Daily Mind-ful 3 May 2017 (The evolution of the photographic image)

[Main topic of this vlog: I explain why I want to write a book about the evolution of the photographic image and associate, riff and reflect free-form on the subject.] I leave London at an ungodly hour in order to meet John at the antique dealers’ fair in Long Melford; I end up buying an Ironstone pitcher from the turn of the century; I’m intimidated to walk around the hall by myself because it’s full of (only) superannuated white men. Yes, I’m serious; My favorite house in the countryside (so far): the pink house in the center of Cavendish; I seriously mull the idea of writing two books, one about environmental photography, the other about the evolution of the photographic image over the past thirty years, especially these past ten; Not only should the evolution of the image itself be considered (technically and technologically) but the ethical and societal implications of these shifts and what they mean for our interactions with others, our self-image, our morality, etc. THAT is the principal reason why such a book would be fascinating and why this question has piqued my interest so ferociously; Here are the issues about the evolution of the photographic image that I have identified very quickly: 1) photoshopping, its prevalence and universal acceptance 2) the selfie (and its implications for our body image, self-image and psychology) and 3) the democratization of photography (i.e., the phenomenon of everyone becoming a photographer); documentary, “objective” reportage in the style of the Magnum photographers has mostly gone out of fashion and been replaced by a much more subjective style of photography which uses photography as the instrumentality of content or messaging, frequently activist-style messaging, to wit, environmental photography; that’s largely explained by the democratization of photographic technology which enables the man on the street to mimic the style of most news photographers these days. It means that the value-added of the photographic image originally conferred by mastery of equipment and darkroom processes has been replaced, of necessity, by content and meaning. To my mind, that’s a major and welcome improvement in the culture of photography; similarly, realistic, gritty photography in the style of Terry Richardson and Terry Jones (ID Magazine) are now outmoded; gardening is futile – by definition. I don’t get it; not having a Facebook page is really stupid because Instagram is a really impoverished and unsuitable platform for sharing third-party content, especially textual or lengthy, or, for that matter, my long-form rants about capitalism, art, the environment, millennials, child rearing, etc.; my favorite stories on Instagram are Eva Chen‘s because she’s so real, with huge doses of thankfulness and humility. Plus, she’s completely average-looking; My vlogging as a talking head is stymied because my intention to vlog about The Week, my favorite magazine in the whole world, has been defeated by the near unanimity of commentary on the past three weeks of headline news, dammit! (The Week’s strength is collating and summarizing the full range of political opinion on the same issue, news or topic, even when those opinions are diametrically opposed to one another); totally psyched to discover that Macron’s wife is way older than him; and that he may also be bi – ha!
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Daily Mind-ful 2 May 2017 (Museum of Childhood)

This Daily Mind-ful clip is mostly about my visit to V&A’s Museum of Childhood, so I’m going to dispense with the customary recapping of every Instagram story contained in the accompanying video and share my impressions about the Museum and why it’s a destination as entertaining and enriching for adults as it is children.
Although a parade of prams and baby buggies greets you at the entrance, the museum’s huge collection of toys, dolls, games, party favors, costumes and childhood whatnots archived since Victorian times is a treasure trove for the most exigent adult socioanthropologist studying the stuff of childhood over the generations. What’s missing, however, is exhibits dated after 2000, as if childhood ceased to evolve, when, in fact, the stark opposite is the case. Indeed, my main impression of the museum was a rueful sense that, in one or two generations, childhood and adulthood have converged – possibly to the point where there’s no longer anything to separately archive for the former. Considering that the material artifacts of childhood amassed over one hundred years could undoubtedly cover the surface area of a few small countries, the museum’s curators have chosen objects which are not only good exemplars of their age but idiosyncratic, eccentric, exquisite or weird in many cases. As a bonus, adult art, such as Sarah Raphael’s sculptural Childhood Cube and Rachel Whiteread’s large collection of dollhouses, “Place (Village)”, punctuates the exhibition halls as a sort of meta-commentary on childhood, its obsessions and playthings. In one of the captions, the museum states “all creativity has a value,” espousing a highly progressive vision of childhood education which dovetails perfectly with its embrace of multi-ethnic, multi-culturalism, a theme expressed with multi-lingual captioning in one of the exhibits. (I didn’t bother to scratch the surface of that exhibition and only noticed the unorthodox signage.) Last but not least, I was struck by “Searching for Ghosts,” the thought-provoking exhibition about Britain’s housing crisis in the front hall of the museum. It certainly wasn’t for children and featured photographic portraits by Tom Hunter of families living in one of London’s original council estates. While it wasn’t a suitable diversion for a child, the art made sense in the context of families, households and their inhabitants and asked viewers to engage with a pressing civic issue. The name “Museum of Childhood” doesn’t reflect the kaleidoscopic richness of this museum, not at all. Suffice it to say that I walked through it like a kid in a candy store.
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Daily Mind-ful 29 April 2017 (Dulwich)

