Sunday, April 30, 2006

A Most Brutal Muse...

Have a look at Josh Gosfield's scientific breakdown of the artistic process here... (which is in no way related to the image you see at left). Seems this little movie is one part of a larger body of work called Saint of the
Month Club

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Sympathy for the Rebel...

The news reports that Keith Richards, the sixty-two year-old guitarismo extraordinaire of the Rolling Stones, fell out of a palm tree earlier this week and was hospitalized for treatment of a concussion. Some might say it's hard to be a sixty-two year old man and have to act like an eighteen year-old because everyone expects you to. But I say coconuts are delicious!

Sample "The Aging Young Rebel" by Ken Nordine & DJ Food right here.


Friday, April 28, 2006

The Brewery's artless walk...

What an incredible location. There on the northern outskirts of downtown LA, smack dab in a drab industrial wasteland, lies The Brewery Art Complex. Over 300 unique, live-in artist's lofts spread out over 21 buildings on 17 acres butted up against the very functioning rail road tracks. It's huge and it's dilapidated in all the right ways. The original brick brewery buildings with their walls covered in enigmatic signage make up the core of the complex, reminding us that once upon a time, commercial architecture was not hideous by nature. Additional low- tech modern structures made from poured concrete and corrugated metals compliment the grounds nicely. Sure it gets hotter than Hades there, especially when you have a tin roof over your head and no a/c in the middle of August... but hey, these are artists. Suffering releases creativity molecules...Right? If the Brewery's bi-annual art walk is any indication, the answer is: Wrong.

I've been going to these art walks for five or six years now, and each one is incrementally more disappointing than the next. The idea is you spend the day walking in and out of all the artist's studios seeing their work and drinking their cans of Tecate beer. It's pleasant enough, but don't come down here and expect to have your socks blown off. Word is that all the really good artists at the Brewery shut their doors because they don't want to be associated with all the doodlers and the lost rich kids who dabble in fingerpaints. Fair enough. But where's the community? Fitting that it's called an art "complex" not an art "colony." There is no unifying spirit here. There is no collective sense of bonding creative visions towards some larger idea or cause or mission. Hell, they don't have to save the world - the mission could be fame: we're the coolest art colony in the world. But as is, you get a deeply unsatisfying cocktail of isolated ego trips going nowhere... 300+ desperate cries of "I'm special!" that confirm just the opposite.

Let's rethink this incredible LA resource. Let's put together a team that goes around the world inviting artists and thinkers and other fiercely creative individuals to the Brewery to band together as part of a loose collective force... A thriving common ground for artmaking, creative play, open conversation, and critical action. These are the kind of think tanks we need to balance the thorny likes of The Heritage Foundation and The Cato Institute. Functional and vocal arts collectives are of vital importance to unborn ideas and progress everywhere, and we're simply missing the boat.

Now that I've slandered the Brewery into a pile hops, let me say something nice. For me, the queen of the Brewery will always be Carlee Fernandez. Also hats off to Christian Ristow, Babbette Hines and The Found Photo, Bookfinger, and SuperHappyBunny.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

And Bardot created Búzios...

It's good to sit and recall the last time you were happy for a sustained period of time. Memory haunts us with past fears and anxieties far too often for us not to actively benefit from the good times gone by. First, you should probably distinguish between the happiness derived from people and the happiness derived from places. With people you like and love, the "happy" weaves in and out of small human moments, graudually winding like ivy around the arrow of time. You feel its presence, but it can be very hard to measure this happiness because you are so deeply in it. It's much easier to assess the happiness that comes from a place. It's less complex, more external and observable. A good place to start.

Búzios, a small Brazilian fishing village gone a few notches glam, is a place where I once found great happiness. Check out the lay of the land...

Each little nook and cranny you see along the coast of this tiny peninsula (located a couple hours north of Rio de Janeiro) is home to a different beach. Some empty, others full of slow but vibrant Brazilian life. Each breathtakingly special in its own way.

Meanwhile, the town center is sophisticated, perhaps a hair too upscale for its own good. After all, it was Brigitte Bardot who came here in 1964 and declared Búzios the St. Tropez of South America. The ensuing celebrity blessings over the years have certainly upped the property values and sucked a certain portion of indigenous culture out of the peninsula. Normally that would outrage me. Here, there actually seems to be a harmonious balance of economies and classes and nations. A democracy of simple living and a pervasive, free-floating joy, available to all in the ocean air.

Step off the shops of main street, Rua das Pedras, and you are back among the fishing villagers who seem to genuinely like having sunburned strangers from all over the world tramp across their front yards. Several of them invited me inside their homes for a drink and a chat in broken English. Others just wanted to kick a soccer ball or make music on homemade instruments. I feel safe generalizing: the Brazilians are an incredibly friendly and soulful people. They spot our suspicious urban armor a mile off and they laugh, not at us, but with us. How did we get this way? As cliche as it sounds ,"Relax and Enjoy" is the unspoken command from the locals. It's an infectious attitude.

