Angela Natividad's Live & Uncensored!

29 July 2012

Frames from the Edge: Portrait of THE Commercial Photographer

Last week a friend invited me to see the Helmut Newton exposition at the Grand Palais. It was a huge treat. Above you'll find Frames from the Edge, a documentary about Newton's work.

Newton in many ways defines the photography of fashion: he captured its whimsy, semi-debauched fantasy and fairy tale demeanour. He was utterly unafraid of vulnerability, strength, ugliness or beauty, the blatantly commercial or the grittily banal; you have to be courageous to capture these things, to keep watching until you find them instead of blinking and pretending you didn't see. 

His celebrity portraits are also terribly revealing; in one shot he can capture the entire universe of a person, their allure or their insanity or their unexpected forged strength. There is something kind and non judgmental about his camera eye; in front of it, the burlesque becomes a game of dress-up, naked women like little girls in Mummy's enormous fur coat, with shameless parading faces.

Another thing I quite like about Newton is his refusal to buy into this notion of the fashion photograph as art. Bad taste drew him in, and unlike other great photogs, he didn't believe in limiting the number of his prints, in this notion that a picture could lose its soul if it became too present in the world. His imagery is like the fleur de lys: banalised, democratised and ever present, resonating long past the fashions and the times they were meant to represent.

It's a characteristic advertising shares by necessity if not by preference: our work is naturally ephemeral, commercial, the furthest thing from the traditional definition of art. But that doesn't make what we do, what can be done, any less important or beautiful. If we could embrace what he did, maybe we'd find our immortality. Or perhaps the problem of immortality lies in accepting that it doesn't really mean anything, and we have to let that idea go.

A handful of photos I snapped at the exhibition:

The top photo is of his wife June. I love the intimacy of it, the crass casualness. It's like spying on a naked cowboy. The middle shot is a classic YSL the way I still think of YSL: that woman, untouchable and so pristine that the fact of her existence, the very angles of her body seem to cut through space/time. And that last commercial photograph, with the man who reaches from outside of the screen to light a TV model's cigarette! I love that kind of play, its implications about our ongoing conversation, our own intimacy with media (and its stubborn insistence on protecting its space).

21 July 2012

My Fictional Calling

I've decided that of all the fictional callings I would like to pursue, perhaps the one with the strongest and most persistent pull is the desire to become a Pokemon trainer. And I feel this gopher, with his apathy toward rockets, investigative skills, talents for camouflage and capacity to entertain me for hours on end, would be the perfect starter Pokemon. We'd be fast friends and of course I'd go on traveling the world catchin' them all, but none would match Gophery, who'd have filled a deep void in my heart.

19 July 2012

How I'd Improve Kindle

I love Kindle. I fell in love with it from the moment a Kindle slipped into my hands three years ago. And since the Kindle app appeared, I can read from any device I want: on my desktop, on iPhone, anywhere, really, which cuts out the need to cart more hardware around than I need to.

But there remain a few things I'd improve about the Kindle service in general. They'd make me a less reluctant user (because yes, sometimes my frustrations overcome my desire to go on investing time into it -- it's an ongoing balancing act between impulse buys and UI chagrin).

Here are ways I'd improve Kindle so that it becomes an indispensable item for any reader:

  1. Shelfari integration. It's the perfect way to bring archives to life: literally instilling pride in the act of archiving them in the first place. Also, it'd be great if I could rate my book right there on Kindle instead of having to open Shelfari later on and do it! Speaking of...
  2. A button to indicate I've finished the book.
  3. A way to pass Kindle books to others. I'm not saying I want a way to digitally copy the book and send it all over the place; I'm saying I want to be able to take something I paid for and transfer it to another person to read. It wouldn't live on my account anymore, it'd move to theirs, and the natural act of sharing books we've cherished would go on as it does in the real world.
  4. A clear and easy way to include non-Amazon ebooks into Kindle. One time I found a really confusing way to send a PDF to my Kindle: I sent it to my Amazon account, then found it on my Kindle, but the file was completely corrupted. Now I have to stare at it every goddamn day. It's like a hex on my life. Also, there are some authors that sell ebooks but won't put them on Amazon out of principle. I want to read these guys, but if I'm not using my actual Kindle device, how do I upload them to my app? The answer may be out there, but I've looked long and hard for it and frankly this is more work than it needs to be.
  5. A way to file and organise books. On my desktop Kindle app, I have options to sort by Recent, Author and Title. But the truth is I don't want my advertising books touching my science books touching my literature books touching my books in French versus in English. I know this is just me, but that shit drives me mad. Amazon, these are data files. Let us bloody play with them.
  6. A way to cancel purchases made by mistake. Amazon One-Click is super convenient, but I've had impulse binges where I've accidentally purchased a book title written by the wrong author. And now that book, like my corrupted PDF, is just chillin' there, mocking me. If I haven't opened the book or broached the 1% mark, I should be able to return it within a period of time (say, same-day).
  7. Impulse buy integration. I'm serious. If I finished a book that has sequels, and I loved the living crap out of it and am totally in "I'm still in this author's universe" mode, I'd love to be able to see the sequel right there, then push the One Click button right in my app to start reading right away. Same for books by the same author, or the latest book the author's just written. Right after I read a book by an author I don't know, and now love, is really the prime moment to sell me everything they ever did.
  8. Coherence between the apps and the Kindle device. Some things I can do directly with the Kindle device and not on the apps, like add and remove books, incorporate eBooks, etc. This is all really great, but to be honest my device is so old that it's not really practical for me to whip out  and plug into my computer for demands that small. Also, it isn't like doing things on the Kindle device is a piece of cake either: their interface design teaches you nothing, and you have to follow instructions pretty closely to do the things you want. Also, my WhisperNet doesn't work, which is an additional pain in the ass.
I think that covers it for now. I may add to this as frustrations arise, because I just downloaded Proust's entire body of work and now I'll obviously have to read it. 

But yeah. I don't think these are enormous demands (okay, the Shelfari integration thing is kind of a bitch); they are demands from a reader who's also an avid tech user, and who sees a divide between those two worlds on Kindle that doesn't need to exist. Please, Amazon, hear my plea.

03 July 2012

If you ever wondered why dashing older men keep challenging you to games of Gin Rummy.

- "The Language of Legs", Playboy, 1969.