I don’t understand dogs. They’re so domesticated that they won’t leave the house after 8 hours inside unless a human takes them on a walk; travel and logistics nightmare today because I have to go to London and Dulwich and the trains are being repaired. It means we have to take the train from Stansted into the city – NIGHTMARE; an article in the the SmartCities SmartBrief about my home town, Cincinnati, Ohio, catches my eye: it’s about how the digital divide — and a lack of internet — prevents social mobility among the lower rungs of society; I complain about the lack of internet in the countryside but the digital divide mirroring the structural poverty of the poorest strata of society in the United States is actually much more serious. Living in the UK, perhaps I’ve become myopic and blind to such important issues; I dart into the “America After the Fall” exhibition at the Royal Academy and am struck by how many of the works painted during the Depression reflect the dystopian atmosphere and problems of today; at 45 Jermyn Street, I’m struck by how the thin value-add of Virgin Mary sauce on top of a smashed avocado justifies its overpriced place on the menu; then, we head off to Dulwich for my cousin’s birthday lunch; next time, I’ll check out the Dulwich Picture Gallery, the UK’s oldest art gallery, which also boasts an outdoor gallery of street art; after 11 hours, we’re back home; John lights a fire in our kadai, a giant cauldron fit for roasting small children; I review and annotate the most recent issues of The Week in preparation for my next vlog; I download the Google Art & Culture app which allows you to discover the art and culture destinations in the vicinity of your real time geolocation. It’s a fantastic, invaluable information resource; my stepdaughter tells me about a new app, Smartify, which is the equivalent of Shazam for art; I end the night by watching the Anthony Joshua versus Wladimir Klitschko fight for the heavyweight championship of the world.
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Daily Mind-ful 28 April 2017

My diet has change dramatically since I moved to England, from rice, meat and vegetables to potatoes, bread and tons of cheese and dairy. It means I have to work out twice as much to avoid becoming a big cow; my husband has such white man eating habits: he can’t handle eating meat or fish on a bone; sorry if my stories have been prosaic lately, I’m entitled to be boring from time to time. Plus, you have to remember that I’m using stories to diarize my life :(( ; one thing about living in the countryside: My life and happiness are entirely dependent on one person, my husband. Therefore, my days go up and down depending on his mood. Most days, it’s no problem. But his grumpiness can definitely torpedo my day; the brain begins to shrink at the age of thirty.
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Daily Mind-ful 27 April 2017 (music discovery)

I start the day with a Facebook fail; I’m interviewing photographer, Edgar Martins, next week in London, at the recommendation of a FORMAT Festival curator. Like Konstantin Bessmertny, whom I just vlogged about, he’s from Macau!; it’s outrageous that Maria Sharapova is back on the professional tennis circuit; my 18-year old son is much more organised than I am; experiencing a crisis of self-confidence after realising it won’t be easy to start my new business, I call an old, very good friend, who spurs me on to hustle, a simple but effective exhortation; I spent most of my day editing footage of FORMAT’s artistic director, Louise Clement Mazmanian; much of my day is about music discovery: one of the best resources for royalty-free music is a site called PremiumBeat; after listening to countless tracks on the site, I find a perfect backing track for a project; but of course, I can’t buy it until the client has A-OKed it. Therefore, and in the meantime, I need suggestions from you for an interim specimen backing track which can be used for aural illustration. Any ideas?; pressed for time, I listen to the work of Johann Johannsson who composed the music for Arrival to find a suitably uplifting “human drama” track; his music is perfect; in a related observation: it’s interesting to note how contemporary classical music which is otherwise unbearable to listen to takes on a totally different sci-fi character once the sound of a distorted human voice is overlaid, another, different type of music discovery. You listen to the track in question here; tonight is one of the only occasions when I have to look semi-decent because I have a dinner with civilised people — in the countryside. Not being able to find the single one piece of clothing I’m looking for, a pair of brown corduroys, I put on a Dior Homme suit instead and wear it with my faux mucking out boots from Frye; having been in the fashion industry for so many years, I can make almost any outfit match; I never owned or bought a pair of brown shoes my entire life — until now — giving you some idea of how I’ve been a country chic virgin until now; dinner with the Brexiters was fun and memorable. Contrary to what you may think, there are quite a few people like me in the countryside!; it’s long overdue to vlog, with myself as the talking head; I watch Agon, a ballet by Stravinsky choreographed by George Balanchine. (And, frankly, it’s too conventional for me to vlog about.)
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Daily Mind-ful 26 April 2017 (Lavenham Guildhall)