The food is outstanding, the best in Brazil many say. The shopping seems to keep people engaged for days (not my thing personally though). In town, many of the cobblestone streets are closed to cars and shaded by magnificent trees that pre-date flight. Out of town, the roads are barely paved and full of people wandering from one secret beach to the next. Some working, some playing. Always hard to tell. Something is always going on - a festival on the beach or an old film playing in a garden, a family stuck inside their car off a steep ravine, an old man with a wreath of palm fronds around his head smoking grass with a movie starlet. The place is just big enough so that you can set your own levels, find your balance between humbleness and fabulousness, which is important when cultivating the happy.

At some point in my six day stay in Búzios, I got seriously sick. Some lettuce leaf must have been washed in tap water. I lay in a hammock, sweating and oozing from everywhere, for two days with a fever of 104 in 100 degree weather. I thought I was going to die. And then it passed. It felt good to be alive. There was an all night religious festival and people were swimming in one of the calm, sandy bays at four in the morning. There were fires on the beach and dancing to alternating Latin and African rhythms. Children were singing and taught sleepy bodies of all skin colors dotted the shoreline as the sun came up. It's hopelessly prosaic, I know. But there was something rare in the air, a collective spirit that wouldn't budge, one that sent lables like "locals" and "tourists" flying off to JFK where they could hash out their meanings with portly authorities.

Full disclosure: This all happened to me nine years ago. Can't say what's become of Búzios since. Jaded old solopsistic me will assume it's lost much of the charm that made it sparkle. These places don't last. If anyone has an update for the worse, please don't tell me. The memory suits me fine.

Take a good dog's-eye tour of Búzios here.


Wednesday, April 26, 2006


(click image)

Many of you will remember this New Yorker cover. "New Yorkistan" was a brilliant concept through and through. The "Khooks" of the East Village. The "Moolahs" of Wall Street. The "Fattushis" of Brooklyn. The first week in December 2001 (when this issue came out) was probably a good time for a laugh.

But what you see above is simply fascinating. It's no joke, and it could have happened if say the Allied leadership wasn't up to facing Hitler's expanded version of manifest destiny.

I look around today and I'm not seeing any Winston Churchills or FDRs finessing our way through unbelievably treacherous times. I see might making right and right frequently being wrong. "Neu York" may have passed us by, but as far as alternate-histories go, are we really so sure that our clever New Yorkistan shower curtains will still be hanging in every possible future?

(More Neu York info and maps by Melissa Gould here)

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Know your Biomes...

There are five places on earth with so-called "Mediterranean" or "Dry Summer Subtropical" or "Chaparral" climates. These are typically warm, dry places with most of the precipitation occurring in winter. One example would be, wait for it... the coastal lands bordering the Mediterranean Sea. Another would be California. Can you name the other three? Hint: They fall between 30 and 45 degrees latitude (N&S) and tend to be located on the west coast of continents. Answers here.

Monday, April 24, 2006

The Loquats are here...

Once a year, for about two weeks, the dark green loquat tree in the back yard explodes with thousands of yellow-orange fruits. About the size of a teardrop-shaped golf ball. Their flavor and consistency might be described as the point where a peach meets a grape. They are extremely sweet with a sour skin and the pits (or pit, sometimes just one) are beautiful - like small brown polished stones. Don't know if you can get these at your local grocer, but my year would be incomplete without them.

(Photos by Paul Gachot)

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Société Anonyme...

(Katherine Dreier w. Marcel Duchamp, West Redding, Connecticut 1936)

"As an American I like to keep the freedom of choosing that which speaks to me."
-Katherine Dreier, Nov 30, 1948


Saturday, April 22, 2006

Twins in the Cinemaah...

<-Les Valseuse

A Zed and Two Noughts




Friday, April 21, 2006

Backgammon Set Up (for the forgetful)...

There is nothing quite like an outdoor game of backgammon at sunset with a cold drink after a long summer day. If you're in a betting mood, you'll want to wear something ill-fitting and you should try to make your hair look fairly intimidating (like good old Dennis Carlston's). Or, for less competitive approach, wear some really WASPy clothes and no socks, hair wet and slicked back. Ladies can always opt for this look. There you go. Have a great setting and some pensive people milling about, but behind you or in your peripheral vision. You've got work to do.

Now one problem you may encounter is remembering how to set up the board. Don't let this embarrass you. You'd be surprised how many people shy away from backgammon just because they can't remember how that damn initial set up goes. Breathe easy. You've got other things to cram into your brainpan. The minutiae of leisure isn't one of them.

