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October 17, 2004

'To achieve understanding it is necessary not to see many things, but to look hard at what you do see'


Giorgio Morandi.

Born in Bologna, Italy in 1891, he lived his entire life in a modest house on Via Fondazza with his mother (until she died in 1950) and his three unmarried sisters.

He worked in a studio that doubled as his bedroom, and painted the same few bottles, bowls and biscuit tins his entire career.

"One can travel the world and see nothing," he said.

Michael Kimmelman, the chief art critic of the New York Times, waxed ecstatic about a small show of Morandi's works - six paintings and two drawings that took 12 years to put together - that just opened at the Lucas Schoormans Gallery in New York City.

You've got 48 days to see the pictures; the show closes on December 4.

Here's the review.

Looking Long and Hard at Morandi

Not another day should pass without noting that the most wonderful little show in memory has landed in town.

It consists of just six paintings and two drawings by the Italian artist Giorgio Morandi.

And if the world were a perfect place, it would be on view forever at the Lucas Schoormans Gallery at 508 West 26th Street in Chelsea, so that we might remind ourselves at any time what heaven looks like.

The world not being perfect, the show is around only through December 4.

Consider yourself forewarned.

Lucas Schoormans is clearly a patient man, with a perseverance befitting the object of his devotion.

He spent 12 years struggling to assemble this Morandi exhibition, the first in New York in a long while.

He cajoled loans from museums and collectors who were understandably reluctant to part with their art even for a few weeks.

Fortunately, they did.

Morandi, who died at 73 in 1964 in the modest house on Via Fondazza in Bologna where he had lived his whole life with his mother (until her death in 1950) and with three unmarried sisters, devoted his career to painting pretty much the same dusty bunch of bottles, bowls and biscuit tins.

He worked in a studio that doubled as his bedroom.

"One can travel the world and see nothing,'' he said,

"To achieve understanding it is necessary not to see many things, but to look hard at what you do see.''

That is the message of his pictures: there is a universe in life's little things.

And even when just shuffling a few humble objects around a table, unending variety and humor can be achieved through the subtlest distinctions of color and brushstroke.

Look closely, Morandi instructs us.

The moral implications are clear.

The show consists only of mature examples, works from 1950 to 1963.

As always with Morandi, forms are stripped to their essence, and the art dwells on the precipice of abstraction.

The same row of bottles may summon images of ducklings following their mother, or throngs of people in a sunny city square, or the skyline of a town spilling down the side of hill.

See a row of brown boxes huddled behind two preening long-necked bottles - one white, one blue - while an oval box gently nudges another swanning bottle to the side.

Suitors at a dance, perhaps.

Pure heaven.

October 17, 2004 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Nikon Small World Photomicrography 2004 Contest Winners


You can view the 20 prizewinning entries here.


The contest is now in its 30th year.


Last year there were 1,200 entries.


The above images, from the top down, are of:

Cultured baby hamster kidney cells (1500x) - 20th prize

Planarization of patterned silicon-nitride-coated silicon substrate (200x) - 19th prize

Turbot larvae, 25 days old (6x) - 7th prize

Crystallized acetaminophen and ascorbic acid (40x) - 9th prize

Enter next year's contest here.

October 17, 2004 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack



This strange website is sui generis, as I like to call a generous pig. But I digress.

With a secret process perfected over many years, the site's creator produces a morphing image from an apparently normal portrait, such that when someone walks by, the person in the picture changes into a


"hideously frightening creature or macabre apparition!"

Perfect for Halloween.

Probably best, though, not to let someone with Cotard syndrome view it.

[via Judie at The Gadgeteer]

October 17, 2004 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

BehindTheMedspeak: Cotard Syndrome


Also known as Cotard's syndrome, this is a condition where a person believes that friends, family, money, the whole world, or even parts of their body do not exist or are about to not exist.

The scientific, jargonified term for this syndrome is Nihilistic Delusional Disorder.

This in turn is classed under a group of disorders collectively known as Delusional (Paranoid) Disorders.

I'd never heard of Cotard syndrome until five minutes ago, when I saw it mentioned in a brief review in the New York Times of Nancy Butcher's new book, "The Strange Case of the Walking Corpse."

The book's title comes from a chapter of the same name.

The book itself is a collection of essays about weird, morbid, and otherwise bizarre medical conditions.

Back to Cotard syndrome.

Jules Cotard, a Frenchman, described it in 1880, as follows:

In all the patients the hypochondriacal delirium introduces great delusions: their brain, stomach, heart, spirit and/or body are missing.

They are damned, the organs do not exist, the body is reduced to a mere machine.

The delusions may include religious, metaphysical, and abstract ideas of persecution.

To such ideas, delusions of immortality may come to be included.

Along with or following the ideas of immortality may come ideas of body expansion in space: they are immense, their dimension is gigantic, they can touch the stars, they may feel possessed by powerful demons, their head expands until it occupies an entire church.

At times the body no longer has limits, it extends to the infinite and it disperses in the universe.

There's an excellent discussion of Cotard syndrome here.

It turns out that the only thing that successfully treats the condition is electroconvulsive therapy (ECT).

