Spiral Jetty

Spiral Jetty, by Robert Smithson

Unique earthwork sculpture in the Great Salt Lake, Utah

The rise and fall of the water level makes the Spiral Jetty like a reappearing sand painting.

Rating: 4.5
Reviewed by Thomas Fox on  December 4, 2010

The Spiral Jetty is located in a remote and uninhabited section of Utah's Great Salt Lake. The sculpture can be seen in daylight hours, when the lake water level is low.  The Spiral Jetty was created in 1970 by Robert Smithson. Using black basalt rocks and earth from the site, the artist created a coil 1,500 feet long and 15 feet wide that stretches out counter-clockwise from the shore into the waters of the Great Salt Lake, near Rozel Point, Utah. Due to changes in the water level of the Great Salt Lake, the Spiral Jetty is frequently submerged.

May 1, 1970 7:00PM
Robert Smithson
Rozel Point, UT
Photo of Spiral Jetty
Category: Earth sculpture exhibit


Ghost of the Cepheus Flare

Image of cosmic dust clouds

Drifting through the night in the royal constellation Cepheus. Of course, the shapes are cosmic dust clouds faintly visible in dimly reflected starlight. From Astronomy Pictures.
Tom Fox
Louisville, Kentucky


Enough is enough

Spiritual progressives

After barely enduring the hottest Louisville summer in recorded history, twice, my tolerance for bullshit is at a seasonal low. The summer of 1954 was bad, especially before air conditioning, but 2010's summer was worse. It is now October 10th, and the forecast high temperature for this afternoon is above 90 degrees F.

This too shall pass.

As a warm-up act to this abnormal weather, TeeVee has provided an unending stream of anonymous political rants with bad graphics, bad-mouthing targeted political candidates. Can't buy me love represents a principle that does not apply to the commercial availability of high elected office.

Kentucky is a political battleground state this go-round, and the long knives have been un-sheathed.

The shape of our national governance for the next two years, at least, will soon be decided by a process that seems to be directed by a union of general un-articulated popular dissatisfaction with life in the U. S. A. today and extremely loud fear-mongering with slander.

Few know for sure who is paying for the prime time fear-mongering and slander. There is no legal requirement that they show their pretty faces, or be accountable to anyone.

In a recent speech before the U. S. Chamber of Commerce, President Obama stated, "This is a threat to our democracy...And if we just stand by and allow the special interests to silence anybody who's got the guts to stand up to them, our country's going to be a very different place."

Tikkun Magazine has suggested an Amendment to the U. S. Constitution to limit the First Amendment free speech rights of non-people. Those would also be know as corporations.

Corporations are not Persons and Money is not Speech
Stop the Corporate Takeover
of our Society
Take Action:


Scammed and slamed before lunch

I can't explain how revolted I am when my newly cleaned and sorted inbox in blemished by an outright fraud.

"Welcome to our too-frequent and over-hyped email newsletter," it begins. "Thank you for signing up." But, it's not true. I didn't sign up. I not only don't want it, I resent it.

Sick Flags Over My Ass.

Oh, I forgot. Yahoo! mail has a "spam" button. I hope it hurts, and it is fun to click when well deserved.


Journalistic-ish view from the 3rd floor

Looking out over the 1200 block of South Second Street in Louisville, Kentucky, I file this report.

Traffic is flowing smoothly, but way too fast. The sun is shining and the weather is cool. No problems.

End report.


Kill the lawyers

Many before me have written about the possibility of eliminating lawyers. It was Shakespeare who wrote in Henry VI, "The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers."

It's an impractical goal in an age of specialization, and in which the lawyers have insinuated themselves into every aspect of modern life. The necessity of lawyers is bonded to our national ideals, as a nation of laws and not of men; or a nation of laws and not of church authority. Lawyers are indispensable artifacts of the way we live and what we value. Looking on the bright side, it is lawyers and the judicial system which allows us to resolve disputes without bloodshed. Not like the old days.

But, giving lawyers their due does not require total capitulation. There are, in fact, many lawyers who are interested in noting more than to line their own pockets at anybody's expense. That is just a fact, and it is not intended as an indictment of all honest hard-working lawyers. But, the ancient question, "How many lawyers does it take to skin a client?" has always been answered, "Two. One of whom is supposedly working for the client."

Lawyers are expensive, and paying for lawyers is a game for the affluent. The less affluent suffer, or do without. Win or lose, it is always expensive in one way or another.

Just as you don't need a doctor for every little cut or scrape, you don't actually need a lawyer for every trifling legal matter. This is assuming you can tell the difference between when you do need a lawyer and when you do not, but there is an inherent danger in any system that is structured so that defending one's own vital interests is dependent upon pricey outside assistance.

