“based on a true story” wasn’t enough

The makers of The Life of Emile Zola would like you to know that

This production has its basis in history. The historical basis, however, has been fictionized for the purposes of this picture and the names of many characters, many characters themselves, the story, incidents, and institutions, are fictitious. With the exception of known historical characters, whose actual names are herein used, no identification with actual persons, living or dead, is intended or should be inferred.

I wonder if their goal was to get certain historically-minded members of the audience time to walk out before they started complaining.

a system of signs

Sometimes, in the library, information seeks you.

Books on the hold shelf come wrapped in sheets of paper fastened with rubber bands. This is next to the self-checkout machine.

Self-checkout has its perils.

So do certain kinds of micro- readers. I think this is in front of a microcard reader. I’ve never used it; I guess it’s bad for the fiche. The back walls of the carrel are adorned with melted fiche, but I couldn’t get a good shot of them.

You have to be very careful when you use these machines. Smart thieves know to strike just when you’re leaning forward, nauseous, squinting at blurry text.

It wasn’t easy shooting these signs, especially since I was just messing around and not putting a lot of effort into it. As I said in an earlier post, I don’t really know how the camera works, so I don’t know why there were times when I’d click and it wouldn’t shoot any picture at all. I assume it had something to do with the ambient lighting; in a lot of places the overhead lights, or sun from the window, or reflections, or the contrast between the edge of the wall of a desk or carrel and the open space beyond, may have thrown off the “auto” feature. After clicking a bunch of times trying to capture that burglar sign and failing to get anything, I decided to test the camera by turning it so that it would catch only objects inside the carrel walls, and this is what I ended up with. It might be the best photo I have.

I don’t know why someone went to the trouble to create a pink insert with the word “pink” on it. All the other signs I’ve seen in the area read “GREEN” (which is covered up here); but so few people use these carrels as they’re intended I don’t even know what the actual tabs and flags look like. I don’t think I’d want to leave my books on an unlocked shelf.

That’s a typical-looking basement desk. The upper-floor desks look nicer, but there’s more graffiti. Here at a fifth floor desk, there’s no hiding the writing from the flash. I wonder if it came after the sign was put in.

This sixth-floor desk has no such sign and look what happened. I wonder if anyone knows what kind of citation style this is? I can’t figure out what’s so significant about Bush, 2007 and Obama, 2009.

Back in the basement, this appears to be the good cop/bad cop strategy applied to movable shelving instructions. Too bad they didn’t give that guy a word-bubble in comic sans.

This sign always cracks me up. There’s one near the computer group on the second floor too. Kids these days.

This last photo is from the other main library, the one I don’t go to very often because it doesn’t have as many social sciences and humanities books. That library is pretty boring, signage-wise, but there’s a great view from the stairwell. You just have to keep moving while you enjoy it. I had some trouble blocking the reflection on this one; it was another clear, well-lighted day today.

I would assume that if there were a fire, the people sitting in the stairwell would simply be the first to leave, but who am I to question a sign? In the real world, just as it is on the internet, the best arguments are made in ALL CAPS.

pointed and shot

I finally remembered to bring “my” camera to the library today. Keep in mind that the windows are  dirty, I’ve actually borrowed this camera and barely used it before, I don’t know anything about how to set lighting/zoom/etc properly though I did manage to do basic things like turn on flash/macro/etc., my hands aren’t very steady, and the last time I took photos for myself was about fifteen years ago using a film camera that had almost no customizable settings. Any advice on very beginning photography would be appreciated. I guess I might finally use flickr.

Anyway, as spring has sort of come in, I’ve come to realize this area has something in common with LA: when the visibility is high, it’s really strikingly beautiful. Too bad about the architecture, though.

Looking left:

Center view:

Looking right (a partition kept me from turning further):

seeing and believing

Alana Newhouse’s article about photographer Roman Vishniac, his photographs, the stories he told with and about those photographs, and the evidence that challenges those stories, is really kind of fantastic. Never heard of Vishniac? (I hadn’t.) Not sure you’re interested?

Take a look at the slideshow that goes with the article – whatever you think of Vishniac’s storytelling, his photography was very, very good. Then read these three paragraphs from near the start of the article:

But the center will not only be acquiring Vishniac’s entire life’s work; as the father-son spread suggests, it is also inheriting a fascinating set of ambiguities and unanswered questions — all unexpectedly uncovered by a 34-year-old curator named Maya Benton. As Benton has discovered, Vishniac released, over the course of a five-decade career, an uncommonly small selection of his work for public consumption — so small, in fact, that it did not include many of his finest images, artistically speaking. Instead the chosen images were, in the main, those that advanced an impression of the shtetl as populated largely by poor, pious, embattled Jews — an impression aided by cropping and fabulist captioning done by his own hand. Vishniac’s curating job was so comprehensive that it would not only limit the appreciation of his talents but also skew the popular conception of pre-Holocaust Jewish life in Europe.