I take my cousins to look at the Bures Dragon, a huge earthscape shaped like a dragon which is the most dramatic example of land art in Suffolk. As an added bonus, Saint Stephen’s Chapel, the grounds of which serve as the de facto viewing stage for the land art dragon, approximately half a mile away and otherwise inaccessible by foot, was open because it was the Easter period. The chapel is a little-known, special historic treat because it’s the chapel for the aristocratic DeVere family, the forbears of the dragon’s creator, Geoffrey Probert, and contains the ancient tombs of several DeVeres, dating back as far as the 13th century. Walking into the small chapel and viewing the tombs, almost perfectly preserved, up close, is not something you’d ordinarily be able to do at a museum, so, being able to see such ancient, museum-quality relics totally undisturbed, in total quiet and serenity, was an unexpected windfall which my cousins enjoyed immensely [I didn’t film inside the chapel because it is a sacred place. But wanted to mention our visit there nonetheless]; we continue our sightseeing tour through Suffolk to Lavenham, the most popular tourist destination in Suffolk, where we visit its best-known building, the Guildhall, which was once the centre of wool trading and then became a workhouse after Lavenham lost its pre-eminent position in the industry. First sight: a stuffed, apotropaic cat. “Apotropaic” means “intended to ward off evil.” ; The harsh lock-up and bare bones mortuary behind the Guildhall; the public footpath system is one of Britain’s greatest public goods and treasures. The footpath system and the corresponding ordnance survey maps allow the public to walk on the public easements crisscrossing the nation’s countryside; entertaining and hospitality are as exhausting as any day at the office; OMFG, HAIL!; WOO HOO! my stepdaughter, Louise Bleach, representing the water desalination technology, Desolenator, wins a HUGE startup competition, Pitch at Palace, over 900 other startup contestants chosen from all over the United Kingdom.
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Daily Mind-ful 25 April 2017 (Cousins)

My cousins arrive this morning; my husband thinks 11 am is too early for lunch but Chinese people always prefer eating earlier than later; my wi-fi solution, utilising the mobile, rather than landline, telephone network, is unbelievably expensive; again, I can’t believe how the British government is letting the countryside languish in Luddite backwardness, adversely impacting economic productivity in huge swathes of the nation; an Instagram friend clued me into the fact that “posh crisps” can sometimes contain high levels of carcinogens called acrylamides; we love entertaining at home but it makes John tense; John can never remember the names of anyone, including my imminently arriving cousins; I can’t believe that Putin has sent troops to North Korea. So glad I’m no longer living in the US! I suddenly realise that the speed limit signs and our car’s odometer are calibrated in miles, not kilometres, as I had believed since moving to the UK, meaning that I’ve been driving much much faster than I ever imagined; Oysters, oysters, oysters on Mersea Island, the home of the Colchester Oyster; the Colchester Oyster Fishery supplies all the starred restaurants in London with oysters; John excels at table setting; Bluebells; a Coalbrookdale cast iron fern chair.
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The Handmaid’s Tale (Stephanie Rushton)


While documenting FORMAT 2017, I met artist, Stephanie Rushton, who told me about “The Handmaid’s Tale”, one of the images in her “Archaea” series, on display in Pearson House, along with a live plant sculpture. By portraying plants as phantasmagorical, surrealist, anthropomorphic creatures, Rushton makes the point that they possess an intelligence which connects them to human beings. The “Archaea” series was a great example of how FORMAT artists expressed this biennial’s theme of “habitat.”

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Daily Mind-ful 24 April 2017 (Why desperate single women are unbearable)

Slowly realising that I live in England – FINALLY – after one year; workout clothes shouldn’t be worn unless you’re actually working out; thank GOD I no longer have to care about the jewellery industry; any opinion on Tyrell’s versus Kettle Chips? I bought both brands as part of my junk food stash in order to conduct a taste test; everything in the countryside takes twice as long because of the obligatory chit chat factor; I generally equate overcommunication with low native intelligence; ditto for repeating one’s self: I deplore it; one of the main reasons I can’t stand hanging out with single women desperate for a boyfriend is because all they do is talk about the same thing, over and over again, violating the cardinal rule I just stated; I love vlogging because it enables me to bitch about things in the abstract without pointing the finger at a particular individual; if you’re one of my female friends who recognises yourself in my comments, now you know why I haven’t talked to you very much in the past few years; my least favourite conversation with a single woman is, “Do you think he really likes me?”; amazing layout on the home page of Simon Aeppli. Then again, maybe it was the startling image! My favorite go-to resource for social media news, Tatiana Platt, shared a great post about the top ten mistakes on Instagram; and I’m definitely guilty of #10 because my main concern is thoroughly updating and optimising my own website.
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Daily Mind-ful 23 April 2017 (Manure)

[SORRY: Partial repeat of the end of previous post re: hamburger complaint] Believe it or not, I don’t know how to cook any Asian food. I only know how to cook Western food; planning the menu for my cousins’ visit; I spent the entire morning outside mostly shoveling manure; it is possible to fall sick from handling compost and manure. But no N95 needed because this was aged, vintage manure; my fears of septicemia allayed, I cooked without first changing my clothes. WILL I SURVIVE?; PHEW! So glad I didn’t go to the Monte Carlo Open this year; the dry climate adds 5 years to my age at least but British people always underestimate the age of Asian people, so net-net, the effect is probably ZERO; check out the Brill cream helmet of Trump’s sons; new bucket list item: a live performance of the 1913 version of the Rite of Spring ballet.
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