Homework 8 / dirty pop

Your next assignment is posted in the Assignments tab. It’s due a week from today, on Thursday, 17 April 20.

In honor of the announcement of Robyn’s next NYC concert, today’s email is about pop music. I used to catch a lot of flak from my friends for listening to Robyn around the time her Body Talk albums were coming out, because she was seen as a 90s one-hit wonder (“Show Me Love” wasn’t too bad as far as 90s pop goes, but it’s not as good as the song of the same title by Robin S. from earlier in the decade). People have come around, though. Watch Robyn’s brilliant, one-take music video for “Call Your Girlfriend“, and then watch Taran Killam’s version thereof. Then watch them side by side!


I can’t help but enjoy Betty Who, an Australian who makes some of the catchiest music this side of Katy Perry. Her first hit was “Somebody Loves You“, but her latest EP (which just came out this past Tuesday) is better. There’s a very Perry-esque song called “Alone Again” that I like but a good version of which does not seem to exist on YouTube. The lead single is called “Hearbreak Dream“, and it’s also pretty good.

I hear a bit of Charli XCX’s melodic sensibility in “Heartbreak Dream”. Charli’s most recent single “SuperLove” is way more uptempo than her début album True Romance, and in my opinion not as good as the highlights of that LP. I liked True Romance a lot and honestly thought it was going to catch on more in the States than it did, but her new direction will probably raise her profile. She also sings on Iggy Azalea’s single “Fancy“, off of the latter’s début full-length The New Classic, which is coming out in three weeks and will probably be something of a big deal. The music video is a Clueless homage, which is pretty tight.


One of the most annoying things about pop music is how long it often takes after a single drops for the LP containing it to be released. Just as True Romance included songs like “Stay Away” and “You’re Not The One” that were released a year or more before the album, The New Classic will include old songs like “Work” (I quoted from “Work” in Puccini and Leoncavallo’s imagined conversation in the last email) and “Change Your Life“. That’s just the way it goes, though, and I guess it’s mostly just for début albums.

Tove Lo seems to be gaining some traction with the release of her Truth Serum EP. I’m not totally convinced she’s the real deal, but that’s mostly because the Hippie Sabotage remix of her song Habits is way better than the original. That’s not her fault, though. She does seem to have a pretty good voice, and she’s from Sweden, so I’ll be looking out for more from her. Speaking of Sweden, there’s this Swedish artist Snoh Aalegra who’s just a ridiculous babe but in a totally un-Scandinavian way. She’s signed to No I.D.‘s label and he produced her song “The Fall“, which is solid. Here’s another tune of hers called “Burning Bridges” that has an actual music video; the production isn’t as good but it’s more of a showcase for her vocals. Her music isn’t on Spotify so I don’t listen to her too much, but she looks like a cross between Natalie Portman and Eva Mendes and can actually sing, so I’m keeping an eye on her.

Don’t worry, that’s a trick photo; she’s not really a conjoined twin

Closer to home and poised for big things in 2014 is Banks, who has overcome the obstacle of a generic, initially un-Googleable name (a quandary solved by Chvrches with their novel spelling) to build a strong following. Her song “Waiting Game” is in a Victoria’s Secret commercial, so she probably got a bunch of dough for that. Good for you, Banks! Way to live up to your name! Ha, ha, ha!  Her most recent offering is called “Brain“, which is a pretty bold name for a pop song. Actually, Banks isn’t really very poppy. I guess this email kind of got off track from super poppy music to just music by female artists. Sorry about that. Also, confession, I mentioned a few of these artists in emails to last semester’s class. But I didn’t copy/paste anything, so I don’t feel too bad.

Continuing Stateside, Sky Ferreira put out a great album last year, but I still like her old song “Everything Is Embarrassing” best, I think. The LP has some good cuts, though. (Incidentally, Dev Hynes, who co-wrote “Everything Is Embarrassing”, put out an excellent album last year as  Blood Orange, but since he’s a dude he gets reduced to a parenthetical in this email. Sorry, Dev. Go back to boot camp.)

I like Chloë Howl, too, and her hat.


Also I was reading Jack Nicholson’s Wikipedia page earlier and the Pop artist Ed Ruscha was quoted praising Nicholson’s art collection, so here’s a picture of a Ruscha painting that’s in the MoMA, and a postcard of which you may have seen in my office:


And Broad City is a show you should be watching. This scene is really short but really great.

