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The Valve - Closed For Renovation

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Encyclopedia Britannica to Shut Down Print Operations

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Alphonso Lingis talks of various things, cameras and photos among them

Feynmann, John von Neumann, and Mental Models

Support Michael Sporn’s Film about Edgar Allen Poe

Philosophy, Ontics or Toothpaste for the Mind

Nazi Rules for Regulating Funk ‘n Freedom

The Early History of Modern Computing: A Brief Chronology

Computing Encounters Being, an Addendum

On the Origin of Objects (towards a philosophy of computation)

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The Nightmare of Digital Film Preservation

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Norma on Encyclopedia Britannica to Shut Down Print Operations

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JoseAngel on That Shakespeare Thing

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Thursday, July 03, 2008

Pond Scum

Posted by Bill Benzon on 07/03/08 at 11:35 AM

field effect

Another Urban Pastoral.








IMGP8813rd graffiti connection II.jpg

graffiti connection 1.jpg


Very nice. I like the second, fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth photos much better than the others. The first and tenth photos don’t work, imo—in the first photo, it’s hard to determine scale and there’s nothing much to draw interest. The ninth photo leaves me with an “eh” feeling (so does the rock photo, actually). But many of these are fine; some I would have no problem placing on my hallway wall. The old tires photo might be the best. I like the composition, the wavy lines that both create and undermine the strong diagonal movement. And old tires in pond scum certainly makes a strong point. (If the focus is on ecological abuse, then that message is lost, I think, in some of the photos.) I like the second photo quite a bit, but it’s almost too polished, like a postcard photo.

Overall, very nice, some definite keepers.

By on 07/03/08 at 12:21 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Thanks for the feedback, Trent. Glad you like some of them.

There is ecological abuse in some of the photos. But thats not the message, either of those individual photos, or of the set. It’s all there in the world, natural, man-made, what’s the difference? 

I’m not so Zen as all that, but there is a push in that direction. No use pining away for the Lake Country.

By Bill Benzon on 07/03/08 at 12:37 PM | Permanent link to this comment

That pond looks well on its way to becoming a bog, Bill. In another fifty years a spongy, nearly walkable mudscape, from all indications. Does the railroad grading cut off the pond’s natural outlet? Is a bog not a good idea there?

I like that third picture (Stone and Scum, is it?). It has a well-earned put this in you pipe and smoke it mr zen gardener quality to it.


By peter ramus on 07/03/08 at 01:22 PM | Permanent link to this comment

There are two bodies of water, Peter. One on either side of the tracks. 2, 3, 4, 5, and I believe 9 were taken in a pond to the left (West) of the one you see in the last photo (I faced North when I took this one). The other photos are of the pond in the last photo. I don’t know how water gets into or out of either pond. The “east pond” (the one in the last photo, has a creek at the lower end (behind my back as I took that photo), but I don’t really know where that creek goes. It goes east, but about 200 or 300 yards east you’ve got city streets, housing, and no water channel.

The land is pretty low around here and the water table is pretty close to the surface. The Hudson River is about a mile or a bit less to the East. Some of the land around here IS boggy.

(FWIW, the Sopranos’ graveyard is about a quarter mile south of here.)

By Bill Benzon on 07/03/08 at 01:45 PM | Permanent link to this comment

I found number 3 very reminiscent of a zen garden also, strikingly similar in fact. 

Personally I also liked 1, though I agreed with Trent on 10 I’m afraid, but I also found 6 to have a definite quality to it (a good quality, albeit one I currently struggle to capture precisely), it has a certain unexpected beauty which makes for a rewarding photo.

I’m glad I stumbled across this, it’s an interesting set, finding beauty where generally one would not expect it.

By Max Cairnduff on 07/04/08 at 12:58 PM | Permanent link to this comment

10 is certainly quite different from the others. It’s got a wider field of view and is more various.

I fear my main reason for putting it here is not at all obvious; it’s the graffiti in the background. There’s a lot more graffiti back there and that’s why I go back there to take photos. It so happens that those ponds are there as well, and one day . . . In any event, 9 links to 10 in that it shows an empty aerosol can floating in the water (there are more of them).

There is, of course, a thematic connection between trash, scum, and graffiti. But that’s a bit too cerebral for this context. Unfortunately there’s no really compelling graffiti directly facing these ponds. But then, if I really want to make a graffiti connection, I don’t really need to show pond and graffiti in the same shot, do I? Ah well, next time perhaps.