Here's the set up... There are 24 points on the board. Typically, the point on your bottom right is your #1. Going right to left, or clockwise, points #1-6 are your home board, where you want all your pieces to end up. Point #24 is the one exactly opposite point #1. Put two of your pieces, or "checkers," on point #24, five on point #13, three on point #8, and five on point #6. Obviously, your opponents checkers should mirror the position of yours. Got it?

Here's your mantra: "2/24, 5/13, 3/8, 5/6"
Say it over five times. Again. Wait an hour. Repeat.

Or perhaps like me, you're the visual type. I can only remember phone numbers by punching imaginary digits in the air.

Here you go:

Bring those checkers home and bear them off before the person sitting across from you does. Remember, a "Gammon" is when one player bears off all their checkers (i.e. wins) while the other player has borne off none. And a "Backgammon" occurs when the losing party still has a checker on the bar or in the other player's home board. If you are betting (i.e. using the die with all the numbers on it) you'll definitely want to avoid losing in either of these situations.

The rest you'll have to figure out on your own... study your board and "be" someone. Like any of these people.
Or Lindsay Lohan.
She likes backgammon too.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Uses of Disenchantment...

"The Future is Green: The Moment of Truth," Al Gore's Vanity Fair article on global warming, is something everyone should read.

Yes, my fellow Americans, it is somewhat annoying to read this piece, indeed, when Al, a very learned man, with transcendent love in his heart for all living things, who was vice-president at a time when we were actually beginning, at the very least, to save the gravely endangered environment, writes ever such long, very long, and dramatic (as in: pertaining to drama), sentences with so many, ever so many, asides (which reminds me of a Shakespeare quotation that I won't get into here, or should I, no, methinks not), so that you (as in "one" not just you yourself) can hardly remember, but you will if you try, exactly what crucial idea began the sentence indeed. That said, it is an important piece in the global warming puzzle.

Here's my take: The US and the rest of the world, are enchanted by the American Dream. And by enchanted I mean under a spell, doped up, whacked out, behaving badly, and incapable of thinking straight. It's not surprising that we are destroying our planet, afterall, we hardly know it exists. Our lives here in the so-called first world are manufactured and virtual. The planet is just the substrate onto which we affix our selfish needs and manifest hallucinations. It is time for us to disenchant. To disengage from our destructive ways and wake up to reality as a species. If you believe Al Gore, our future depends on it.

Disenchantment won't be easy. In the case of global warming many have tried to throw cold water in our faces. For those who have seen the effects (those who have pulled drowned polar bears from the sea because the distance from the ice shelf to the land has widened to over 30 miles in places) and have desperately sounded the alarm, imagine their shock when our country's leadership quietly stuffs a wad of newspaper between the clapper and the bell. Why is this? Gore asks. "Are they resisting the truth because they know that the moment they acknowledge it they will face a moral imperative to act? Is it simply more convenient to ignore the warnings?" Al wants the implied "yes" answers to those questions to hang as a badge of shame on the Bush administration. But Gore is missing the point: most of us are ignoring the ill effects of living the American dream, the Bush administration is just echoing this sentiment. The problem is not government, it is human nature.

Later, Gore quotes Churchill who warned a pre-WWII England of a rising Nazi tide by saying that "the era of procrastination, of half-measures, of soothing and baffling expedients, of delays, is coming to a close. In its place we are entering a period of consequences." This is quite possibly true. We may be at the moment of truth with the environment.

But I'll tell you what's really bugging me. It's that niggling human nature thing again. You can stuff all the scientific data and dead polar bears there are up my wazoo and I'll nod my head in agreement with all the bad things that suggests. But before I glue solar panels to the roof and put French fry grease in my engine, I can't help but be stopped in my tracks by one ugly thought: Al Gore, for whatever reason, lost the election in 2000. Is this a man who is trumpeting a cause (and perhaps overplaying the notes) in an attempt to establish some semblance of victory and legacy for his bruised ego? Is this a concerned man or a the "'it' boy of Sundance" politician who's party needs to galvanize its members fast? Trust me, I hate myself for thinking this way. Al Gore seems genuine. The world is in trouble. But once again, the familiar stink of politics casts doubt where action and awareness should be. Disenchanting won't be easy.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006


Long post mysteriously erased before I could post it... So instead, some quick helicopter porn to start your day. As you can see I'm partial to the Eurocopters, though McDonnell Douglas makes some cool models, and who can forget this amazing Bell 47 whirlibird. Basically the more prehistorically insectoid, the better.

