Tuesday, January 31, 2017


Now that we are firmly living in a post-fact world where the monster in charge of the United States lives life according to "alternative facts" (otherwise known as LIES), it is more important than ever to be vigilant to bullsh*t, lest we truly devolve into an Orwellian version of society.

Two professors, Carl T. Bergstrom and Jevin West, from the University of Washington have created a course designed to educate people to think critically and to equip them with the skills necessary to see through the lies, half-truths, obfuscations, disinformation, and misrepresentations (whether deliberate or not) of our modern world.

Their website states their mission:

"The world is awash in bullsh*t. Politicians are unconstrained by facts. Science is conducted by press release. Higher education rewards bullsh*t over analytic thought. Startup culture elevates bullsh*t to high art. Advertisers wink conspiratorially and invite us to join them in seeing through all the bullsh*t — and take advantage of our lowered guard to bombard us with bullsh*t of the second order. The majority of administrative activity, whether in private business or the public sphere, seems to be little more than a sophisticated exercise in the combinatorial reassembly of bullsh*t.

We're sick of it. It's time to do something, and as educators, one constructive thing we know how to do is to teach people. So, the aim of this course is to help students navigate the bullsh*t-rich modern environment by identifying bullsh*t, seeing through it, and combating it with effective analysis and argument.

What do we mean, exactly, by the term bullsh*t? As a first approximation, bullsh*t is language, statistical figures, data graphics, and other forms of presentation intended to persuade by impressing and overwhelming a reader or listener, with a blatant disregard for truth and logical coherence.

While bullsh*t may reach its apogee in the political domain, this is not a course on political bullsh*t. Instead, we will focus on bullsh*t that comes clad in the trappings of scholarly discourse. Traditionally, such highbrow nonsense has come couched in big words and fancy rhetoric, but more and more we see it presented instead in the guise of big data and fancy algorithms — and these quantitative, statistical, and computational forms of bullsh*t are those that we will be addressing in the present course.

Of course an advertisement is trying to sell you something, but do you know whether the TED talk you watched last night is also bullsh*t — and if so, can you explain why? Can you see the problem with the latest New York Times or Washington Post article fawning over some startup's big data analytics? Can you tell when a clinical trial reported in the New England Journal or JAMA is trustworthy, and when it is just a veiled press release for some big pharma company?

Our aim in this course is to teach you how to think critically about the data and models that constitute evidence in the social and natural sciences."

By the way, the censor asterisks on their website header and in the text above are my own additions--lest some nervous, righteous complainer stumble upon this post and find an objectionable word. Exactly the kind of person who needs to take the course to really understand communication and intent.

For more information, please visit their website:

Saturday, January 28, 2017

BEAUTY: Illustration--Samantha Russo

Illustrator Samantha Russo came to her art later in life, but it looks like she has the ease and imagination of a life-long master. I love these glimpses into her process with pages and pages of sketchbook patterns. Her freedom and fearlessness--not to mention her color palette--is inspiring.

She draws inspiration from these exercises to make her colorful art works. Originals and limited edition art prints are available for purchase at her site, linked below.


Friday, January 27, 2017

BEAUTY: Ceramics--Tania Rollond

Tania Rollond's simple ceramic pieces (previously here) are marvelous. But her series Nightfall is especially compelling...these pieces, some covered with "ceramic stains" and some inlaid with oxide, look like objects (maybe ceremonial?) from some ancient future civilization. I want to run my hand over the smooth surfaces, and feel the weight of them...


Wednesday, January 25, 2017

"Anymore" by Goldfrapp

OH. MY. GOD. This new Goldfrapp song is UH-MAAAAZING. The sonic richness of the bass line, Alison Goldfrapp's gorgeous, breathy yet powerful vocals, and the perfect lowering, looming sense...*sigh*...breathtaking.

"Anymore" is from Goldfrapp's seventh studio album "Silver Eye" to be released on Mar 31, 2017. I can't wait!


Tuesday, January 24, 2017

The Dead Texan

I'm on a kick, listening to the exquisite, moody, ambient-chamber music of The Dead Texan (Christina Vantzou and Adam Wiltzie who was also a founding member of Stars of the Lid, previously here, and A Winged Victory For The Sullen, previously here).

"Glen's goo"

"The six million dollar sandwich"

"Aegina Airlines"


Monday, January 23, 2017

BEAUTY: Clothing--Thom Browne

Thom Browne created an absolutely fascinating concept for his Fall-Winter '17-'18 show at Paris Fashion Week. Fashion journalist Luke Leitch was at the show and has an excellent description of a very conceptual presentation that was really more performance art than clothing.

"Thom Browne’s show was a three-piece suite on the suit (and its trappings), which aimed, via extreme distortion, to unpick, lay flat, then reveal as a thing of beauty the garment around which Browne has built his brand. The show’s set was 30 piles of thick gray felt—pattern offcuts—arranged in little shrine-like cairns under 30 workroom lamps.