By Bill Benzon on 07/04/08 at 01:15 PM | Permanent link to this comment

The article on this site (and the links it contains) about neurocinematics has got me thinking. Assuming that most of our brains are stimulated in similar ways by photos such as these, what is it that makes our opinions of the photos so different? Or perhaps that assumption is wrong, and different people’s brains are stimulated in different ways by these photos-- in other words, perhaps the true comparison is not to structured cinema but to the unstructured cinema also used in the neurocinematic study. Is this photo sequence structured in some way that would cause similar brain activity across multiple brains, or are they only loosely related to each other? If so, then that presumably accounts to some degree for the different reactions, but if not, then we must be dealing with something else—cultural, historic, aesthetic, philosophic concerns, I suppose.

Take the eighth photo, for instance. Formally, the lines of the ironwork are very well composed and even very interesting. But I don’t like that photo as much as some of the others. Why? I’m not sure, except that I think it might be too easy. The formal elements of, say, the photo with the tires are a bit more subtle, and even to a degree contradictory. And I like that photo much more. Is it because there is something pleasing about a photo taking a bit more work to appreciate? I don’t know.

I think when we see something we like or don’t like, we then try to find the reasons to support our feelings. But everything we say could also apply to something we don’t like or do like. Is this just because language is always deferred? Or that the formal features we talk about are incidental to our first appreciations, but we have to talk about something? Certainly I’ve liked photos (and art, and fiction) that seem to violate established principles (and then that violation itself is used as a “reason” for appreciation), just as I dislike some works that I can see are very well structured.

There’s a mystery here.

By on 07/04/08 at 03:49 PM | Permanent link to this comment

There are a lot of things going on here, Trent, but what are the chances that, if you asked those movie watchers what they thought of the films, what are the chances that they’d say pretty much the same thing? That they tracked the film pretty much the same from scene to scene and shot to shot, that’s a long way from agreeing on it.

By Bill Benzon on 07/04/08 at 05:11 PM | Permanent link to this comment


Yes, even if areas of our brains respond similarly to certain cinema, our verbalized reactions exhibit a greater range. I like _The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly_ (the film used in the neurocinematic study) quite a bit, but some friends whose opinions I respect dislike it. Presumably our brains are stimulated in similar ways by the film, but our appreciation differs. Part of me wants to keep that ineffable, part of me doesn’t want scientists to locate and track the no-doubt complex nature of aesthetic judgment.

I assume that lemons taste sour to everyone; it’s interesting that some people like the sour taste and some don’t. The “why” is what fascinates me. And it’s curious that we often claim that the “flavor” of a certain work _is_ good (objectively good, I mean) when what appears to be happening is that we just like that flavor for some inexplicable reason. As you can see, I tend to be relativistic about aesthetic judgments, and suspicious of “objective” claims. I don’t really think analysis of formal features gets at this mystery because every feature that we find admirable in one work we may dislike in others.

You are right. There are lots of things going on. Sometimes we dislike a work, then read others on the work, and start to like the work. How often is it that other opinions really point out something we missed that caused our lack of appreciation? Or do we find pleasure in conformity? Maybe this is necessary for social animals.

Bill, has your valuations of particular photos changed based on the opinions in this thread? I’d wager that to some degree they have.

By on 07/04/08 at 07:05 PM | Permanent link to this comment

What we “say” about this or that work is problematic, because it has as much to do with what we’ve learned how to say as with our experience of it.

Bill, has your valuations of particular photos changed based on the opinions in this thread?

A bit. This is something I talk about in my post on WALL-E.

By Bill Benzon on 07/04/08 at 07:22 PM | Permanent link to this comment

That kind of algae is common far from the cities, the result mostly of fertilizer runoff. It gradually makes the water body uninhabitable for fish, and accelerates the transition to marsh. It’s a natural process, but the speed of it isn’t. I live on a lake whose aesthetic qualities have been seriously damaged by these processes. So it’s herd for me to retain neutrality.

By John Emerson on 07/06/08 at 12:02 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Hmmm . . . that’s a tough one, John. These ponds, of course, are in an urban area, and no one looks out at them from a living-room window or a rocker on the back porch. I doubt if most of my neighbors even know they are there. Should those ponds, in time, turn into bogs, only a few migrating ducks will care.

Me, I figure that in the long run learning to see some beauty there is more likely to lead to environmental responsibility than simply seeing them as a blight to be ignored if at all possible. And, I like it that the ponds and their scum do not discriminate between human artifacts and natural waste. It’s all the same.

By Bill Benzon on 07/06/08 at 05:45 PM | Permanent link to this comment

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