Finally, here’s a cool Web site if you like Beyoncé a.k.a. if you are a human being.

“I believe in making the world safe for our children, but not for our children’s children, because I don’t think children should be having sex.”

Homework 6

The assignment is this:

Section 3.2: 24

For the matrix in #22 of section 3.2: For what value of k does the system have no solution?

Section 3.3: 2af (you don’t have to follow the examples — just find the inverse, or else justify why no inverse exists), 7acf, 8acf, 9a (for the matrices in parts a, c, and f of #7), 18, 20, 24

Also: Prove that (AB)-1 = B-1A-1

Due: Thursday, 27 March 2014, in class.

Please staple your homework. Please remove ragged edges from pages torn from notebooks. Please hand in homework at the beginning of class or at the end — not during lecture. 

I forgot to mention in class that another reason why that spot The Beach in New Orleans is near to my heart. You know how every American over 55 or so remembers where they were when they heard that President Kennedy had been shot? Well, The Beach is where I was when I heard that Nate Dogg had died. The DJ slipped it in between cuts — “Yo RIP Nate Dogg” — and my friend (who’s from Long Beach, so you can imagine how hard the news would be for him) and I looked at each other incredulously, checked our phones to confirm the news, then poured out some of our drinks in silent remembrance.

Since I told you I’m going to Seattle next week, here’s a few hot tracks from Odesza, a duo who hail from the Emerald City (and this remix, which reminds me a bit of “Better Off Alone” by Alice DeeJay, which most of your should be old enough to remember, I hope).

One of Diego Velázquez’s best works (and that’s really saying something, as some (including Manet) believe he was the greatest painter of all time) is the Portrait of Pope Innocent X, which is the masterpiece of the Doria Pamphilj Gallery in Rome. It’s also one of the greatest potraits of all time. Legend has it Il Papa said upon viewing it “E troppo vero!” (It is too true!) but that might be apocryphal:


The collection is among the world’s finest in private ownership, and the palazzo that houses it is one of the grandest. There’s an interesting Pamphilj inheritance battle that was detailed in a Vanity Fair article that came out late last year. (I have the paper copy in my office if you are into physical artifacts.)The short of it is that Jonathan Doria Pamphilj, one of the two heirs to the massive estate, is married to a man, with whom he has two children who were born by surrogacy. Jonathan’s sister Gesine Doria challenged the two children’s right of inheritance based on the fact that they were born of a surrogate. The case was thrown out without a ruling, on the grounds that Princess Gesine (of course she’s princess) didn’t have grounds to bring the suit. In an interesting twist, neither Gesine nor Jonathan themselves are in fact Pamphilj by blood; they were adopted almost five decades ago from England by Orietta Doria Pamphilj, who was at the time the sole heir to the estate.

The great 20th-century Irish painter Francis Bacon (not to be confused with the English philosopher/statesman/scientist Francis Bacon, who was one of the most important proponents of the scientific method, and in 1603 became the first scientist to receive a knighthood) was greatly inspired by Innocent X, and created a number of works that engaged directly with Velázquez’s masterpiece, including this funky rendition:


Bacon was perhaps even more influenced by Sergei Eisenstein’s film Battleship Potemkin, particularly this face, seen during the famous Odessa steps sequence, which appears and reappears in various forms throughout Bacon’s oeuvre:


Brian DePalma paid homage to the Odessa steps in The Untouchables; more hilarious is the parody of DePalma’s scene that opens The Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult. RIP Leslie Nielsen.

Incidentally, Francis Bacon’s triptych Three Studies of Lucian Freud recently sold for $142.4 million, a record price for a painting at auction.


Lucian Freud (grandson of Sigmund) was a pretty brilliant painter himself:


Though he caught some grief (for some reason, I distinctly remember this article (or at least the Daily Telegraph quote within), even though it was 12+ years ago and I’m sure I’d never heard of Lucian Freud at the time) for this portrait of Queen Elizabeth II:


“Troppo vero”, indeed.

“Before you criticize someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes. That way, when you criticize them, you’re a mile away and you have their shoes.”

