend checking it out.

Family-friendly restrooms

Friday, April 14th, 2006

Diaper-changing sign Family restroom sign I’ve been traveling a lot recently (four locations in the last week), which has given me new opportunities to find interesting gender signs. A twist on the topic I hadn’t explored much before is whether taking care of children is assumed to be a female responsibility. I found a couple of examples recently that suggested inclusivity. At the San Francisco airport, both men’s and women’s restrooms show a diaper-changing image. At JFK, there was a separate area for families.

FYI, the gender signs pool on Flickr has over 100 photos now. Don’t be shy, join in on the fun.

Hungarian commercials from the 80s

Friday, March 31st, 2006

How random: YouTube’s hosting a bunch of Hungarian TV ads from the 80s. Here is one I even remember. It was for a big department store that still exists. It’s hard to translate what the little guy is saying as it’s a nice play on words. The basic script: “I go in. I come out. I do so well when I go in.” – The play on words is that “I do so well” is based on the same word as “I come out”. I doubt this makes much sense, but that’s how iit goes and it’s pretty clever in the original.

UPDATE: I’m adding another one that I remember. It’s for a bank (or the only bank at the time).


Some come to us, because they have money.
Some come to us, because they don’t have money.
Some understand money, that’s why they trust us.
Some don’t understand money, that’s why they trust us with it. [Works better in Hungarian.]
Some save, because that’s what they saw at home.
Some save, because that’s not what they saw at home.
There are some who haven’t yet come to us. This film is for them.

The big screen

Monday, March 6th, 2006

There seemed to be quite a bit of focus at the Oscars on the advantages of watching a movie on the big screen (that is, in a theater, not your big screen TV at home). There were several references to this point, including comments by the president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the host of the Oscars. We got to see a clip illustrating the importance of the big screen. The clip had scenes from various big action movies such as The Ten Commandments (Moses parts the sea) and Star Wars (some starship scene).

I certainly understand the upside of seeing movies on the big screen (and not just from the profit-oriented point-of-view, but also from the viewer’s perspective). However, I don’t understand how it helps to make this argument in a situation where most of the people watching your clips are viewing them through their TV sets at home. Was the point to show us scenes that would look particularly unimpressive on the small screen, but remind us how impressive they would be on a big one? They were well-known scenes that we know are impressive so how is this supposed to get us to run out and watch movies in theaters?

Dress optional

Thursday, March 2nd, 2006

Women's restroom sign Men's restroom sign Girls Boys Women's restroom sign Men's restroom sign

A propos gender, I wanted to say a few words about some recent photo interests. A few months ago I decided to start taking pictures of gender signs. The most obvious location for these is restroom doors. I haven’t encountered any awkward situations yet running around public bathrooms snapping photos, but I can imagine eventually I may get some curious glances.

The purpose of this exercise is to see what are the core essential elements that the designers of such signs decide will be enough to distinguish between men and women. We are all used to the stick figures, with and without the skirt (or would that be a dress?). But how about the more innovative approaches? In the Hungarian Parliament, the emphasis on the signs seems to be on differences in hairdo while the signs in the Hungarian Academy of Sciences emphasize some facial feature variation (lips vs moustache) in addition to hairdo distinctions and some differences in clothing. (It would be interesting to know the date of these two pairs of signs, I guess I didn’t do adequate research.) In other cases, the focus is on how men vs women tend to go about their business, but sometimes the distinctions are not completely obvious (these tend to be some of the most intriguing cases).

I have compiled my photos on the topic into a set on Flickr. More interestingly, I also started a public group on Flickr (a pool of pictures to which any other Flickr member can contribute), which has led to the addition of some great photos from others, for example: this Ken and Barbie pair at the Shirn museum in Frankfurt.

The rule for the photo pool is simple: post images that have both the male and female symbol (either in one or two pictures) and give some description of where the signs are located in case others want to find them. I welcome contributions! Join the trend, don’t be shy to whip out your camera next time you spot a pair of gender signs.

Eventually, I could see this project leading to.. well, perhaps not a coffee table book, but maybe a bathroom book?

A quarter, give or take

Sunday, February 19th, 2006

Time Sink!

Create your own light installation! The Hayward Gallery is hosting Dan Flavin: A Retrospective (this seems to be the one that was at Chicago’s MCA recently) and has a fun interactive site to go along with it. You can create your own light installation dedications and add them to the pool. You can view other people’s here.

A quarter, give or take

If you send yourself a copy of the image you create then you’ll have a URL to it like the one for the image above. Feel free to post a link to your creations in the comments.