The legal self-help movement has a long history, going back at least to 1845, when Thomas Wooler published his Every Man His Own Attorney. Wooler wrote,
"When attorneys are employed, they must be paid; and their charges are not always regulated either by their abilities, or their service to a client, but by their own desire to make as much as they can. This evil can only be remedied by making their clients well informed on common subjects, and able to see what course they are taking in matters of more intricacy."
The lawyer's Code of Professional Responsibility and the Model Rules of Professional Conduct reflect an idealistic goal of the profession pursuing legal education of the public, but the extent of what education that actually happens does not go beyond pointing out the need to hire an attorney. The Canadian legal system recognizes that Lawyers "share responsibility for ensuring that broader society has a knowledge and understanding of the law and an appreciation of the values advanced by the rule of law." Robert Bell & Caroline Abela
"The question of whether lawyers have an ethical duty to perform public service--and, in particular, whether the obligation requires that a percentage of time be devoted to providing free legal services to the poor has a disjointed and uneven history. Leaders of the bar, espousing various and often conflicting views of morality, compassion, noblesse oblige, and individual autonomy, have contributed to this state of affairs, creating a complicated web of vague ideals that today jeopardizes the legal profession's sense of its own public obligations. On the one hand, the legal profession remains dedicated to the traditional view that public service is a matter of personal charity, to be performed at the discretion of the individual attorney. And yet, despite the prevalence of this dominant notion, an undercurrent of thought rejects the relativistic approach to public service, arguing instead that lawyers have a professional responsibility to help assure that legal services are available to all, including those who cannot afford to purchase representation on the open market. The Code of Professional Responsibility and the Model Rules of Professional Conduct reflect both notions of public service, sending mixed signals to members of the bar as to whether their professional duties include the obligation to render free legal services to those in need." - The lawyer's duty of public service: More than charity? - 96 W. Va. L. Rev. 367, Winter, 1993/1994


A note to novice bloggers

Seth Godin has advocated writing blog entries every single day as a means of confronting and overcoming inner resistance, at least in a small way. To all outward appearances, this is what Godin himself has done for the past few years. There was a time before that when he skipped a day or two nearly every week.

It is a useful exercise, but there comes a point when the resistance shifts from opposing doing it every day to opposition to skipping a day. This is reminiscent of fiction writer Stephen King following his encounter with an automobile as a pedestrian a few years back. While laid up in the hospital in traction and on pain killers, he insisted on keeping up his usual habit of writing every day. This is what successful writers do. They write every day, and by any measure Stephen King is a successful writer.

But Stephen King's daily writing had a focus. He was writing horror stories.

With blogging it is possible to write about something every day and have no continuity from one blog post to the next, and to have no overall focus. Seth Godin generally writes within a definite range of business and marketing topics, with recurring themes.

When writing blog posts just for the sake of writing blog posts, there is a risk of writing about the wild hare du jour, which is continually shifting. Whatever comes to mind or is triggered by the big news story of the day, that is what gets blogged. Writing every day for the sake of discipline is good, writing every day to improve your writing skills is also good. Even better is limiting your writing to a semi-focused topic.

A useful practice is to go back after a few months of blog posting and read what you have written. Do the daily accretions add up to anything? Then comes the time to face the possibility of embracing a purpose greater than overcoming old self-defeating habits.


The dirty secret of organic foods

This is a secret I've kept for over ten years now, but not because it's much of a secret or because I want to keep it. It is a bit of information that is difficult to convey with an appropriate sense of importance. Maybe someone else will pick up the ball and run with it, and forgive me my lack of evangelical zeal.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has generated and accumulated data on the nutritional composition of grains and produce since well before WWII, and the data is all publicly available. If you compare the nutritional contents of various farm products from 1950, you will notice the major vitamins and minerals were present at about twice the concentration as they were for similar food items in the year 2000.

There's not much to argue about with this observation. Look a the data and you can easily see for yourself that the nutritional composition of commercially grown food is one-half now compared to what it was fifty years ago.

My explanation for this is simple, and it may even be accurate. Traditional farming practices were quickly abandoned after World War II when cheap nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium (NPK) fertilizers became available due to surplus chemical factory capacity after the national need to produce high explosives abated. Industry switched from making chemicals for bombs to making chemicals for fertilizers.

Although NPK fertilizers are very good for growing plants, they do nothing to replenish other chemical and elemental components of soil that are very good for human health. Every growing season the crops sucked iron, calcium, chromium, selenium, and magnesium out of the soil, and no thought was given to replacing these and other minerals.

Elemental minerals, however, are the essential building blocks for the more complex vitamin compounds. In the right conditional and with the right minerals present in the soil, plants produce an abundance of chemical compounds that are good for people to eat, but don't seem to be necessary for the plant's own survival. If the basic elements needed for producing a certain vitamin are lacking in the soil, the plant simply does not produce as much of that vitamin.

The plant itself does not seem to suffer from these mineral shortages.

There seems to be some vague sense which nags us that there's something not quite right about the food supply, when we stop long enough to think about it. The organic food movement is a symptom of this foreboding, but I think they threw out the baby with the bathwater when "organic" is defined to exclude NPK fertilizers.

Doing that makes organic foods much more expensive without making it more safe or more nutritious. Nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium are about as natural as it gets.


One reason I blog

One reason I blog is to reduce the burden of repeating myself.  It's like my own personal Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ).  These days when I'm asked, "Why is your cell phone always turned off?", I can answer with a URL.  Read this, and you'll know.


