September 2008


In I.G. Macdonald’s Symmetric Functions and Hall Polynomials, on page 2 there is the following comment on the standard way to write down diagrams of partitions and tableaux:

Some authors (especially Francophones) prefer the convention of coordinate geometry (in which the first coordinate increases from left to right and the second coordinate from bottom to top) and define the diagram of \lambda to be the set of (i,j) \in \mathbf{Z}^2 such that 1 \le i \le \lambda_j. Readers who prefer this convention should read this book upside down in a mirror.

Oh, snap!

The University of California wants to “provide greater accountability at the institution after several years of criticism by lawmakers and others who viewed the president’s office as bloated and unresponsive.” This comes not that long after a major strike by service workers over wage stagnation. Meanwhile, despite a budget crisis, the university spends $10m renovating Yudof’s house. The longer you put off renovation the more expensive things are, so it needs to be done now. Besides, a house lasts a long time while the meal eaten by janitor’s kid is gone in 30 minutes.

American “artist” Thom Ross has recreated a tableaux of Buffalo Bill Cody and his Wild West Show on Ocean Beach in San Francisco. This show was the equivalent of blackface minstrel shows of the 19th century but for Native Americans, yet is lauded in the press as a “tribute.” He himself is quoted as calling it a “Valentine to my hometown.” Of course, since Native Americans are such a marginalized population in the US, he can get away with it — life-size plywood figures of Sambo eating his watermelon with the head cut out so you can take a photo would never have made it off the drawing board. So much for cultural sensitivity, San Francisco.

It boggles the mind that such an astoundingly uncritical recreation is put up as a public art project in an ostensibly progressive major city. I’m used to dull things like giant arrows coming out of the ground. But is this art? Does it invite us to think about the image and it context? Does it intend to implicate us by inviting us to take the cutout photo-op because it should leave a dirty taste in our mouths? No. It’s simply a paean to a degrading, exploitative, and racist past. Valentine, indeed.

Here is some more information (pdf), courtesy of mark27. Hat tip to Jen for pointing out the article and the link to the flyer.

p.s. The comments on the Chronicle’s website are equally horrific.

p.p.s. There is some reaction from a show on KPFA.

Sorry for the extra-long hiatus. I have come down with a post-thesis case of repetitive stress injury, which makes my right arm feel like it is being pulled out of its socket/shoulder blade and then run over by a horde of angry clowns on tiny tricycles.

I will be blogging soon from the warmer climes of southern California — on Monday I will start a postdoc at UCSD’s Information Theory and Applications Center. I am very excited about it! I will be working on… something TBA. We shall see…

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