To easily understand this show you have look at Look 1 against Look 16 and then Look 31. Or Look 2 against Look 17 and Look 32. And so on. Browne was building the same 15 suits (and variations of) in three ways.
The first 15 were arguably the freakiest. On mules (which resembled hooves), the models were cinched into bodysuits on which buttons delineated the outline of the garment Browne envisioned them as. This took a lot of buttons, and Browne’s press notes usefully transmitted exactly how many. So Look 15, my favorite simply for being the biggest and most extreme in its second part iteration, was comprised of 1,059 of these buttons, which were the stitches that linked and defined the outline of a double-breasted suit and a double-breasted greatcoat. Really, though, you had to stare pretty hard at the buttons—or read the notes—to get any of that detail for the first 15 looks. The chief impression was of a tentatively treading band of boardroom brothers locked forever in a John Cage–soundtracked endless commute, mitigated only by whatever would fit in that rolling suitcase—“Champagne!” Browne said—and the softening lenses of those blinkering helmet-masks.

Section two laid out the idea. Every look delineated in section one was represented in the flat sum of its parts from the pattern. These were worn half at the front, half at the back. By showing the suits and coats and even the shoes—which were uncobbled asunder—in two dimensions, Browne was leading us to consider their intricacies in three.

Section three put everything together, via button: Those looks were finally tailored into a more conventional whole. Of course, they were barely conventional at all. Hems zipped up and down more dramatically than the New York Times’ pre-election winner projector. Hot pants over leggings are simply not done, old boy. Yet, crazy as Browne’s interjections into the architectural niceties of suiting sometimes were, they still honored the spirit of them.

Afterward, Browne explained what this show was about: 'Playing with proportion. And an appreciation of making clothing really well. Taking all of the pattern pieces and then making an installation of the pattern pieces . . . sewing it all together, buttoning up on the body. That’s what it is! It was a simple idea of playing with proportion.'"

This collection so reminds me of Browne's FW '15-'16 collection, previously here, in which he showed Depression-era business men in threadbare suits dreaming of going back in time to more prosperous days. Each look came out in a set of three: completely worn out in the present, slightly worn in the immediate past, and pristine in the golden days of memory. There is something satisfying about seeing a concept unfold in threes this way. Past, present, future--yesterday, today, tomorrow--below, middle, above. In a strange way, it has the air of mysticism about it.

Deconstructed brogues
Elongated proportions (center) fronting the deconstructed version (right) of the actual suit (left)


BEAUTY: Clothing--Rick Owens

Rick Owens says he has been in a doom and gloom head space for the last several collections. For this Fall-Winter '17-'18 collection he titled GLITTER, his intent was to lighten up. But these are not light times--at all. "I wanted to kind of get away from the doom. My last few seasons have been about doom: How do you negotiate things, and things changing, and handling that gracefully. But . . . this cycle ends up being a continuation of the other cycle..." Owens said. "You know, I wanted it to be voluptuous and flamboyant but then I look at it: It definitely is about strapping yourself in for a bumpy ride."

Owens has been playing with bulk and volume for the last several seasons as well and we have a continuation of that theme as well. These moving sculptures are examples of how a designer manifests ideas in three dimensions, in space, with fabric and leather. Now, before anyone says to me, "But Jeff, these outfits are ridiculous. Where are you going to wear something like that, to the supermarket," let me point out that the styling for a fashion show is almost always radically different from how the individual pieces look hanging on a hanger in a retail store--and how individuals are going to wear them. Owens drapes jackets and coats around his models. He lets the tops of one-piece leather jumpsuits hang and fall in a puddle at the waist. These are not necessarily the way anyone will wear these pieces. Owens is showing us his inspiration. But if you were to walk into Selfridge's and see, for example, a single black and gold and white striped leather coat, or a suit jacket with long knit sleeves, or even a single green leather jumpsuit, well, then, that would be just fine. And as an aside, why are you so interested in what I am wearing to the supermarket?


Sunday, January 22, 2017

BEAUTY: Clothing--Yohji Yamamoto

The highly regarded and highly decorated designer Yohji Yamamoto has had a long and storied career, and at age 73, shows no signs of stopping. His Fall-Winter '17-'18 collection at Paris Fashion Week was lyrical and beautiful, awash with an insouciant, rippling sense of Romanticism worthy of any French Symbolist poet. But the original inspiration for the collection is surprising. The invitation to the show was an employee timecard in an envelope marked "WORKING 24 HOURS EVERYDAY," and the spring board for the show was the type of person who works hard at manual labor jobs. Yamamoto said "I admire those people who work seriously using their own body. We’re now at a time in the world where the most important business is money-makes-money. And I hate it." Yamamoto took worker staples like the coverall, the jumpsuit, and the overcoat (a few in white, perhaps referencing meat packers?) but rendered them in gorgeous jacquards and patterns, all in Yamamoto's signature, impeccable, asymmetrical, master tailoring. It is really a lovely, flowing collection (with inventive touches like elongated pointed collars, and some fantastic New Romantic boots) which ultimately has nothing to do with its inspirational source. I can't fault the end result. But there is something interesting about the intersection of his imagined laborers and the material and price point of the clothing.