Thursday, January 12th, 2006

Oh-oh, my blog is becoming a mere link farm. Sorry, dear reader.

Here is an anecdote for you. I was in the AAA office the other day getting suggestions for a trip. The guy suggested I go through Milwaukee.* He mumbled something about a metamorphosis. I did not quite understand what he was saying so I asked: “What do you mean?”. He then simply said: “Oh, a change.”

This was cute, because it wasn’t the word metamorphosis that I needed clarified. I just hadn’t heard enough of the sentence to know what he was talking about. I guess it makes sense for him to then give a synonym for the word. (I could write lots of posts about things I have misundestood in the past. This is par for the course.)

When I hear “Metamorphosis” I usually imagine it with a capital M. I read Kafka’s play back in high school in German class. Yes, it was a pretty intense German class to be reading works like that in the original. The grand treat for the year was that our teacher took us to Broadway to see the play performed by Mikhail Baryshnikov as Gregor Samsa.** It was an amazing experience for a bunch of high school students. It likely would’ve been for people at other stages in their lives as well, but it seemed extra special then.

So much for hearing the word “metamorphosis” at AAA.

* No, traveling through Milwaukee did not make sense for this trip, in case any of my readers were curious about the final route.:)
** My family was living in the US at the time. We were spending a year in Storrs, CT.

Klezmer on Christmas Eve

Thursday, December 1st, 2005

More than once I have posted about klezmer concerts after they have happened. This time I am giving you enough time to plan accordingly.

On Christmas Eve, the 92nd St Y in NYC is hosting The Klez Dispensers and King Django’s Roots & Culture Band. I have mentioned the Klez Dispensers here before. They are great and the type of music they play at these concerts is really fun. In fact, I am told that there will be plenty of room for dancing so dress accordingly. Tickets are $13.50 (including service charge) and can be purchased on the Y’s concert site. Feel free to let me know if you are going, perhaps we can have a little CT meetup.


Sunday, November 20th, 2005

I took two surveys on Blogthings:

1. What Advanced Degree Should You Get?
2. What’s Your Ideal Career?

Of course, one shouldn’t take these too seriously, but I still thought the results were interesting (although not hugely surprising). And hey, monkeys used to be my favorite animals so I like the illustration on the first one.:)

You Should Get a MFA (Masters of Fine Arts)

You’re a blooming artistic talent, even if you aren’t quite convinced.
You’d make an incredible artist, photographer, or film maker.
What Advanced Degree Should You Get?

Your Career Type: Artistic

You are expressive, original, and independent.
Your talents lie in your artistic abilities: creative writing, drama, crafts, music, or art.

You would make an excellent:

Actor – Art Teacher – Book Editor
Clothes Designer – Comedian – Composer
Dancer – DJ – Graphic Designer
Illustrator – Musician – Sculptor

The worst career options for your are conventional careers, like bank teller or secretary.

What’s Your Ideal Career?

Third Coast Festival

Saturday, October 22nd, 2005

I saw a great concert last night as part of the Third Coast International Audio Festival‘s events. The special guest for the evening was One Ring Zero playing music different from most of what’s usually on my playlist. As one of the members described it at some point: weird circus klezmer music. As silly or weird as that may sound, I think it was a reasonable description of at least some of their music. (If you don’t know what klezmer music is, you can check out the bit of discussion we had about the topic here on CT a while back or see what Wikipedia has to say about it.)

The group was performing pieces from their most recent album As Smart As We Are that has songs with lyrics from an impressive set of writers. See the Web site for some sample mp3s and the list of contributors to this album.

The concert also came with the special treat of watching Bob Ewards play the theremin. I had never seen a theremin played so this was interesting in general. In case you don’t know what a theremin looks like (or what someone looks like playing it), has a helpful animated image on its front page to give you an idea. (Needless to say blogs exist on the topic of theremins if you want a daily dose.:)

Thanks to my friend Ben – the trumpet player in last night’s performance – for alerting me to this event, it was definitely a treat. I’ve posted a couple of images on Flickr.

Shofar Idol

Monday, October 3rd, 2005

Shana Tova!

Dancing with the Stars is back

Tuesday, September 20th, 2005

I just realized that Dancing with the Stars is back and on tonight.
I only got to see one or two episodes over the summer, because, ironically, it conflicted with my dance classes. However, this Fall my club has Salsa classes on Tuesdays and I don’t like Salsa that much so I am not going to those classes. Thus: no conflict. (For those who are curious, my favorites are Cha-Cha and Samba, but I’m also taking West Coast Swing this term.)