Exam 1 / old homework

Some of you asked for a recap of the topics we’ve covered that might be on the exam. 

What we’ve done:
– Mathematical induction
– Transpose of a matrix, symmetric matrices
– Section 1.2 (systems of linear equations)
– Section 1.3 (Markov chains, dynamic models)
– Section 1.4 (linear programming, underdetermined systems)
– Section 2.1 (matrices, vectors)
– Section 2.2 (matrix multiplication)
– Section 2.4 (matrix algebra)
– Section 2.5 (norms and bounds, eigenvalues and eigenvectors)
If you’d like to pick up your graded homework assignments, they are in three piles on three chairs outside my office. My office is Physics A-149, but you can most easily access it by taking the elevator in the Math building to the 1st floor, exiting right and walking toward the Physics building. The door to my office is past a doorway on the left just at the beginning of the walkway between the Math and Physics buildings.

Here’s that LCD Soundsystem/Miles Davis video I mentioned in class today. And this xxyyxx album was in the list of videos on the right so I figure I might as well link it, too. The dude made that record when he was 16. If you dig electronic music you should listen to all of the artists mentioned in the second paragraph of xxyyxx’s Wikipedia page. Okay, fine, I’ll just copy and paste it here. “His style was also likened to Clams CasinoZombyBurialJames Blake and The Weeknd.[4][8] His musical influences include Lapalux, Star SlingerDisclosure and Shlohmo.”
And pretty much every artist on the Tri Angle label is worth a listen, too. I’ve also been bumping the Acid Arab collections lately. And old Julio Bashmore (his new track with Jessie Ware is aight). Okay I’ll stop now.
Wait one more thing — I meant to mention this on Tuesday but Schoolboy Q’s new album is out; it bumps.
Here’s a quick pintura negra by Goya to get things back on track. It’s called Riña a garrotazos, which translates, roughly, to “Boyfights with Baby Buster” 
Goya painted the Pinturas negras (Black Paintings) directly on the walls of his house outside of Madrid around 1819-1822, when he was in his 70s and just totally bummed out about the whole situation of like everything like Napoleon taking over and the Peninsular War and atrocities and stuff. They’re my favorite stuff of his, and in fact one of my favorite series of works by any artist; you can find them at the Prado in Madrid, to which they were transferred a while back (they’re on canvas now). 

Homework 4

Your next homework assignment is now posted in the Assignments tab. It is this:

Section 1.3: 5

Section 1.4: 8

Section 2.5: 9, 11

Section 3.1: 2, 10, 19

Due: Thursday, 27 February 2014, in class.

There was a lot to take in during class today.

The cheese shop in Madrid is PonceletQuints is the Disney Channel original movie from 2000. Quince is the fruit that may figure in the original versions of certain apple-related myths. In the Loop is the film in which a character mentions quince paste once. It’s really, really funny, especially if you like wildly creative swearing by an irritable Scotsman (played by Peter Capaldi, who was recently announced to be the Twelfth Doctor in Doctor Who (I don’t watch, but a lot of people are all about Doctor Who so it’s worth a mention)). Once when I was home for the summer from college In the Loop seemed always to be playing on HBO, so I ended up watching it a bunch of times, which is why I remember a throwaway line about quince paste (actually it was a pretty funny line, but you’ll just have to watch the film).

If In the Loop is the movie I’ve seen the most, The Tallest Man on Earth is the artist I’ve seen perform live the most, at six times1 — every year since 2008, except for 2011 when he didn’t come to New York (luckily I’d seen him twice in 2010). He’s really just that good. This connects to a hyperlink in the previous paragraph: In 2008 I saw TTMoE open for Bon Iver, whom I’d previously seen open for Elvis Perkins, whom I’d previously seen open for Cold War Kids! Wow. I’d previously seen Cold War Kids open for Muse, but that’s where the chain ends because I was too young to ever catch Muse open for anyone. Oh, and the opener for one of the Tallest Man shows was S. Carey, who played drums for none other than … Bon Iver. Talk about a strange loop

1A close second is Thom Yorke, whom I’ve seen five times — four times with Radiohead, once with Atoms for Peace.

The Judgment of Paris, by Peter Paul Rubens (Museo del Prado):


“If God dwells inside of us like some people say, I sure hope He likes enchiladas, because that’s what He’s getting.”

