Ghosts on Google Maps

December 20th, 2009

One of the most interesting collisions between an implementation of a technology and the state of the art, is the Street View feature on Google Maps. I love it. I play around with it a lot. Wandering around streets near locations I am headed towards or places I know well. It works really well on the iPhone so I often check out the Street View view of places where I am. I was doing this last night while at the Westbank Cafe with Akiko celebrating Tater’s girlfriend Kelli’s b’day.

I was looking at Street View with Tater, which was interesting because it was snowing last night in NYC and the Street View shots show a beautiful summer day and the construction on 42nd Street, that’s going on there now, is non-existant. But then we noticed something very strange going on with the bus across the street.

It’s like some kind of spirit photography or something. The bus appears to be running over some kind of alternate reality of itself. If you poke around on Street View you see a lot of this same kind of weirdness. It’s reminiscent of the kinds of things you see in early photography, when exposure times were longer. But it comes from the fact that we don’t really have a way of capturing images in a way that would solve this. Its a collision between the nature of conventional photography and the nature of virtual reality. Unintentionally artistic.

All maps contain a hint of time as well as space, but Street View (and Satellite view for that matter) amp up the sense of time to the point where it becomes spooky and weird.

It also reminds me of the extreme photography of Michael Wesely. He does long exposures. VERY long exposures. Years long. Here’s a blog with some of his pictures.
I saw some of his “Open Shutter” photos at MOMA here in New York a few years back, and they had a profound effect on my sense of time. The more something moves the less you can see it in the pictures. Trees turn into trunks that slowly fade to sharp points. The sun is a series of rough edged streaks across the sky. There are no people.

Time… hmmm…

Now I’m imagining a Street View made from multi-year exposures. No cars or people. Scaffolding becomes a ghostly veil on buildings. Some entire buildings are only faintly there…

I was standing on a street corner here in New York a while back and the Google Street View imaging van passed right in front of me. Something happened later that day and I forgot where I was standing when it passed. So I don’t know but I could be out there somewhere in Street View. Maybe I’m right on a stitch and half of me is blurred into a parking meter, or another person… Or maybe they’ve updated that street again since then and I’m gone…

I actually kind of like that I don’t know. But if you happen to see me, stop and say hello…

Shooting more complicated fish in a barrel…

December 3rd, 2009

This was on the wall outside a restroom at Narita Airport:


I have a fairly large vocabulary, but I didn’t know what “Ostimate” was until I looked it up. It refers to a person who has had an “ostomy” which is (it seems) an entire class of surgical procedures dealing with the re-routing of urinary and excretory function. The most commonly known one being a “colostomy”.

So, this is an example of a sign that appears, at first glance, to be needlessly obtuse, but is in fact extremely helpful. I would assume that to someone to whom this notice is targeted, the utility and clarity is clear. There is no doubt. And I also assume that it is deeply and practically appreciated.

This humble blogger for one, is humbled. And educated. And more attentive as a result…


…stay tuned!

Shooting fish in a barrel (pt. 2)

December 2nd, 2009

From a Japanese customs, entry form:


Sorry. This picture isn’t so good.
I’d like to draw your attention to item number 5, which states as prohibited articles: “Obscene or immoral materials, and Child pornography.”
Here again there are two rather interesting implications.

1. Child pornography is not included in the class of objects described as “Obscene or immoral materials.”

2. In order to be in violation of this rule one needs to have BOTH “Obscene or immoral materials” AND “Child pornography.”

Oh what a difference that “and” makes.


…stay tuned!

Shooting fish in a barrel

December 1st, 2009

Finding mangled English in Japan is WAY too easy… But it’s still fun so here we go:



…stay tuned!

New category.

November 30th, 2009

I’ve always been fascinated by the way language in general and English in particular gets bent out of shape in the, so called, public forum. And now that I’m always carrying a camera with me on my iPhone, I’ve decided to start documenting some examples of this and posting them here.

To this end, I’ve created a new category on the blog called “Mangled English”. Enjoy!

I’m not exactly above reproach when it comes to my own use of English, so I accept the inherent hypocrisy in this endeavor. I mean no ill-will towards the people who are behind these various oddities. It’s just funny/interesting…

Ok. Here’s the first one:


This is from the restroom of a domestic American Airliner. There are two rather odd implications in this sign.

The first is that is that there is such a thing as reusable toilet tissue.
The second is that toilet tissue, is inherently, foreign.


…stay tuned!


August 29th, 2009

People keep dying.

Celebrities. Relatives. Some obscure people. Some powerful people. People no one has or ever will hear of.

More U.S. Solders died in Afganistan this month than in any other since the current war there started (beating out last month’s record).

Why does this seem remarkable? Is there anything different about it right now? How many times in this last year have we heard the phrase “…end of an era” as a way of marking the death of someone or another. I do wonder if it has to do with the whole Obama thing giving us a sense of historic focus. But then we also have the wars and the recession/depression thing too.

