State archives

27 Mar

Inmate photograph album, San Quentin Inmate Numbers: 18998–19003

Found this in the Records of the California Department of Corrections, San Quentin State Prison, which is part of the California State Photograph Collections. Most of it does not seem to be online.

There seem to be quite a list of other state archives, too.

cooperation & moral behavior

25 Mar

We all need a little tap on the shoulder sometimes:

That last bit is Franz de Waal giving a TED Talk in which he lays out his research into the biological basis of our sense of fairness or justice, which underlies moral behavior. To put more of a point on it, he is arguing that morals come not out of spiritual belief but out of our evolution as social creatures.

mutual knowledge

23 Mar

[Mutual knowledge is] the difference between two people knowing something and each one knowing that the other knows that they know that the other knows ad infinitum. Which makes both a logical and a psychological difference. So if Harry says to Sally, ‘You ought to come up and see my etching,’ and Sally, says, ‘no,’ then he knows that she’s turned down a sexual overture, but does she knows that he knows that she knows? And does he know that she knows that he knows? In the absence of this higher-order knowledge, you can maintain the fiction of a platonic friendship.

Whereas overt language leaves nothing to the imagination. The difference between individual and mutual knowledge is the basis of ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes.’ When the little boy says, ‘The emperor is naked,’ he isn’t telling anyone anything that they can’t see with their own eyeballs, but he is conveying information – because everyone now knows that everyone else knows that they know. This changes the relationship. They can now challenge the authority of the emperor in a way that individual knowledge didn’t allow them to.

So blurting things out, as the little boy does creates mutual knowledge, and thus forces the relationship to change in a way that is not forced when you use innuendo.

– Steven Pinker

ego depletion

19 Mar

Ego depletion refers to the idea that self-control or willpower draw upon a limited pool of mental resources that can be used up. When the energy for mental activity is low, self-control is typically impaired, which would be considered a state of ego depletion. In particular, experiencing a state of ego depletion impairs the ability to control oneself later on. A depleting task requiring self-control can have a hindering effect on a subsequent self-control task, even if the tasks are seemingly unrelated. (wiki)

white bear effect

17 Mar

Ironic process theory or the white bear problem refers to the psychological process whereby deliberate attempts to suppress certain thoughts make them more likely to surface. An example is when someone trying not to think of a white bear is more likely to imagine one. (wiki)

Billy Tipton

13 Mar

William Lee “Billy” Tipton (Born Dorothy Lucille Tipton, December 29, 1914 – January 21, 1989) was an American jazz musician and bandleader. He is also notable for the postmortem discovery that although he lived his adult life as a man, he was biologically female at birth. (wiki)

Hannah Snell

11 Mar

In August 1748, her unit was sent to an expedition to capture the French colony of Pondicherry in India. Later, she also fought in the battle in Devicotta in June 1749. She was wounded eleven times to the legs and once to the groin. She either managed to treat her groin wound without revealing her sex or she may have used the services of a sympathetic Indian nurse.

In 1750, her unit returned to Britain and traveled from Portsmouth to London, where she revealed her sex to her shipmates on 2 June. She petitioned the Duke of Cumberland, the head of the army, for her pension. She also sold her story to London publisher Robert Walker who published her account, The Female Soldier, in two different editions. She also began to appear on stage in her uniform presenting military drills and singing songs. Three painters painted her portrait in her uniform and The Gentleman’s Magazine reported her claims. She was honorably discharged and the Royal Hospital, Chelsea officially recognized Snell’s military service in the November and granted her a pension in 1750 (increased in 1785), a rare thing in those days.

Hannah retired to Wapping and began to keep a pub named The Female Warrior (or The Widow in Masquerade, accounts disagree)… (wiki)

Captain of Kopenick

9 Mar

Wilhelm Voigt:

He had purchased parts of used captain’s uniforms from different shops and tested their effect on soldiers. He had resigned from the shoe factory ten days previously. He took the uniform out of baggage storage, put it on and went to the local army barracks, stopped four grenadiers and a sergeant on their way back to barracks and told them to come with him. Indoctrinated to obey officers without question, they followed. He dismissed the commanding sergeant to report to his superiors and later commandeered six more soldiers from a shooting range. Then he took a train to Köpenick, east of Berlin, occupied the local city hall with his soldiers and told them to cover all exits. He told the local police to “care for law and order” and to “prevent calls to Berlin for one hour” at the local post office.

He had the treasurer von Wiltberg and mayor Georg Langerhans arrested, supposedly for suspicions of crooked bookkeeping, and confiscated 4002 marks and 37 pfennigs – with a receipt, of course (he signed it with his former jail director’s name). Then he commandeered two carriages and told the grenadiers to take the arrested men to the Neue Wache in Berlin for interrogation. He told the remaining guards to stand in their places for half an hour and then left for the train station. He later changed into civilian clothes and disappeared.

Ben Davis says

6 Mar

People are very willing to talk radical. But, with artists, I find that the conversation has this inevitable drift, where we start out talking about structural and political problems, and pretty soon people want to talk about their own practice as an artist, and pretty soon you are not talking about politics at all.

The other thing I think about is that, increasingly, I feel how small the “art world” is. We live in such an interesting time of cultural change, and I actually don’t think the crucial conversations about those things are taking place within art, which is so insular, so cozy, so secure in its own importance that it is hard to see how fast the way people consume images is changing.

I believe in contemporary art, I think interesting conversations can be had within it, conversations that matter more broadly. But to get to them, I think you have to step outside of art, and increasingly, I’d like to find a way to start from that perspective, a broader perspective, and then see if art has anything relevant to say about them. Art criticism can’t really be just about art and be critical.

Ben Davis

Chris Adrian says

4 Mar

As much as I like to spend time in the extended Smurf village of my imagination, there’s something nice about getting to go to a day job where there are concrete expectations of you and concrete things to be done that generally are helpful to other people.

Chris Adrian

Chris Adrian has been my favorite author for a few years, and reading interviews by him has helped me think about the idea of a career. He is unapologetic about his day job and seems to be an example of someone whose day job work is optimally aligned with his creative interests. Reading about his arc, I can believe that one could do great genre-bending creative work and still accomplish something much more concrete outside the realm of art in a way that both types of work informs the other.

He’s done some other good interviews too:

His newest work, The New World is experimental in form and deals with a familiar theme of grief, but with a sci-fi flavor. All of his books have a springy humor and a magical element despite dealing with dark material. I found myself using the word “leaven” in a short piece for class a couple of weeks ago, and I think he uses it in one of the interviews too. It’s a good word in the context of his work.

The book is also a collaborative work (and his collaborator has done some boundary pushing too, with a work that existed as an interactive, location-specific app), and it ends with a technique-whammy of sorts, and I expect that will be polarizing. Having stayed with every last word, I found it extremely moving, but it’s difficult to explain or hint without giving it all away. Try not to skip to the end to peek. I thought it came as a nice shock, so I’ve already spoiled it by letting on that there is something to expect, but it means nothing to glance at it. It only has the impact it does following on the heels of what came before, but I suppose you could say that for all of literature…

It will exist as a physical book soon, but for now, you can get it as an ebook published by Atavist for $5. (Though someone explain to me why the Macmillan version coming out this year is 70 pages longer?!) Highly recommended. My favorite book of last year.