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The overall quality thing with Dell

dell 24 I took a passing swipe at Dell in my latest article at The Atlantic, but I wanted to just tell you one specific story. Here’s the old-style Dell 24” UltraSharp monitor. Expensive, premium — it cost $599 back in the day, and the current version still goes for $399 today. I’ve had personal experience with three of these, and let me tell you.

  1. The first is the one I still use at work. It’s survived about three years. But. First of all, the USB-hub thingy built into the monitor never worked. Also, lately, the bottom left area of the monitor is way darker than the rest of the screen. I originally thought this was dust somehow getting sucked between the LCD and the backlight, but now there are weird faint horizontal bars in the same area depending on what’s on the display (i.e., a black square on a white background will make the area above and below it slightly than the surrounding white), so something funky is going on.
  2. The second one arrived in the mail, turned on for a split second, shut down, and never powered up again. DOA.
  3. The replacement worked fine for three years. Just about a month ago, though, the power button stopped working. Monitor works just fine, self-powers down when it looses a signal, but if I want to manually turn it off I have to unplug it. Mind you, I’ve never used the power button regularly, so it’s not like it’s worn out from overuse.

Is the Apple 27” display overpriced at $999? In light of all this, maybe not.

Posted: Wednesday August 31, 2011 by Alesh Houdek · Permalink · Comment


What's up with Optic Nerve?

optic nerve Optic Nerve is this Saturday: the MoCA’s annual showcase of the best of video art, submitted from all over South Florida. It’s one of the highlights of the Miami yearly art calendar — not to be missed. Except that I’m not going to be there. And neither are you.

Unless you’ve gotten your tickets way ahead of time, that is. When I went to the website on Wednesday to RSVP, I realized that all the tickets — both screenings — were sold out.

This is absurd. This event grows more popular every year; why doesn’t MoCA add more shows? Why not do a friggin’ week of Optic Nerve? Or, heck, a month of screenings, like they do for Pablo Cano?

Please don’t tell me that I can go night-of and stand in a line to vie for one of a small number of day-of tickets. I’m not 21, and this is not an indie band that needs to be in Atlanta the next day for another gig.

Also do not tell me that it’s some sort of deliberate scarcity thing, where MoCA is deliberately trying to make Optic Nerve cooler by making it hard to get into. MoCA’s mission statement is to make the arts accessible to “diverse audiences,” which ought to include casual art fans who do not plan their outings a week ahead of time. C’mon, MoCA — add some shows!

Update: Valerie Ricordi of MoCA says: “We will have an auxiliary viewing area set up so that folks who do not have tickets will still be able to see the films. … Also wanted you to know that the Optic Nerve videos will be on view in the MOCA Lobby next week and on Uvu website. Also the de la Cruz Collection will be screening them September 10-October 8.” Good news!

Posted: Friday August 26, 2011 by Alesh Houdek · Permalink · Comment [1]


Eek, I appear to have been busted



Thom Collins, the semi-new director of the Miami Art Museum, has a video blog, which he opens by apologizing for the crappy quality of: “I’m a rank amateur!” It’s shot at the construction site of the new MAM building, and it’s actually pretty good!



What's wrong with (Miami) art criticism?

miami art sceneA few years ago I was on a panel of Miami arts writers at Locust Projects with Anne Tschida, Omar Sommereyns, and a few others (my qualifications seemed a bit sketchy, but it was certainly a good discussion). Probably the biggest takeaway from the (sizable!) audience was that they were clamoring for more local arts coverage and, in particular, criticism.

Since then, as other locally-oriented writing has flourished, art criticism remains stuck in a rut. The New Times continues to regularly run criticism by Carlos Suarez De Jesus. But the Miami Herald hasn’t had a full-time art critic for years (I hear Elisa Turner has a blog somewhere on the Art Circuits site, but good luck finding it. South Florida Daily Blog lists four “Art Blogs,” but they are mostly dedicated to listings and brief descriptive posts. The notable exception is Artlurker, which has been running surprisingly substantial art reviews by a number of writers since 2008. But Art Lurker has been averaging one or two posts per month, so not sure what’s going on there.

Meanwhile, the art scene is flourishing — art schools are pumping out MFA and BFA art majors, artwalk is a huge monthly cultural event, and there are more galleries and private collections open to the public than ever. So what’s happening? Where’s the criticism?

I think the explanation is perfectly explained by a George Orwell quote I heard yesterday (on the Slate Culture podcast). Orwell apparently had written a scathing review of a book by Stephen Spender, only to meet him at a party and end up liking him quite a bit. Smitten with guilt, Orwell wrote the man a letter in which he said,

[W]hen you meet anyone in the flesh you realize immediately that he is a human being and not a sort of caricature embodying certain ideas. It is partly for this reason that I don’t mix much in literary circles, because I know from experience that once I have met and spoken to anyone I shall never again be able to show any intellectual brutality towards him, even when I feel that I ought to[.]

