Homer Hopper

Took a day off work today and went to see the Homer/Hopper Exhibitions at the Art Institute of Chicago. Kind of a sloppy day downtown — we’ve had a lot of snow and now a small warm-up is messing things up.

But that’s the way things go in the big city.

We timed things right this time: We got there when the museum opened, and during the first hour the big exhibitions (in this case, Homer Hopper) are open to members only, no tickets required. So we sailed in.

Hopper was great – the crowds were non-existent and the art was stunning. It was missing a couple of pieces I’ve seen over the years in magazines etc, but had others I’d never seen. (Actually, I’ve hung Hoppers when I worked at the Terra Museum of American Art. I just recalled that! One great picture of a house that was missing from this exhibit).

One of the highlights of the exhibit was, of course, one of the Art Institute’s prizes: Nighthawks.


Hopper is enigmatic to me: He built a summer home with grand views of the Atlantic, but instead painted the cars parked looking inland, for example. The people in his pictures often don’t work (for me), but when they do – as in Nighthawks – they pose more questions than they answer. I like this, but I could see others getting frustrated with him. OK, are they lovers or not? WTF is going on?

I enjoyed greatly.

I’ve always been a Hopper fan, and this was a chance to see more of his stuff, and to get to know a little more about the man (Example: He didn’t sell a picture until he was in his early 40s: What kept him going?).

To me, Hopper is a purist who pursued his own vision. While I see his work reflecting the works of others (Charles Sheeler, Edward Weston, some surrealists [to a degree], even Pete Turner ). I just don’t know enough to say who influenced who.

While all artists are influenced/polluted by other artists (yeah, pick your verb), Hopper still – in the end – just painted what he wanted to. Sure, the palette was influenced by X and the perspective by Y, but – in the end – it was all unmistakably Hopper.

Hard light, naked environments (forests or streets, they are immaculate and with structural joints/streets at right angles and so on) and completely masked personnel (what’s going on here that I’m missing???).

The Winslow Homer exhibit, on the other hand, had more items – and many great combinations of sketches and final work, always nice. And most were of a smaller scale (often more photographic in size – 24 inches max height or width), so you had to get closer.

Unfortunately – at this point – the crowds were getting thicker, and all the idiots with the audio tour headsets were just moving like sheep from one picture to the next, regardless of if I was trying to read the description or what have you.

The Homer exhibit was focused on his watercolors, and they are magnificent. I enjoyed Hopper a great deal more, but Homer has some good stuff, no question. He reminds me of Turner and Church, and – to some degree in some work – Monet.

That’s not shabby company.

Below is one of Homer’s masterpieces, The Herring Net. When a huge school of herring flocked to the area where Homer was summering, the New England fishing fleet swarmed the area. Homer went out in a boat to do the sketches that would result in this painting. Points for getting close to the action!

The Herring Net

Worth seeing. Just do it during an off hour.

Gallery Update

I’ve been meaning to add some functionality to my gallery for months (years?) now, and I’ve finally added the first installment of the updates.

Minor, but pretty cool (and home-grown).

Gallery Update

The new feature is the row of – currently five – images at the top of the page. Current image is in center, outlined in white. Go back one or two images; go ahead one or two images.

I’ve had previous/next links all the time, but it’s nice to get deeper (back two/up two) and to tie them to images.

Load is a little heavier (I reference the thumbnails, but we still could be loading between 100k and 300k or so), since I pull in up to six images (five thumbs; one full), not counting the basic page image needs.

Four comments on this “improvement”:

  • This is the first baby-step in changes I want to the gallery.
  • Maybe I’ll have to roll it back. I’m not perfect.
  • I was able to easily integrate this into a Perl CGI I wrote years ago. That – to me – is amazing.
  • It took a bit to error-trap, check all instances for errors and so on. I’ve released it because I believe it stable. However, I’ve worked with so many programmers who would have put v1.0 into production because they did not test. Test, people… I caught some errors; so would you…

Hmmm…I already resize and thumbnail an uploaded image; I might have to “icon” it as well (the icons are currently 50×50 pixels; I think that’s a good size).


All the News That’s Fit to Muck

Congrats to Josh Marshall (and crew) at talkingpointsmemo.com for winning a George Polk Award, the first ever by a blogger.

Well deserved, in my – a long-time reader’s – opinion.

Blogging can be – as with talkingpointsmemo.com – a different kind of journalism.

Much as TV journalism differs from newspaper journalism and so on.

Yes, much/most(?) blogs are navel-gazing, but the blog is a powerful tool for journalism. Josh’s blog is one example, Groklaw is another.

May the blog be with you…

Well, the Fat Lady Has Sung

Well, the high-definition format war is over.

Today, Wal-Mart – the nation’s largest retailer – picked Blu-ray.

And not only is the chain backing Blu-ray, it has announced that it will not stock HD-DVD players or movies.

Game over.

While the writing has been on the wall for HD-DVD since Warner – once firmly in both camps – announced in January 2008 that it was going to begin backing only Blu-ray moving forward, Toshiba (the HD-DVD deleloper) thought they still had a chance.

