Thingies: Roger Ebert, the rise of photography, Iranian street artists’ world tour

Roger Ebert

It was a sad day for those of us in the culture writing business last week when we learned of the passing of Roger Ebert. Ubiquitous, enthusiastic, and exceptionally gifted as a writer, Ebert’s work transcended mere criticism and served as a reminder that movies (and other cultural works) speak to fundamental aspects of the human experience in a way that no other phenomena can match, and so they deserve our attention, our vigor, and our most critical eye. Ebert didn’t just review movies. He taught us the value of enchantment.

For more, check out Richard Brody’s obit at The New Yorker, where last week they also posted a piece of Ebert’s fiction. I, for one, hope I can someday write something a tenth as good as Ebert.

Photography, briefly

A couple weeks ago, the New York Times ran an article on a new flowering of photography in museums across the country (beware the NYT paywall), citing the accessibility of photography and the prevalence of its practice on Instagram, Tumblr, etc. (Heck, we profiled two photography shows up in the Fargo area just last week, here and here.) Photography, to sum up the piece, has blown past its struggle to be recognized as a true artform and is now being seen as a crucial way for us to relate to our environments.

Related: a Montreal woman was recently arrested for posting a photo of anti-police street art to Instagram, a Russian photographer issued an apology for climbing the pyramids and posting his photos from there, and a new photography craze that creates faux Dragonball Z attacks.

Iranian street artists campaign for peace

An example of uplifting cultural exchange between the U.S. and Iran (h/t: @saberiroxana):

Must reads

ESPN’s Grantland published this illuminating archaeology of the movie Super Mario Bros., a tremendous box-office flop released in 1993. Why was it a flop? What went wrong? And, why is adapting a video game into a movie so difficult? Great read.

At Createquity, Anne Gadwa Nicodemus (one of the authors of the NEA’s critical white paper on creative placemaking) peers deeply into the issue of placemaking and argues that many artists run the risk of having their efforts co-opted as “shock troops” for gentrification.

LOLS: The Oregon Trail Moving Company’s Official Moving Contract, by McSweeney’s.


Chile will exhume the body of poet Pablo Neruda in an attempt to clear suspicion with his cause of death.

A new service, Imgembed, hopes to clear issues of fair use and attribution on the web by giving content creators automagic credit.

Using real-time seismic data as an artistic influence. A beautiful visualization of data and more evidence that science and art go together like chocolate and peanut butter.

Image: Grumpy Cat, of course, created using a complex parametric equation. Via It’s Ok to Be Smart.

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