Now look at the Miami arts community — exactly to the extent that someone is involved and interested to where they might be willing/able to write some criticism, they’re hanging out with the artists and gallerists they’d need to be critical of from time to time. The scene is just not large enough that you can have a few dozen friends and another few dozen acquaintances and still have most of the scene left to impartially cover. I was talking to Misael about this, and he pretty well said as much about why he doesn’t write criticism. (By the way, all this probably applies to other art scenes — I’m addressing Miami because that’s what I know.)

Franklin Einspruch used to write some great criticism at But Franklin was pretty well recognized as being in the camp of the Miami AbEx’ers, so his constant rear-guard action as all things PoMo was sort of taken in stride.

One solution of course is to write anonymously. Artlurker actually started out at least in part as anonymous. But in the long run it’s not sustainable for most people. One of the payoffs that seems to be a necessary reward for consistent blogging is a level of name recognition and attention. Too, anonymous or pseudonymous criticism is inherently less credible.

I still think there’s a role for a site of one or two consistent writers (hello, art/art history majors at UM, FIU, et al.) that pursues advertising more aggressively than Artlurker has. A financial reward would be a decent motivation to take a page from Orwell’s book and stay away from associating closely with the folks in the art scene, the better to show it intellectual brutality when necessary.

Update: Leyden pointed out just as I was posting this: A new golden age for art criticism? at the Knight Arts blog. A promising title — but it doesn’t offer any solutions! It just says we need a golden age of art criticism. Still, there’s a way forward here: a few people interested in writing criticism start a site (maybe mix in some other sort of coverage), and apply for a Knight grant to jump-start them. Would make it much easier for them to attract advertisers with the Knight name behind them, and tide them over before the site is self-sustaining.

Posted: Wednesday August 17, 2011 by Alesh Houdek · Permalink · Comment [10]


Here’s Susan Page of USA Today admitting, on the radio, that she had a dream about Sarah Palin endorsing Tim Pawlenty. That is all. Update: And just like that, he pulls out of the race.



How to move an iTunes library in 2011

It’s amazing, considering how invested Apple wants us to get in iTunes playlists, play counts, ratings, etc., how hard it is to move all that stuff when you need to move your media files. These instructions may work for some people in some situations, but they never worked for me. After having screwed this up a couple of times, I’ve got a system that seems to work whether you’re moving your files to a new drive, a new computer, or even from Windows to Mac. Based on this, this, and this.

   <key>Track ID</key><integer>20376</integer>
   <key>Name</key><string>Don't Let Me Lose This Dream</string>
   <key>Artist</key><string>Aretha Franklin</string>
   <key>Album Artist</key><string>Aretha Franklin</string>
   <key>Composer</key><string>Aretha Franklin/Teddy White</string>
   <key>Album</key><string>I Never Loved A Man The Way I Loved You</string>
   <key>Kind</key><string>MPEG audio file</string>
   <key>Total Time</key><integer>139728</integer>
   <key>Track Number</key><integer>5</integer>
   <key>Date Modified</key><date>2009-05-20T14:06:57Z</date>
   <key>Date Added</key><date>2010-10-19T02:02:06Z</date>
   <key>Bit Rate</key><integer>192</integer>
   <key>Sample Rate</key><integer>44100</integer>
   <key>Play Count</key><integer>3</integer>
   <key>Play Date</key><integer>3388003973</integer>
   <key>Play Date UTC</key><date>2011-05-12T04:12:53Z</date>
   <key>Persistent ID</key><string>151E35E000A507A9</string>
   <key>Track Type</key><string>File</string>
   <key>Location</key><string>file://localhost/C:/Users/alesh/Music/MUSIC A/Aretha Franklin - I Never Loved A Man The Way I Loved You/05 - Don't Let Me Lose This Dream - Aretha Franklin.mp3.mp3</string></string>
    <key>File Folder Count</key><integer>-1</integer>
   <key>Library Folder Count</key><integer>-1</integer>

Let’s pause here a second and consider that “Import Playlist” command. Apple chose to call it that instead of “Import Library,” making it completely non-transparent to a casual observer that there’s even a way to move a library from one place to another. Shame on you, Apple, for (a) not making this whole process automatic and/or easier, (b) playing coy about the fact that it can be done at all, and © changing how it works from one version of iTunes to another. Rant over.

Please let me know if I’ve missed anything, or if this information is incomplete — I’ll be updating this file as necessary.

Posted: Wednesday August 10, 2011 by Alesh Houdek · Permalink · Comment [2]