February 22, 2009

Alien At Home

Whenever I drive out into the hinterlands, into sub-suburban and rural California, I’m always struck by a bunch of things, mostly contradictory: how familiar this landscape and culture is, how at home I am in it, how much an alien it makes me feel, how changed it is from when I first drove out here, how vast the landscape and so much in it is (the huge agricultural machines, huge truck stops, huge SUVs, huge freeways, huge mountains…). It so often just reduces me to lists….

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February 17, 2009

A Few Small Snaps From A Long Weekend

For those of you not following along on Facebook (or Twitter, for that matter), I spent a few days in the desert doing mostly video work on movement and people; some not-as-well-focused snaps from the expedition are at my Facebook Where I Am gallery for a while. Nothing special, but I'm working on the video version, which will probably take months to get that 5 minutes of finished product from 50 minutes of footage. An Australian accent (no matter how not-quite-right) goes a long way in this sort of thing, is all I'll obliquely say here….

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February 11, 2009


I think I've always thought of Euclid's proof of the infinitude of primes as one of those magically-clear and simple things you can understand immediately you come across it but that seems to have come out of absolutely nowhere (Cantor's diagonal works for me in the same way as well). It's sometimes hard not to write about maths in mystical terms that get really boring to anyone not a nerd like me, but it's like seeing your first Rothko or Pollock in the flesh, that delicious mixture of recognition and where the hell did that come from?


February 05, 2009

25 Things (About The Real Me)

I got hit by that latest Facebook tag meme, in this case the "25 Things" thing doing the rounds where you have to list 25 things about yourself that your long-suffering Facebook friends might find illuminating (or more likely not). Since people do actually sometimes ask about my real-life me (usually in email), here's the rather hurriedly-put-together Facebook list of 25 things you may or may not already know about my real-life self (slightly edited):

1. My real name is J. Orbison Legrande III.

2. I once piloted Air Force One.

3. I can speak eleven languages fluently; five more with some difficulty.

4. Most of my photos are fakes — I spend literally months drawing each one in excruciating photo-realistic detail by hand, then use Photoshop to make them look like photos.

5. I was born in Caddo Parish, Louisiana, up near Shreveport.

6. I swim to work most days.

7. I write for the New Yorker under a pseudonym.

8. When I was a teenager I made a living composing heroic poetry to order in a traveling sideshow. Two bucks a poem. It was an OK living, but that sort of thing really takes its toll after a while.

9. My Australian accent is totally fake; I've never even been there, let alone lived there long enough to get an accent.

10. My father knew Lloyd George.

11. I never eat pasta; it's a religious thing.

12. A friend of mine is afraid of butterflies.

13. I made up the whole "Woy Woy" thing (with the help of Spike and some other co-conspirators who I'll name in my memoirs) — it's all fake. There's no such place (the name's a bit of a giveaway, isn't it?).

14. I feel really bad for making up the Woy Woy thing. It's sort of exploded out of my control and taken on a life of its own; I wish I could take it back.

15. When I lived in northern Minnesota I used to pretend to like ice fishing just to get on with my colleagues.

16. My first kinetic sculpture exhibition was raided by the Carabinieri because a jealous ex-lover had told them it defamed the Pope.

17. When I taught classical philology at Oxford I was known as "The Hammer".

18. I have twelve siblings. Two of them are currently in Antarctica.

19. For the first few months I feared that I would never get used to living in Ittoqqortoormiit, but after a few years it started to feel like home.

20. There's a prime number named after me.

21. I now deeply regret inventing the amphibious car. It's been the bane of my life, in ways too numerous to mention.

22. I once weighed more than 300 Kg.

23. I'm mortally afraid of aspergilla. Well, only the metal ones.

24. The Angry Penguins were my idea.

25. I have never told a lie.

So now you know.


February 02, 2009

Rudderless Oakland

An already-tainted and overwhelmed police force under FBI investigation, with the police chief suddenly resigning in a hissy fit; a huge and unexpected budget shortfall (over and above the normal recession problems) due to incompetence or fraud (no one's quite sure which just yet); continuing destructive riots and civil unrest downtown in reaction to a brutal shooting that's got almost nothing directly to do with Oakland; the predictable (and predicted) bungling of the case against the alleged assassins of Chauncey Bailey; a deepening recession that not even the Port can help us with now; a drought that's breathing hotly down our necks; allegations of rampant nepotism in the city's workforce; and an ineffectual mayor who doesn't bother to come in to his office except when he feels like it (tying up business for days on end)… at least the homicide rate is down compared to last year.

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