Homework 3

Happy House of Cards Day. I hope you all enjoyed your day of leisure yesterday. Me, I made banana bread. So, yeah, it was a good day. 

I bring tidings of your next assignment. It is this:

Section 2.5: 10, 12, 13, 14, 16(a), 26, 28, 30, 31

Due: Thursday, 20 February 2014, in class.

If you’re in the market for a soup or cereal spoon (and why wouldn’t you be), I recommend getting a Windermere. Go to Brooklyn Kitchen to get one, though; they’re only $2.50 there. Plus while you’re there you can get a tiny cast-iron skillet! And if you’re in the market for cereal itself, I recommend getting Waffle Crisp. If you find some on sale, let me know. It’s above my budget, usually. Apparently Post makes a lower-cost version now called Waffle Crunch, but I’ve never had it so I can’t vouch for its worthiness.

Speaking of kitchens, here’s a picture of Claes Oldenburg’s Giant BLT (Whitney Museum):


Oldenburg is a pretty cool dude; back in the 60s he set up shop in the LES selling his sculptures out of a storefront, presenting them like a regular old vendor would his wares.


Classic Claes! One of his later works, Typewriter Eraser, Scale X is in the Sculpture Garden of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., which is a good place to visit if you’re ever in our nation’s capital (especially since it’s free). There’s also a tight Roy Liechtenstein there called House I:

house i

And an austere Sol Lewitt, Four-Sided Pyramid:


In honor of St. Valentine’s Day, a reminder:

“Love is not something that you can put chains on and throw into a lake. That’s called Houdini. Love is liking someone a lot.”


Homework 2

The assignment is this:

Section 2.2: 1, 3, 7, 10, 18, 29

Section 2.4: 17

Section 2.5: 2, 4, 6

It is due Thursday, 13 February 2014, at the start of class.

I know some of you might be wondering whether I’m going to wear a different plaid shirt every class for the whole semester. Let’s put it this way: you’ll only find out if you come to lecture every day. So don’t skip class, because you’ll miss out and everyone will laugh at you.

Ever heard the phrase “burning the candle at both ends”? It comes from a poem by Edna St. Vincent Millay:

“First Fig”

My candle burns at both ends;
It will not last the night;
But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends —
It gives a lovely light!


Pretty tight.

Maybe you also know the phrase “Hey who’s that Spanish guy with the guitar and the onions on the floor?” That comes from this painting, The Spanish Singer, by Édouard Manet (it’s at the Met in NYC):


Manet is also responsible for the bartender’s saw “What can I do you for?” which has its origin in his painting A Bar at the Folies-Bergères (Courtauld Gallery, London):


Okay I was lying with those last two; I just wanted an excuse to post a couple Manet pictures.


HW 1

Dear Everyone,

Homework the first has been posted in the Assignments tab. It is due Thursday, 6 February 2014, at the beginning of class.

Barnett Newman was an American Abstract Expressionist who is particularly noted for his “zip” paintings, which are characterized by vertical strips that contrast with the rest of the work. This one’s called “Vir Heroicus Sublimis” (“Man, Heroic and Sublime”). Newman wrote a related essay called “The Sublime Is Now” and you can read it here. I do think it’s a good idea for an artist whose work is as abstract as Newman’s to do some writing in order to expound on his artistic philosophy and sensibility. Seems only right. The painting is in the MoMA, so you have no excuse not to see it at some point in your life, especially since Stony Brook students get in for free. Just go to the information desk, show your ID and be like “Eyy whatup gurl lemme get a ticket” and they have to give you one. It’s the law.


“During the Middle Ages, probably one of the biggest mistakes was not putting on your armor because you were ‘just going down to the corner.'”

– not Barnett Newman

Final exam solutions

You may be interested to know that the final exam solutions are now available in the Documents tab. You may not be, though. I wouldn’t blame you. I hope to finish grading the exams by tomorrow night and have the final grades done by Friday. But as we all know, the best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft agley, so no promises.

p.s. I did the extra credit page, too — including the picture. Let’s just say I ain’t no Picasso
(Woman in Blue)
or Jacques-Louis David (The Coronation of Napoléon)
or Caravaggio (Judith Beheading Holofernes)
or Kasimir Malevich (Black Square)
Okay, maybe I am a Kasimir Malevich.

