I have a new site, janetgalore.com. It's still getting filled out, but it's good enough to share now. For all Janet-related information and observations, please go there instead.
I'm not sure what we'll do with this site yet, but for now I've redirected most of the Janet-related pages.
We had fun at the Vancouver Polar Bear Swim this year. More pics at flickr.
This was our 6th year at the Vancouver swim. Our tradition has become to attend a party or two in Seattle on New Year's Eve, head up to Vancouver by 1am or so, and arrive at the Sylvia Hotel by 4am depending on weather and coffee breaks. We sleep in, get breakfast, and head to the hotel lounge to march out with a bunch of other polar bears, most of them singing a version of "High-ho, high-ho." We join over 2,000 costumed revelers, all hyped up to jump in the water and start the year off right.
My favorite part of all this is seeing people you don't know just once a year in this huge celebration. Over the years, you become annual friends. We seek out the viking guys (now with little viking kids), the Elvis, the reindeer and santas, the "Neptune" guy with the horn who stays in over 20 mins, the balloon boy, the towel guy.
It's the opposite of online social networks (people you know but don't really see in real life). It's a visceral celebration with strangers drawn together for a moment once a year. A relationship with one simple dimension that somehow means a lot.
Here's the complete version that stands on its own as a true palindrome. Two hands fight over and play with a knife in a lonely and liminal world. Here, time is fluid: rushing forward, slowing, suspended.
It's better suited for viewing in a theater, or at least, in full-screen mode with your lights off and some decent speakers.
We just wrapped up the show "Don't Assume I Cook" at the Northwest Film Forum, led by mezzo-soprano Janna Wachter. The show was one of a series of experimental evenings featuring work that combines live performance with film and video. I did two animations for the evening, and also performed as a paparazzi shooting video of Janna singing Donizetti's "O mio Fernando." It was great fun, and I think a very successful show.
One piece, "Palindrome," started with Janna and Victoria Jacobs performing a live dance that involved working with and fighting over a folding rocking chair. At the climax, they swing the chair in circles in a rhythmic motion. As the lights fade on the dancers, an animation fades up, showing two hands with a folding knife doing a similar motion, but in an alternate and much creepier universe. The moves that the hands do with the knife loosely follow the moves of the dancers, but in reverse starting from their ending, so the piece taken as a whole is a physical palindrome. I'm not sure how much of that was obvious to the audience, but I think at least the animation served as an interesting reinperpretation of the live performance.
Here's the animation for "Palindrome."
This was my first After Effects project, and I'm happy to say it looked pretty good on a big screen, despite being filmed with a consumer point and shoot (Canon S95) with completely natural light. Edward was the cinematographer and directed my hands. Christopher MacRae created the wonderful ambience and other sounds. There's significant bass rumbling that doesn't come through on most computer speakers, sadly.
The other animation in the show was a slight variant of one I did earlier, called "In Situ." I will post a link to that soon.
I hope to get links to the performances as well that I'll include here.
We celebrated our twentieth wedding anniversary in Hawaii... Big Island, Kauai, and Oahu.
Photos from an amazing trip to Beijing, my first time there. It was a work trip, but we got to take a day to do some sight-seeing. After this, we headed via Singapore to Australia.
We lost our dear friend, Jim Acord, on January 9, 2011.
We created a site to host photos, information, and links: jameslacord.com.
Here are some photos on flickr...
In August, I had the delight of traveling to Ražanj, Croatia for an arts residency called sub-art. (See previous post: subaqueous.)
Ražanj is a rustic village on the coast of the Aegean sea in Dalmatia, across from Italy. Artists gather there for a few weeks each summer to create under water art works, or art that is simply inspired by the sea or being in that place. Besides the incredibly clean waters of the sea, I was taken with the limestone that permeates everything on that coast, and forms the islands.
I had intended to work on an animation I've been planning for years, but instead decided to focus on the present, and respond to what was around me without a lot of project planning and analysis that I habitually practice in my job.
Here are the films that resulted.
This was a site specific installation. The film is more of a study for future projects than a complete project. I wanted to have some interaction between the digital character and the real world, and the sea is such a primal force in this place, it was natural to use water. The limestone rocks are characters unto themselves. Gesteingeist is a made-up word, loosely translated as "rock ghost" or "rock spirit." The German language is widely spoken in Ražanj, and also by my good friends who helped me make this installation.
Brazda na vodi (swirl)
This film is meant to be contemplative and experiential. I wanted to embrace chance and the subconscious, to get away from a narrative. The result is being in the moment and the motion, not paying attention to any specific thing. Within the rhythmic wash of sound and motion, fragmentary images pop out: a hand, the shore, a swim suit, a foot, the clouds. Our brains are always looking for a story.
This is a study of the natural movement and distortion effects of water.
An ambient little film, walking under water.
Here are photos from our trip to visit Sara and her family, and friends in Berlin.
We are our patterns. I’ve been thinking about how many ways this is true. Certainly our habits, the little repeated actions we do or don’t do every day, determine many outcomes: whether we lose 10 pounds, learn a language, get cirrhosis of the liver. You’re not a gardener unless you garden, nor a runner unless you run. Habits are intimately connected to identity.