The writing became more prominent earlier this week when both Best Buy and Netflix went for Blu-ray.

Wal-Mart is the killer, however. It is officially over.

About frickin’ time…

So, why did Blu-ray win?

I think it was partly due the Playstation 3 (PS3) – that got a lot of Blu-ray players in the home and hooked up to TVs. There’s no doubt about that.

But it also came down to studio support. Most studios backed either Blu-ray or both; once Blu-ray has been out a couple of months, it was selling roughly 60/40 or 70/30 percent in comparison to HD-DVD. Near the end, Paramount and Universal were persuaded (I say bribed) to go exclusively to the HD-DVD camp, but that just pointed to the desperation on the HD-DVD front.

And – for the most part – no one but the videophiles and early adopters really cared. DVDs are still fine; upsampled DVDs for the bigger TVs put things close to to HD quality.

So – for most of the world – there was no format war. Or there was, but “I can wait until someone wins before I might buy a player from the winner.”

Well, today there is an indisputable winner.


Update 2/17/2008 Reuters confirms that Toshiba has thrown in the towel.

Happy BDay XML

Well, Tim Bray says it’s the 10th Bday of XML. And, as co-inventor/developer of XML, he should know.

I have a love/hate relationship with XML (flat files are often better…), but XML is a great standard, and it’s made so much possible.

Think RSS, if nothing else.

I’m tired, working like crazy today, but I had to stop to note this Bday.

Yes, it’s that’s big of a dealio….(to me)…

Update 2/12/2008 – I was a day late. I should have posted on 2/10/2008, the real birthday. My bad.


Well, the buzz in the blogosphere is Microsoft’s unsolicited bid for Yahoo!

It seems most every year this rumor circulates the internet, but after Yahoo’s disastrous earning report last week, virtually everyone expected there to be an offer made for the internet pioneer.

So, when the previous years’ rumor turned out to be this year’s truth, no one really batted an eye.

The question/discussion was more centered around: Does such a merger/acquisition make sense (for MS, Yahoo, and/or end users)? And what will be the result of such a merger? (Will Flickr remain; will hotmail merge with Yahoo mail and so on).

I was going to write yesterday, but I was sick (still am; damn flu), but here are my initial, high-level impressions of the potential merger:

  • This is a move – on both company’s parts – to counter Google. Yet will the sum of the parts actually get them even close to Google? I dunno. The No. 2 & No. 3 video rental companies (Hollywood and Movie Gallery) in the U.S. merged to try to get traction against No. 1 (Blockbuster). Since that time, the merged No. 2 retailer is busy closing stores and selling off assets. Not exactly a success story (to be fair, Blockbuster is stumbling, as well).
  • This is a very clear admission by Microsoft that – despite its deep war chest – it has no frickin’ clue on how to leverage search, content and advertising online. That it is, for the most part, completely lost once it leaves the desktop. (The one exception to this is Xbox Live, which has gotten great reviews and makes Sony’s PS3 online component look like Windows 3.11 over a 2400 baud modem.)
  • How can two such different companies successfully combine? Jeff Jarvis argues that Yahoo is the last old media company, and MS is the last old technology company (Microsoft-Yahoo: The Deal of the Dinos Great title). And the combined companies still won’t beat Google.
  • At the same time, the two companies have so much in common, and the common areas are the arenas in which both are attempting to battle Google: The internet space (i.e. forget, for the moment, MS and Windows). Yahoo Mail, Hotmail. Both have search. Both have online ad platforms (which is what most of this merger is about). Both have made forays (usually via investment/purchase) of social networking sites. What gets cut when the merger is complete? You don’t need two email systems; two ad platforms. Lots of overlap, and that’s not even counting logistics: You don’t need two accounts payable divisions, for example, in one company. There will be cuts. (Update: Nice overview of competing products MS/Yahoo will have to merge/live with/kill.)
  • This smacks of the Netscape/AOL merger, as well as the AOL/Time-Warner buyout. Those worked out well, didn’t they??

On the other hand, despite the negative comments I’ve outlined above, I think the merger sorta makes sense. Why?

  • Well, Yahoo! really doesn’t have a choice. They are going to be acquired by someone. The writing’s on the wall. MS might not be the best choice, but it does generate buzz (which can help) and now that MS is run by Ray Ozzie, we might see some internet-smart changes.
  • Both companies understand the common enemy: Google. If, for example, a private equity group acquired Yahoo! (another persistent rumor), it might have led Yahoo! (wisely or not) away from its interet focus.
  • This merger, of course, is about money. Eyeballs and advertising. Yahoo! has the audience and internet chops; MS sure knows how to leverage almost anything to make a buck – and they have bucks to throw at products. It has potential.

If this comes to pass, will the combined companies be a greater threat to Google than each was separately?


Google is open, distributed and insanely focused on the web (Android is an internet play; trust me). Yahoo! has the Terry Semel baggage of content; MS has its roots – and primary revenue stream – in desktop apps. Especially with MS, don’t expect the company to abandon its roots and insanely profitable products, even if the company does continue to profit on the present at the expense of the future.

Bottom line: Merger or not, Google wins. Whatever the hell that means…