Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Gunks

I recently got back from another trip upstate to the Gunks, or the Shawangunk Ridge, where some friends of mine and I spent a few days camping and climbing. The Gunks is the first place I ever went rock climbing. That was about 3 years ago now and I had a blast. I can't remember the name of that first route, but I can describe it as a 1 pitch crack climb which had been set up for me like a top-ropeMost of it involved a lay back with several hand jams, so it was a good introduction to the sport. A later climb that day resulted in my first rappel, which was awesome.
Since then I've been pretty regular at it and have been to some amazing places for climbing; Yosemite, New Hampshire, Mexico...I have many more on my list for the future of course. But the Gunks is the closest to my home, and my friends and I have made many trips up there; either staying overnight or making a quick day-trip. I rely mostly on my friend Jesse to go with, who is experienced, has his own trad rack and is a damn good climber. I don't know how to lead trad, or at least I haven't tried yet. The whole anchor set up kind of boggles me a bit.

Sorting out the gear

Climbers love to have inside lingo for things, mostly abbreviations. Therefore the Shawangunks is referred to simply as "the gunks." The word Shawngunk comes from the dutch for "smokey air," although these mountains aren't particularly smokey. The rock is quartz conglomerate, which has quite a variety of features; horizontal cracks and overhanging roofs mostly. It's right outside of New Paltz, a college town with a fair amount of tie-dye. People have been climbing here since the 1930's. There are a few bolts and pitons in the cliff face but they aren't allowed anymore and as a result the Gunks is almost all trad (or traditional) climbing (as opposed to sport climbs which involve bolted rock for easy clipping). The area is separated by a road into two parts: The Trapps and the Nears. The Trapps is a bit more popular and can get real crowded on weekends. Both areas have great climbing and bouldering.

Some of the classic climbs I've done over the years are Something Interesting, Modern Times, Le Teton and High Exposure. There have been many more but I can't remember the names of them right now.

I hope to have a chance to take one more trip to the Gunks before winter comes!

View from my tent
 Jesse, James!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Emoting with Icons

This week marks the 30th anniversary of the modern-day emoticon :)

The use of punctuation marks to represent a face in order to convey an emotion was first used by computer scientist Scott Fahlman at Carnegie Mellon University on 19 September 1982.  It was during a misunderstood humorous post on the university's online bulletin board that Fahlman suggested to use a punctuation mark to set apart the jokes from the usual serious announcements.
And so the emoticon was born.

There have been earlier examples cited by historians, my favorite reference being that of a 1969 New York Times interview with Lolita writer Vladimir Nabokov in which he is asked how he ranks himself amongst other writers.  He replies, "I often think there should exist a special typographical sign for a smile - some sort of concave mark, a supine round bracket, which I would now like to trace in reply to your question."

I find it quite annoying when microsoft platforms and instant message automatically turn your emoticon of a smiley face into a picture of an actual smiley face.  When this :) becomes this

 I think this loses the point of using the punctuation marks in the first place.

A girl I dated once told me that men shouldn't use emoticons because their use is quite feminine.  I don't know how this makes any sense but I have to admit that since our conversation I have used them sparingly.

I will end this post with a link to an online emoticon dictionary, equipped with a dizzying array of the facial punctuation marks.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Crewdson and Hopper

Edward Hopper is one of my favorite painters; Gregory Crewdson is one of my favorite photographers. Their styles are very similar; stark subject matter portrayed with moods of isolation, resignation, and foreboding. Their works evoke a cinematic viewpoint, with sharp contrasts of light and shadow, like a film noir movie still. I have known Hopper's work for years, since childhood, thanks to famous examples such as as Nighthawks (1942), and as I learned more, I came to admire his vision greatly. I personally connect with his subject matter. I can feel the quiet solitude his characters are experiencing.  Their wistful look; the subtle interaction of human beings in their environment. It truly moves me.

Gregory Crewdson is an admitted fan of Hopper and his own work evokes a similar construct. He works with a large crew and uses elaborate set ups for his staged vignettes. I have never seen a proper exhibit of Crewdson's, I only know of his work through books. I love the eerie moods he achieves through the painstaking lighting and effects set-ups of his shoots.  Many of his photographs are suggestive of a crime about to occur (or one that has just passed).

Hopper (b. 1882 - d. 1967) and Crewdson (b. 1962) are both native New Yorkers. I am posting examples of their works below, alternating between the two artists to exemplify their similar approach.