I think living things, especially conscious things, are processes—we are coalescent waves passing through time. Conscious thought or experience is collapsing that wave function at a specific moment. I’m not the same person, at a cellular level or in a conscious sense, that I was a year ago… or five minutes ago. Yet I am the same person, in the sense that there are unique patterns (of cells, of thoughts, of behaviors) that make me me. In that sense we are patterns, too.
As waves, we leave digital ripples everywhere. We travel, shop, carry phones, read online, skype, use mobile apps, post on blogs, drive rental cars... our presence, location, and the context of our activities cause ripples in the information space. The ripples we make bounce off each other and interact with other ripples.
In the past, our digital ripples occurred in a vast ocean of unintelligible intersecting wavelets. But lately it’s become clear that even in chaotic storms of data, our unique patterns, our identities, can often be teased out. Our patterns shine through even if we try to hide.
On one hand, it’s disconcerting that it’s harder to be anonymous than you might think. Thankfully many people are working on how to ensure digital anonymity. On the other hand, maybe our unique patterns can’t be suppressed… just like we can’t become invisible or stop our hearts from beating. Our patterns cease only when we cease.
Don’t get me wrong: I don’t think that we are ONLY patterns. You can’t capture my pattern, mimic it with a computer, and duplicate my consciousness—we’re particles, too. But our wave nature is sure interesting.
In the last few years there have been some eye-opening examples of companies releasing anonymized datasets, only to find out some people could be re-identified by cross-referencing with other datasets:
Latanya Sweeney found in 2000 that 87% of all Americans could be identified using only their zip code, sex, and birth date.
Arvind Narayanan – privacy and anonymity researcher
Ed and I had the pleasure of flying just after a young Nigerian ignited hs underwear on a flight from Amsterdam to Detroit on Christmas Day. Fortunately since we were flying domestically, we weren't impacted by the TSA's clumsy response (one carry on, no moving or anything in your lap the last hour of the flight, no wi-fi, etc.).
We had braced ourselves for a repeat of the day we flew to Hawaii in 2006, the morning authorities in London apprehended a group planning to use liquid explosives. That day we spent 8 hours in the security lines, 15 hours at the airport, and arrived exhausted and liquid-less, but no safer than any other day.
Bruce Schneier summed up everything I feel about air security and what he calls security theatre in his excellent essay, "Is aviation security mostly for show?" There are so many, many ways to blow things up, so many things to blow up... the meager and misguded tactics we employ to provide "security" absolutely does not prevent all bad things from happening.
Schneier lays out the situation perfectly, but here are a few choice bits:
Our current response to terrorism is a form of "magical thinking." It relies on the idea that we can somehow make ourselves safer by protecting against what the terrorists happened to do last time.
...It's not security theater we need, it's direct appeals to our feelings. The best way to help people feel secure is by acting secure around them. Instead of reacting to terrorism with fear, we -- and our leaders -- need to react with indomitability, the kind of strength shown by President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Prime Minister Winston Churchill during World War II.
By not overreacting, by not responding to movie-plot threats, and by not becoming defensive, we demonstrate the resilience of our society, in our laws, our culture, our freedoms. There is a difference between indomitability and arrogant "bring 'em on" rhetoric. There's a difference between accepting the inherent risk that comes with a free and open society, and hyping the threats.
We should treat terrorists like common criminals and give them all the benefits of true and open justice -- not merely because it demonstrates our indomitability, but because it makes us all safer.
Once a society starts circumventing its own laws, the risks to its future stability are much greater than terrorism.
I highly recommend reading the whole essay here: http://www.cnn.com/2009/OPINION/12/29/schneier.air.travel.security.theater/index.html.
UPDATE: M. mentioned some tag lines for the TSA floating around twitter. The best: "Protecting you from yesterday, tomorrow." Brilliant!
In my spare time, I've been thinking about a new mobile app called WTF. This is a search app reduced to pure context.
WTF has just one function, simply select WTF and you will get the most appropriate response based on who you are, where you are, what you're doing. Your phone already knows who you are, where you are, where your friends are, what you've been searching for, who you've been talking to, etc., so we ought to be able to leverage this contextual data to provide a rich search experience.
Traffic at a dead standstill? Select WTF and you will be told "Blue Angels are in town."
Waiting for a friend at the restaurant? Just press WTF to learn, "Steve's been in the bathroom on the 3rd floor for the past 20 minutes. Maybe you should ask if he's ok?"
Girlfriend not texting you back? Press WTF to learn: "She's with Bill--maybe it's time to move on."
The thing is with smart, GPS enabled phones, there's no reason an app couldn't infer all of this information today. So why not WTF?
WTF was part of a lecture I gave November 19, 2009.
Who would you trust with the health of your child?
A) Jenny McCarthy - Playboy Centerfold and Comedian who has a child with autism.
B) Barry Marshall - Winner of the Nobel Prize and vaccine researcher.
If you chose "A" you're among a growing number of well educated and presumably otherwise sane adults who eschew vaccinations.
A recent Wired article “An Epidemic of Fear: How Panicked Parents Skipping Shots Endangers Us All” written by Amy Wallace summarizes the vaccination debate. She reiterates the facts, which are sufficient to my mind to make disagreement sound like the deranged spoutings of conspiracy theorists. Wallace documents how medical researchers who unambiguously support vaccinations are being demonized simply for stating their professional opinions. The pseudo-science of the Web is drowning out the conclusions of legitimate research.