Mostly Photos :: Eric Etheridge

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Site-Specific Podcasts

The hive's buzzing about podcasts today, what with the story about Odeo on the NYT business frontpage. I've been reading about the glories of podcasting for some time from the first-movers — Winer, Curry & Searls — but it's never much appealed to me. If someone has something to say, I'd rather read it than hear it. I'm also not much for listening to my iPod through headphones. (So what do I do with it? Not much, but I do use it via a cassette-adapter in my car.)

However, this morning I've thought of podcasts I'd strap on the earplugs for, maybe even pay for. I'd love an art or architecture critic talking in my ear as I tour the new MOMA; Simon Schama annotating the Rembrandts at the MET; or Peter Schjeldahl walking me through some blockbuster exhibit. Yes, museums do audio guides all the time, and occasionally they are even good. But why should museums have a monopoly on this content? I want something unstuffy, edgy, unbeholden to any institutional pressures.

I'd also like to hear somone in my ear at certain destinations — Shelby Foote at Shiloh, say, or Ian Frazier on a particular resonant stretch of road in South Dakota (notice here I've plugged my iPod into my car stereo). Now that I written these last two, I think I should make clear I'm not looking for books-on-tape excerpts but specific narration made for looking at a certain scene from a certain vantage point.

I guess I should also make clear I'm not just looking for podcasts from big old-media types, who will of course be the last ones to do them. I'm open to anyone the blogoshpere wants to serve up. Maybe John Robb has a favorite battlefield?

This is mostly a lazyweb request for content (hopefully that works too), but I did do a few googles looking for extant examples. In 2003 an artist group called Nature and Inquiry produced Invisible Ideas: A GPS-enabled Artwalk through the Boston Public Garden and Common for PDAs. Not exactly a podcast, but kind of what I am talking about. Couldn't find anything on Audible or at ipodder, but I may have missed it.

Like I said, this is mostly a lazyweb post/request. This is what I want to hear. Someone out there get busy.

Posted on February 25, 2005, in Web Stuff.

Every Building Everywhere

More on the high-tech descendants of Ed Ruscha's Every Building on the Sunset Strip.

Here comes Google? Jason Kottke points to the Stanford CityBlock Project, funded by Google, to build "technology for digitizing commercial city blocks from sideways-looking video taken from a vehicle driving down the street."

Plus: Use A9's photos to create an "Every Building on . . . " for your favorite street in your favorite city (as long as its one of the 10 cities photographed so far). Greg Allen points to a9: Run up and down the street. Enter the A9 YP URL of a business with a photo, and Mikal Maron's script will pull down as many photos to the left or the right of the building as it can. I haven't played with it yet, but the samples look cool.

Posted on February 08, 2005, in Art Stuff.

Ed Ruscha: Internet Search Pioneer

Shouldn't pop artist Ed Ruscha be getting some credit for A9's new block-view feature in its yellow pages. Four decades ago, Ruscha mounted a motor-driven 35mm camera on a car and drove up and down Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles making the photographs that became his 1966 book Every Building on the Sunset Strip. The accordion-fold book was a literal, deadpan rendering of, well, every building on the Sunset Strip.

Every Building

Now the folks at A9 have mounted digital cameras and GPS units on SUVs to photograph every commercial building in ten cities (so far), including Los Angeles. Is A9 conscious of its debt to Ruscha? The product page makes no mention of him but does trumpet the "completely automatic" nature of its picture-taking, which was pretty much Ruscha's method as well. The results are also strikingly similar.

Here's the entrance to the Chateau Marmont as photographed by Ruscha (top, a bad photo of a photo) and by the A9 team (below, a screenshot).



Was Ruscha dreaming of search engines when he produced his book? According to Ed Ruscha and Photography, he once said of his book: "It's like a Western town in a way. A storefront plane of a Western town is just paper, and everything behind it is just nothing." Not exactly tailor-made for an A9 press release.

Still, artists are not always reliable guides to their work. And the ease with which Ruscha's high concept has become a handy search enhancement suggests a hitherto unseen lay line between Pop's focus on serial imagery, machine processes and everyday products and today's database-driven ecommerce aps. Maybe there's more search-engine gold in Ruscha's other books from the '60s. Various Small Fires and Nine Swimming Pools — probably not. Some Los Angeles Apartments — already done by print and the web. But Twentysix Gasoline Stations and Thirtyfour Parking Lots — hello, OnStar, are you listening?

Posted on February 01, 2005, in Art Stuff.