The Riff - February 2007

Electronic Museum

| Sun Feb. 4, 2007 4:18 PM EST

I don't much like to buy shoes online. The color can be different in person, and the shoes may not fit right. But more and more art buyers are buying works valued in seven figures via email, the New York Times reports. Buyers make their decisions based on JPEG images, or compressed digital photographs. Many are motivated by a sense of urgency, partly generated by other buyers' virtual purchasing habits, which eliminates time spent on transcontinental flights.

Many buyers use JPEGs at some point in the buy-sell dance. But some by-pass the dance altogether. As the Times piece delves deeper, it suggests that the latter are brand name-seekers. As a result hot new artists, like Claire Sherman, who graduated from the Art Institute of Chicago 2 years ago, are particularly likely to sell their works sight-unseen.

In another interesting twist, the prestigious Gagosian Gallery recently posted JPEG images of an exhibit on a password-protected section of its website, and emailed the password only to posh buyers. No newcomers allowed.

The funny thing about JPEGs is that they reveal no texture, and the color of the works can be altered significantly depending on the computer monitor. Can you imagine buying, say, a De Kooning—well, at all, but especially without seeing the brushstrokes? Will the advent of the JPEG lead artists to forego texture an a non-value adding proposition? Maybe buyers should purchase the JPEG itself—plus, of course, a JPEG of the artist's signature.

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It's Just Starting Now, Baby Blue

| Sun Feb. 4, 2007 2:47 PM EST

Joni Mitchell has always been a bit earnest for my taste, but I can only hope to rock at 63 like the singer-songwriter is now. As an anti-war mixed media show closes in L.A., a ballet partially choreographed by Ms. Mitchell is set to open in Calgary and a new album is nearing release. The New York Times has a long profile of the folk heroine, written after an all-night interview.

Only in California

| Thu Feb. 1, 2007 2:10 PM EST

One night between December 28 and January 4, while the owners of a tony home in Atherton, California, were vacationing, burglars struck. These were no ordinary burglars. They managed to get through a code-entry gate. Once inside the house, they passed by numerous electronic gadgets and headed for the cellar. The wine cellar. There, they pooh-poohed lesser vintages and went straight for the good stuff, including a 1959 magnum of Bordeaux worth $11,000. All told, they made off with $100,000 worth of wine, at an average of $3,000 a bottle. Wine theft is on the rise, because prices at auction have been mounting of late. And there's no way to track hot wine—by which I mean metaphorically hot, bien sûr. Sounds like the perfect crime, if the thieves can keep out of the booty.

Mooninites Attack!

| Thu Feb. 1, 2007 4:16 AM EST

This story blows my mind. Apparently, some strange battery-powered devices were found at various points around Boston today, causing officials to shut down freeways, bridges, part of the transit system, and a section of the Charles River. Bomb squads were called in to detonate the devices. Turns out these things are harmless battery-powered blinking LED light boards featuring a Mooninite, a character from "Aqua Teen Hunger Force," which is itself a surreal 15-minute cartoon series airing on Adult Swim, the late-night "alternative" programming brand on Cartoon Network. All this was part of a marketing campaign for the upcoming "Hunger Force" movie: "Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theaters."

Music Recommendations (For People Who Still Buy CDs)

| Thu Feb. 1, 2007 12:43 AM EST

I'm not sure how much relevance actual release dates have any more (in this era of internet leaks) but if you're the type who likes their CDs and mp3s legit, the next few months promise some breathless Monday nights. I thought I'd sneak on here while all the Mother Jones employees are nursing their hangovers and tell you about some upcoming albums I can't wait for, along with a brief explanation, similar artists, and a link to a preview (if available) or some recent material.


  • 02/06/07: Bloc Party - Weekend in the City (Vice/Atlantic)
    The UK quartet follow up their acclaimed debut with a more mature (and apparently more openly queer-ish) album
    For fans of: The Cure, Franz Ferdinand, being wistful
    Stream the whole album already on their Myspace page
  • 03/06/07: Arcade Fire - Neon Bible (Merge)
    Adored Montreal band face dreaded sophomore slump
    For fans of: Talking Heads, Neutral Milk Hotel, going to funerals
    Download the first single, "Interventions," here