Final reminder / a sonnet / some more art for you to enjoy or ignore

The hour of reckoning is almost upon us. Your final exam will take place tomorrow, Tuesday 17 December 2013 from 8:00 a.m. to 10:45 a.m. in our regular classroom, Humanities 1003. Be there or be square (where square = satisfied with your current grade as described in previous announcements). No graphing calculators allowed. You can write on both sides of your cheat sheet.

The format is as follows: section one has two problems, both of which you must answer. Sections two through four have three problems each; you must complete two problems from each of these sections.I wrote a sonnet for inspirational purposes. It’s Petrarchan in spirit, if not exactly in form (I go ABBACDDC in the octet, rather than ABBAABBA).


No spirit wearies not, to bear the toll
Of daily life, small burdens, cruel misdeeds.
Unsated tastes and unacknowledged needs —
Too common, all too toxic to the soul.
And weakness gestates, stealthy and perverse
When granted berth by pettiness and greed.
It siphons strength; the impetus to lead
Subsides, our fate resigned to with a curse.
But let reserves of heroism swell!
Until the reservoir o’erflows its side.
Though latent genius seems always to dwell,
It tarries not beholden to the tide,
Nor to the stars. Assert control; live well.
Reject malaise and mount the world astride.


Caspar Friedrich was a 19th-century German Romantic landscape painter. He killed the game.

Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog:

The Sea of Ice:

Friedrich didn’t get too many props in his day, but by the turn of the twentieth century a lot of peeps were like “Ayo Caspar was pretty dope tho damn!” and he is now cited as an influence on many artists from that period forward, including Gerhard Richter, the man whom a recent Vanity Fair article declared “our most admired living artist” based upon the results of a survey of 100 art-world cognoscenti. The top six artists were, in order: Richter, Jasper Johns, Richard Serra, Bruce Nauman, Cindy Sherman, and Ellsworth Kelly. No big surprises there. Ai Weiwei, John Baldessari, Jeff Koons, Kara Walker, and James Turrell were among the also-rans. I was slightly surprised that Chuck Close didn’t garner any votes. His massive portraits at the Met are worth long looks, but you really have to see them in person.



Incidentally, Gerhard Richter gets hipster cred by virtue of the fact that Sonic Youth used his painting Kerze (“Candle”) as the cover art for their magnum opus Daydream Nation.

Office hours this week / exam 3 ready for pick up

    – I just received a delivery to my office of the graded exams, so if you want to come by and pick yours up, I’ll be here for a while — probably past my bedtime. If I leave the office I’ll put the exams on a chair outside my door. 

    – Tomorrow (Tuesday) I will hold my usual office hours from 3 – 5pm, and Wednesday I will have office hours from 2:30 – 5:30 pm. If you just want to come by to get your exam, that’s okay, too. I ain’t mad atcha.
    – I also recommend getting your old homework assignments from me so that you may study from them. I have a whole bunch in my office. On the bright side (literally!) they’ll be excellent tinder for a bonfire if you don’t collect them.
    – Just to be clear, I used the first eight homework grades to calculate those weighted average percentiles, but your final averages will be computed using the best eight homework grades. I only used the first eight because those are the ones that are graded
    – I know it might be getting annoying, but this is the last time I mention them, I swear: the course evaluation period ends today so if you’ve not yet done, please fill it out here. If you really don’t want to do it, that’s okay. I understand. I just wanted to mention it one last time in case some of you have been putting off doing it. We’re at 47.75% reporting, which is good (I think) but it’s tantalizingly close to half so I decided to risk coming off as a boor and put in a final plea. Thanks for tolerating it.

J.M.W. Turner was a boss:

He was the original “Painter of Light,” regardless of the trademark that bum Thomas Kinkade registered. Kinkade was one of the wackest artists of all time, but I admit he is kind of a fascinating figure. If he weren’t so omnipresent his work would be merely laughable, but his commercial success is such that seeing a Kinkade print actually makes me kind of angry and/or nauseous. And that fact, that I have a reaction to it, forces me to consider his merits as an artist. There’s a Thomas Kinkade store in Port Jefferson, right down Main Street from the decent cheese shop C’est Cheese. Makes me wanna holler.