Tuesday, July 27, 2010

We Have Always Been Distracted, So There

So the new thing now is that the Internet and iPhones and Google are shortening our attention spans and destroying our brains' ability to focus on a single concept for long periods of time, and turning us into a nation of distracted, drunken bumble bees, buzzing around checking Facebook and e-mail and G-chatting. Or anyway, I think that's the new thing - the article was really long.

But! It turns out multi-tasking is not unique to our modern digital age. Way way WAY back in the day, folks were embedding hypertext into illuminated manuscripts.

"WHAT" you may well ask. What indeed.

First of all, this is an illuminated manuscript:

I'm sure we remember these from school, or forced museum trips or whatever.

Anyway, according to an article by Elizabeth Drescher, these ancient tomes were filled with "hypertextual" asides, passed around from author to author, and included script in the margins that was sometimes on and sometimes off the topic of the original work.

"The function of these images in illuminated manuscripts has no small bearing on the hypertext analogy. These “miniatures” did not generally function as illustrations of something in the written text, but in reference to something beyond it. The patron of the volume might be shown receiving the completed book or supervising its writing. Or, a scene related to a saint might accompany a biblical text read on that saint’s day in the liturgical calendar without otherwise having anything to do with the scripture passage. Of particular delight to us today, much of the marginalia in illuminated books expressed the opinions and feelings of the illuminator about all manner of things—his demanding wife, the debauched monks in his neighborhood, or his own bacchanalian exploits."

There you have it - irrefutable proof that we have always liked to have a lot of things going on at once, even in old old old religious books with shiny gold pages. If those guys would have had Twitter, I'm sure they would be like "@crazycoolmonk, writing this passage about mules is making me hungry for a BURRITO!"

If you are intrigued by this subject and would like to learn more about illuminated manuscripts, and even MAKE YOUR OWN illuminated manuscript (complete with as much distracted text as you want), why not check out our class The Art of Illuminated Manuscripts? with instructor Kelly Williams. You will go to the Getty to check some out first hand, and then retire to the art studio to experiment with making your own.

Article from Religion Dispatches (via Kottke).

But Where Is Mr. Comic Sans?

Apparently he wasn't invited to the typestache party.

A Girl Named Tor (via Kottke)

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

It's Your Show 2010!

Thanks to everyone who came out for the opening reception of our show! It was great to see our students, along with their friends and supporters.

We hope you enjoyed the opening as much as we did - here's a slideshow and some pictures from the evening.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Art Authentication Is Sketchy

People, there is a FASCINATING article in this week's New Yorker that deals with the process of authenticating artwork (you know, someone finds a drip painting at a garage sale that turns out to be a Jackson Pollock worth 1.8 million).

Art authentication is at best an inexact science, and the article focuses on Peter Paul Biro, a former art restorer who claims to have invented a method of identifying the fingerprints that artists leave on their work (thereby confirming that a drawing was actually touched by Leonardo Da Vinci, as opposed to a forger in a basement in Queens).

Except, SPOILER ALERT, Peter Paul Biro may actually be a fraud and con man who preys on the hopes of people who are convinced they have an undiscovered masterpeice on their hands.

I don't want to give away too much, but you should READ IT, even though it is super long. It's totally worth it, I was riveted. People would try to talk to me, and I would just put up the "I'm reading" hand. It was pretty rude, actually.

Read it quick before they put it behind a pay wall!

The Mark of a Masterpiece by David Grann

(image from The New Yorker article, by Steve Pyke).

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Domino's Pizza and Truth in Advertising

This Domino's pizza commercial is high-larious, and makes me want to talk about so many things. First, let's watch it together:

Surely by now you are familiar with Domino's masochistic new ad campaign, in which they talk in detail about how terrible Domino's pizza is. Apparently this controversial approach is working, and Domino's saw their fourth-quarter profits double.

The transparency train rolls on with the above spot, which unfolds like an episode of 20/20, blowing the lid off the rampant food styling that takes place during commercial shoots. A woman wearing gloves pulls the cheese off just so! The pizza is bolted to the table! A minion with a pair of tweezers picks through individual mozzarella curds! I guess we're supposed to be totally shocked and incensed by the straight-up LIES that TV is selling us, and the fact that the pizza is not natural.

Instead of rallying against this bill of goods, I kind of just thought the things that were done to the pizza made good sense, and were extremely reasonable. I mean, they use blowtorches...to heat the cheese! So it pulls better! Makes sense! The pizza is bolted to the table, but so what? It's still the same pizza. If you're going to take a smug, superior stance against food styling, you need to have something in your pocket like the cheese is actually an Elmers Glue/soy milk/caulk compound, or the pepperoni is glazed with nail polish, or the whole thing is run through Photoshop before it appears on the screen.

Food styling happens because food is gross, and TV makes things look gross, and food on TV looks super gross. You know what else goes through styling for TV? Everything. People's faces. Nature. Puppies. Ice cream. When I stare at the TV (ie. always), I want things to look magical and delicious and not of this world.

Actually, Paul and I were watching Food Network the other day, and he mentioned how extremely over-saturated the colors on the food shots are. The talking heads and hosts would look totally normal, and then they would show a shot of an oozing grilled cheese sandwich, and it would look INSANE, like the grilled cheese was popping out of the screen and wanted to be a part of your life, which is the ideal way for grilled cheese to be.

I guess my basic philosophy is: yes. Let's do this. Let's make things look awesome, even if, in real life, they are not as awesome. In real life, a sandwich is just a sandwich, but at least on TV I can watch someone freak out over the Platonic ideal of grilled cheese, and when you pull the halves apart, the angels sing.

Also, Domino's Pizza, it is difficult for me to get on board with your ad campaign of self-flagellation and piousness and honesty and respect for the consumer and "getting back to basics" when it is, after all, an ad campaign, born of meetings and data and reports and focus groups. Honesty in advertising is desirable only if it is effective in generating sales. That is literally the only reason it's important - if it strengthens the brand and more people buy Domino's, and the stock goes up. Which is fine! Domino's needs to sell their pizza! That is their whole job. I guess my issue is that the ads communicate an emotion and motivation which is deceptive. They say "We want to be honest with you because we respect you," but really, they only want to be honest because the perception of honesty is selling a whole bunch of pizza. I was actually OK with the whole "Our pizza is bad, but we are trying to make it better" angle. Straighforward, and I could actually buy it. But pretending that you want to strip the falsehood and glamour away from television for any reason other than because you will benefit from it financially? I just can't let you play TV like that - we go way back.

Via The Awl