Sometime in 1989, Maya Benton, then a 14-year-old living in Los Angeles, had an epiphany. The daughter of a single mother, a psychoanalyst who as a child lived for years in a displaced-persons camp in Germany, Benton grew up in a household that was a relative rarity in American Jewish life: Yiddish speaking but cosmopolitan, well off and not Orthodox. As she lolled on the couch of her grandparents’ home, Benton started sneaking chocolate rum balls from a sterling silver box — one of two family heirlooms from, she had assumed, Novogrudek, the historic Jewish town in what is now Belarus from which her grandparents hailed before the Holocaust. As Benton stared at the weighty birthright from the alte heym, or Old World, bafflement struck: she knew, from an interview she conducted with her family members for a history class, that they fled the German invasion, hid in nearby forests, were interned at multiple labor camps and trekked through miles of often snow-covered forest in the east. How on earth, Benton thought as she considered the ornate container, did they manage to schlep this through Siberia? The confusion grew when she considered the second heirloom: a full set of Rosenthal china.

As it turned out, the box and the china had not been in the family for generations, nor were they from Novogrudek. As Maya’s grandmother, Tonia Benton, explained that afternoon, they were among the things that she and her husband bought from impoverished Germans after the war; bartering the chocolate and cigarettes they received in the displaced-persons camp, they were able to buy valuable items that could be used as currency to get the family to America. That day, Maya Benton says, she learned a lesson about people’s need for, and uses of, mythical narratives.

Then decide if you want to click through (or, you know, just click through, really, it’s worth it).

the social construction of reality

This is more interesting as social phenomenon than as a sports clip. At least that’s what I’m telling myself.

J.R. Smith is taking a lot of (deserved) criticism for walking out of bounds with the ball as if the shot had gone in, but what’s really remarkable is how almost everyone acts just like the shot had been made* until the referee blows the whistle. It’s like those cartoons where the coyote acknowledges gravity.

*I suppose an alternative theory is that people thought the ball had gone out of bounds, which is not uncommon for shots that miss the rim from that range.


If I were in the habit of taking photos, I’d have kept the digital camera I’m borrowing for a while in the front of the car with me on my drive back up here instead of carefully wrapping it in a warm hat for padding and putting it in my luggage. That way I’d have been able to take a picture of the traffic signal perched high up on the edge of a cliff along US 101 somewhere on the northern California coast where a slide and the resulting road construction has forced the highway down to only one lane for a few hundred feet. I was the third car in line and had to wait about five minutes while the oncoming traffic – I saw only a single car go by – passed and then the light turned green. That would have been more than enough time to get a few shots of the non-intersection.

On the other hand, not having the camera near me might have saved me some time. Most of 101 up to Florence, where I turned inland to meet I-5 north of Eugene, is quite beautiful and I easily could have found myself stopping each time the road dropped down from the headlands and hit sea level. As it was, I drove for about 14 hours on Sunday, after 11 on Saturday. I can confirm, however, that it is possible to drive all the way from southern California to Vancouver with only one overnight stay along the way – and still avoid the mountains and their unpredictable weather near the California-Oregon border. Possible, but very tiring. I got to Eugene at about 3, Portland at about 5, Seattle about 8, the border 10, and my apartment just before 11 last night. I started driving at 8:30.

off file

I saw this last year over on Crooked Timber, but I was reminded of it recently and it’s still good, so I’m posting it here. This was one of four short films made using archival content from Getty Images’ Hulton Archive. It’s probably my favorite, but “Perrington Stud” is pretty well done too as a bit of storytelling.

You can see all four of the shorts here; the other two are technically well-done, but didn’t really catch my attention like these two.

the shadow of money

This was one of the illustrations accompanying Brandeis' article, "What Publicity Can Do," as it originally appeared in the December 20, 1913 edition of Harper's Weekly. The article was later reprinted as a chapter in Other People's Money.

by others’ works

I visited the FDR memorial not too long ago and came away thinking it would have been much cooler had it been designed in the 1930s – except for the problem of monumentalizing a sitting president; I don’t think that would have gone over well.

I understand that it’s difficult to bring together all of the distinguishing features of FDR’s presidency into one theme – had he been in office just for the Depression or just for the war, maybe it would be different – but I found the memorial too spread out. Each of his four terms is given a separate section, each partially enclosed by granite walls. There are plantings on the walls; maybe they look good in the spring or summer, but to me the combination of vegetation and rock creates the impression of a modern ruin. Maybe I’m just conditioned to think of monuments as clean white marble, smooth, cold, classical, stately.

It’s still a nice setting for a walk, and I do appreciate being able to appreciate a monument on a (nearly) human scale, rather than being expected to stand in awe and reverence before some towering figure. (Not that the Lincoln Memorial isn’t awesome anyway.)  But it’s a bit unsettling, especially in these economic times, to watch visitor after visitor line up in the bread line to have their picture taken, smiling.

сколько лет, сколько зим

I’m a huge fan of re-photography – the practice of re-staging old photographs as precisely as possible and then comparing the earlier and later. Third View, focusing on the American west, is a good example. But these shots of St. Petersburg today/Leningrad during the seige take the concept to a whole new level. It’s like you can see through time (with English text here, which might actually be the original posting location – I’m not sure).