Permission marketing trademark evaporation

I see this morning that Facebook.com is suing Teachbook.com for trademark infringement. I understand how and why the Facebook lawyers justify protecting the name by this means, even if I consider it to be a gross misuse of trademarks law as it ought to be. But I happen to think the whole idea of 'intellectual property' leans toward the oxymoronic.

The best laugh I've ever enjoyed from a good trademark joke, and those are very rare, was yesterday evening when I researched the trademark registration on the phrase "Permission Marketing." Seth Godin invented that phrase at least thirteen years ago, and he literally wrote the book on it. It was a 1999 book titled Permission Marketing.

At Infoworld's July, 1997 Spotlight conference, where "Silicon-Valley-Meets-Hollywood," Seth Goden spoke and is quoted in the Aug. 4 1997 issue of InfoWorld, p. 103, as saying in interactive internet markets customers, "will give you 'permission' to market to them."

Godin's company Yoyodyne Entertainment, Inc. filed an application for a Federal trademark registration for "Permission Marketing" on September 3, 1998. Yahoo! announced its acquisition of Yoyodyne on Oct. 12, 1998, at the same time Godin's book Permission Marketing went to press for release the following May. Yahoo! received technical ownership of the Federal Trademark Registration on "Permission Marketing" with its purchase of Yoyodyne, but Godin retained a license to use it. He had a nearly published book with that name on the cover coming out soon.

But, partly due to the fact of the books great success, if you ask anyone that is familiar with the idea of permission marketing, "Who do you associate with the phrase 'Permission Marketing'," nine out of ten will answer, "Seth Godin." Under those facts, it is nearly impossible for Yahoo! to retain even technical ownership of the trademark. I suppose it would be called trademark dilution, but that idea doesn't quite fit.

On April 4, 2008 Yahoo!'s trademark claim to 'Permission Marketing" died. It was cancelled. I have seen nothing to suggest there was any litigation or dispute of the matter, so I conclude its cause of death was the sober realization at Yahoo! that there are some things you just can't buy. I laughed.


My view of copyright

The Article I of the United States Constitution provides that Congress shall have the power, "To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries."

photo of jennifer aniston
Copyright was intended to provide just compensation to authors and their families by giving temporary Federal protection to the exclusive use of their writings. Things get a little screwy when giant international corporations get involved in protecting and extending their intellectual property assets.  Things get a little screwy and nasty when a cartoon mouse is worth more than Jennifer Aniston, for example.

The first Mickey Mouse cartoon to be released by Walt Disney was a silent short titled Plane Crazy in 1928. When the mere passage of time looked to be a threat to Disney Corporation's exclusive rights to Mickey Mouse, and the Federal copyright protection that gave the cartoon character asset value might expire, Congress was prevailed upon to extend the length of copyright protection.

It was called the Sonny Bono Copyright Extension Act.

I didn't believe it the first time I heard the name. I thought it was a joke. Then there was the fact Walt Disney, the originator of the mouse character, had died in 1966 and he wasn't looking to the Federal government for protection anymore.

The German economic historian Eckhard Höffner has argued that weak copyright laws in Germany during the 19th century helped them outpace the British Empire in economic development by facilitating the cheap and easy spread of technical and educational materials.
"With stronger copyright guarantees guarding their backs, London publishers profited from the release of limited edition books. But the nation as a whole suffered." - Wired
Although the digital age has been troublesome for traditional media and publishing companies, see Seth Godin's Moving On, it may be good for the rest of us, and help us improve our constitutional balance.


Canon EOS 5D Mark II Digital SLR Camera

The summer following my graduation from high school in 1970, I spent my summer job money on a Canon F-1 SLR film camera with a 50mm 1.4 lens, a 135mm lens, and a 200mm lens. I have never replaced that 35 mm film camera with an equal quality digital camera.

The primary point of desire now is the very fast f1.2 lens.  My preference is for natural light photography.  The use of a single flash in low lighting conditions generally causes more problems than it solves.  You briefly think you have captured a good image, until you take a close look at it.  Shadows, red-eye, and strange reflections make a mess of things.

With Photoshop, it is actually much easier to boost an underexposed digital photo than it is to correct the defects and artifacts caused by flash photography.  I'm not suggesting that artificial light or reflectors cannot be put to good use in photography, because they can.  It's just not my style of candid and informal shoots that do not require much set-up or excess baggage.

The equipment shown here is exactly the same as what I bought 40 years ago, except digital, and except the 50mm lens I want is the f1.2.  Before, I used a 50mm 1.4 lens. I also excluded the 200mm telephoto which I never really used.

 My wish list now consists of a Canon EOS 5D Mark II, with a Canon 50mm f1.2 lens, and a Canon 135mm lens.  I never had much use for the 200mm lens, and I dislike zoom lenses.

An additional 80mm lens and a 28mm or 35mm lens would be nice.

Dated this 21st day of June, 2010.

Louisville, Kentucky

Amazon prices 06-21-2010:

Canon EOS 5D Mark II - $2399.00
Canon 50mm f1.2 lens - $1479.00
Canon 135mm lens - $999.00

Total - $4877.00