Today is the confluence of Michael Jackson’s birthday (which is remarked upon because of his death), the funeral of Ted Kennedy, and the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina hitting the gulf coast. Add to this, personally, that one of my uncles just died. What to choose… What to feel… hmmm…

Totally off topic here but I do have a Ted Kennedy joke I’d like to share: You know it turns out it wasn’t the tumor in his head that killed him. It turns out there was another tumor on the grassy knoll…

…too soon?

One thing I’ve been glad of is that I haven’t seen very much reference to the “Celebrities Die in Threes” trope. It’s always bugged me. I mean it has to be one of the stupidest things EVER. It could well be that when the human race slips into extinction we will find out that the total number of humans who ever existed will be a multiple of three. Or at least the total number of celebrities will be divisible by three. But its more likely that the number will not be a multiple of three, and more importantly, as the species disappears, is this REALLY going to be the most important question?

ANYTHING can be grouped into threes. Look at the stars. They’re all arranged in threes!… I’ve even noticed that after a cycle of three days, my life repeats and has ANOTHER cycle of three days!… spooky… Like all forms of numerology, it says more about the creativity of the numerologist than the nature of any kind of hidden order.

There is a thing about “Beginning-Middle-End” that makes groups of three deeply calming to our innate desire for order. So when two people die, we probably look for the third as a way of containing death. So that it won’t go on some kind of rampage in which EVERYBODY eventually dies, which is of course the big truth that we spend most of our lives distracting ourselves from. The theory of three deaths, is like a mini religion.

Truth is the boomers are dying. The post-war demographic bulge of births from the late 40s to the early 60s is falling off the cliff of time. And people who were important to the boomers are being noticed as they go. Presumably this will go on for awhile.

Or is it just that I’m getting to that age when I notice the obituaries more…


Lecture on Nothing (1/48)

July 18th, 2009


Marina Del Ray

May 16th, 2009

For the last two weeks, I’ve been in Los Angeles. Actually Santa Monica. Actually Marina Del Ray.
A gang of us from SITI Company have been making a new show. It is a new version of Antigone, written by Jocelyn Clarke. We’re working at the Getty Villa which is just up the coast from where we’re living. Where we’re living is two blocks from Venice Beach.

I’m spent quite a bit of time in Los Angeles over the years, and have come out to this area just to visit the beach, but I’ve never spent this much time here. Although we’ve been so busy with the show I haven’t had that much time to myself, I’ve taken a few walks around and done a bit of running.
It strikes me that the climate, fauna and even the architecture of this area is remarkably similar to areas of Japan that are very familiar to me from childhood. This is a bit weird. I mean, this is Venice Beach. We’re talking Muscle-Beach and paddle-tennis and literal beach bums waking up under huge swaths of graffiti. Sand in everything. Despite the clear differences between almost any part of Japan and California beach culture, I have moments when a smell wafts through the air here that transports me back to my childhood in a powerful way.

It’s not just the ocean. Even though it is the Pacific one.

I think a lot of this is botanical.

I think a lot of this is neurological.

Powerful nostalgia in places we’ve never been…

I fly to Shanghai in the wee hours of Monday morning. Never been there. Wonder if I’ll remember it…

Totally off topic but…

April 9th, 2009

I’m in Tempe Az. It’s SITI Co’s last of three residencies here. We will be performing Under Construction, next Saturday.

However, this week, we’re rehearsing Who Do You Think You Are. We will be performing WDYTYA at the Kranert in Champaign/Urbana in a few weeks but this is the only chance we’ll have to rehearse it.
We’re also doing workshops during the day with the ASU MFAs. Some of which were in Eurydice earlier this year, so it’s good to be back in a room with them.

But what I want to blog about here, briefly, has nothing to do with any of this. It’s a new thing that I’ve been doing online.

This is in addition to the Yelping, Chess With Friendsing (free on iPhone), Bright Kiteing and Twittering that I’ve been doing. If any of you know what those things are and care to join me…

My point here today has to do with the fact that there are certain things that humans, any human, are better at than computers, any computer. Combine this with the fact that we have more data coming into the world of astronomy than we know what to do with and you get Galaxy Zoo.

If you go to Galaxy Zoo and register and go through a bit of a tutorial process you can classify galaxies. You’re looking at actual images of galaxies and making basic decisions about what you’re seeing. This data you provide is cross referenced with other folks choices looking at the same images and what emerges is a fairly accurate/useful sorting process. This is not a game. It’s active, citizen science.

So I leave it open in a tab on my Firefox and every once in awhile I’ll just stare at stars and sort them. It’s kind of meditative and it’s also contributing. Busy as I am, I can work on our sharpening picture of the cosmos. This makes me happy.

Under Construction 2

March 25th, 2009

So we’re up and running and the show is kind of fantastic and fun and we’re having a great time with it.

Here’s my hero Chuck Mee talking about the show:


The national press hasn’t descended upon us yet. Isherwood will probably write about us in the Times but in the meantime here are two local reviews:

Courier Journal

Leo Weekly

We may be posting some footage that I’m shooting on a FlipCam during the show on YouTube at some point soon. In any case I’ll keep y’all posted here. If you’re in driving range of L’ville come on down! We’ll also be doing it in Tempe AZ, and Champagne-Urbana IL once we close here.

K. Nuf for now.