Unlike depression, which responds in almost all cases to medication and/or psychotherapy, Cotard syndrome is resistant to both.

I hope Oliver Sacks writes about this syndrome; his take on such "interface conditions" - my term for unusual disorders of thinking that defy conventional description, explanation, and understanding, and bring us to the impasse that confronts us when we try to make sense of our consciousness as a vital, real force that simultaneously has no tangible reality - always provides a fresh consideration of the miracle we call existence.

October 17, 2004 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Burton Headphone Beanie


Available in Sea Kelp (above),

Stealth Gray (below),




True Black.

$39.95 here.

Stylish, what?

Don't go snowboarding without one.

[via redferret.net]

October 17, 2004 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

'The Aztec Empire'


This new show, which opened last Friday at New York's Guggenheim Museum, left Holland Cotter, the New York Times' reviewer, speechless.


He wrote, "There are no words."


In doing so, he echoed Albrecht Durer who wrote, in 1520, upon seeing some of the first Aztec art to reach Europe, "In all my life I have never seen anything that gladdened my heart so much as these things. Indeed, I cannot express all that I thought."


When we think of the Aztecs, we never seem to juxtapose its reality with that of the temporally coexisting world of Western Europe.


Not until now did I ever consider that Durer was alive and working in Germany at the very same time the Aztec Empire was at its very peak.


Cortés only arrived on the shores of what would become Mexico in 1519, at which time Aztec culture was less than 200 years old.


Durer went on to write that the art from "the new golden land" was "more beautiful to me than miracles."


Exactly one year later, in 1521, Cortés destroyed the Aztec civilization.

What remains are only the stone and metal images of their gods.


The Guggenheim show is up until February 13, 2005.

[via Holland Cotter and the New York Times]

October 17, 2004 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

'Emu issues' in Stanislaus County, California - Animal Court is now is session


No, this isn't your proverbial "kangaroo court" but a real, live courtroom in Stanislaus County.

As reported in the October 2 Washington Post [scroll down to the bottom of the page]:

Mischievous chickens, rambunctious dogs and unruly cats are not beyond the long arm of the law.

Pet owners are being rounded up by court officials to face charges from failing to keep their pets on a leash to complaints about incessant barking and vicious animals, and they are being ordered to appear in Animal Court.

There are no lawyers.

Defendants represent themselves. [I assume this refers to the owners, not the animals]

Instead of the traditional fine, the five-member panel of judges - made up of veterinarians, dog trainers, and law enforcement officials - may suggest the complaining neighbor play with the offending pet or order obedience training. [Again, I assume for the animal, not the owner]

"We've had snake issues, emu issues, just a variety of crazy issues," Animal Services director Michael Rodriguez said.

"We've forgotten the art of communicating with our neighbor [I assume he's referring to humans rather than animals], and that's why we have these problems."

"We're trying to resolve these conflicts and teach responsible pet ownership here."

October 17, 2004 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Michael Kostiw goes down - blood on the floor at the CIA as the long knives come out


The old guard of the CIA, threatened and beleaguered as they haven't been since the disclosure of "the family jewels" by the Rockefeller Commission in 1975, is striking back.

Stung by relentless criticism of its "failure" re: Iraqi WMD, the agency is now under withering fire from politicos, with the recent appointment of Representative Porter Goss as the new director followed immediately by the announcement that Goss was bringing with him - to the very top level of the CIA - his "crew" from the House intelligence committee.

Michael V. Kostiw, staff director of the terrorism subcommittee of the House intelligence committee chaired by Goss, was slated for CIA executive director, the third-ranking position in agency.

There he would be responsible for day-to-day operations involving budget and personnel, including disciplinary action.

Won't be happening.

On Sunday, October 3, Walter Pincus, the Washington Post's superb investigative reporter, published an exclusive story about a little problem Kostiw had 23 years ago.

It seems that back in 1981, when he was a CIA case officer with 10 years of experience, Kostiw was arrested and charged with shoplifting a $2.13 package of bacon from a supermarket in Langley, Virginia, near the CIA.

In a subsequent CIA polygraph test, his responses to questions about the incident and his past tours abroad led agency officials to place him on administrative leave for several weeks.

Kostiw decided to resign from the agency while he was on leave, and the agency arranged to have the misdemeanor shoplifting charge dropped and his police record expunged in return for his resignation and an agreement to seek counseling.

Subsequently, Kostiw joined the Army Reserve military intelligence unit at the Pentagon and worked as a lobbyist for Chevron Texaco before becoming staff director for Goss' committee.

OK. That's all well and good.

But if the police record was expunged, that means it doesn't exist, and the event never happened as far as applying for anything, right?

Not if you've abrasively confronted CIA veterans in your role as intelligence committee staff director, it doesn't.

Four separate sources dished to Pincus all about Kostiw's not-so-excellent pork adventure in Langley.

On October 4, the day after Pincus' story in the Post appeared, another story by Pincus about Kostiw appeared in the Post.

This one was headlined,

Goss Pick Withdraws From CIA Consideration

Like I said: the long knives - and memories - are out at the CIA, wielded by experts, and the result will be much more blood shed as the agency strikes back.

October 17, 2004 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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