Helicopters are exacly as beautiful and dangerous as they should be. I just wish there were more interesting jobs available on board these mad contraptions for us civilians. I've tried to pilot them but it's too stressful keeping a plastic bubble strapped to a lawnmower afloat. I prefer to DJ, take pictures, wax poetic about arial topography, save damsels in distress, and drop water balloons on surfers. Action, search and rescue fantasies, quasi-military fluorescent uniforms, speeding over mountain and sea, with a bird's eye view of the naked city in between. The physicality of it all. What a rush...

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

What's up?

As happy as I was on Easter to stuff my face, soak my liver, and meet new people, I can't help but feeling a little sad about completely ignoring the spiritual aspect of the day. I'm not practicing any religion at the moment, but that doesn't prevent me from feeling the presence of something beyond the phenomenal world. When these big religious holidays roll around, why not sidestep the marketing extravaganza and make them spiritually relevent in whatever way works for you?

It's a shame that many children are exposed to spirituality through church or temple or some bland ritualistic schooling that requires scratchy outfits and uncomfortable shoes. Where I grew up, kids thought religion was fruity and very uncool. When a kid was known to have a religious parent, that kid often became an object of ridicule, as if they were tainted by some disease, and therefore not fully available to bask in the endless lucre and sensual pleasures of the material world. Many of us went to Sunday school or temple or where-ever, but as far as I can recall, those were social gatherings where fat boys in blue blazers stuffed fire crackers into frog's asses and skinny girls in ribbons and bows whispered secrets.

I think most religions are problematic and miss the point. But to allow the spiritual instinct to atrophy and seal-up is just about the worst form of self-sabotage there is. To lose sight of the strangeness of being alive and the possibility of a God or gods or something imponderable to our limited consciousness is worse than the ostrich with its head in the ground. It is a life of sleepwalking, ruled by a repressed fear of chaos and the unknown. This is what keeps us busily obsessed with the microscopic details of the material world, ignoring what is really in front of us with eyes wide shut.

(illustration by Foder Rojankovsky)

Monday, April 17, 2006

Pirate's cove at Sausalito...

I overheard Sarah talking to someone about the pirates of Sausalito yesterday, and I'd almost forgotten about our brush with them last Fall. Now many know Sausalito as the affluent seaside suburb just on the other side of the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco. Most people get off the ferry and make a left - towards the cutesy ice cream parlors, jewelry and trinket shops, and so-called art galleries. But the adventurous few will take a right at the elephant monument and walk along the waterfront, cutting through the army barracks and past the industrial sites and wooden boat-builders and the bay model diorama until you eventually reach the houseboat docks or "gates."

Now most of these houseboat enclaves are spiffy, up to code numbers, the wharfs are packed with seaworthy and well-appointed floating trophy-homes for the rich. But keep going, all the way until you reach The Gates Co-op, a ramshackle and waterlogged shantytown that looks like it's sinking before your eyes. These floating homes in the brackish waters of Richardson Bay are made from old boat parts and other "found" structures and they are ugly (or beautiful) as dead barnacles. Electricity crackles along the maze of half submerged walkways through a network of thousands of frayed wires in a massive spiderweb array. Folk art is everywhere, an old tractor becomes a fire-breathing dragon, rusty portholes and hubcaps become tambourines. Everyone seems to be an artist or a musician or a botanist or a repairs and maintenance person. Hippies, yes, but with less flower and more power. Everyone and everything seems to need a good scrubbing, thought it is perhaps the crust of time that keeps this community together and focused and glazed with a sun-baked patina.

Here, skulking along the crooked waterways, in a striped shirt and red trousers, you might just find the lanky likes of Penny Woodstock, the matron of this wayward community of outcasts and, yes, pirates. Think Keith Richards meets Marianne Faithful. Penny will greet you on the dock at ten in the morning with a beer in hand and a swashbuckling story of what trouble she got into last night. She will size you up - "ah, a quiet type, but perhaps not so smart as you think you are" - and laugh a shredded nicotine laugh like you'd been friends since the 60's. She's polite in an English way (which she is), but always keeps conversation at a rolling boil. You might spot one of her handsome daughters pushing a wheelbarrow full of groceries or booty into a wreck of a boat that Robinson Caruso would turn down. You won't see any of the men, as they are sleeping or out at sea finding adventure and swindling yuppies out of their chiantis. One thing is clear: This has been going on for a long, long time.

Of course the Gates co-op is in violation of hundreds if not thousands of codes, laws and rules of common sense. Penny will tell you of the endless struggles, the fines, the arrests, the pay-offs, the resistances, and the eventual total exasperation of local authorities who throw their hands up and wait for these charismatic anarchists to sink or swim. For some this will be a place they want to immediately get the hell away from. For others, it will touch a nerve, a romantic pang of yearning for a simpler life of give and take, art and community, swearing and singing, land and sea.

Here are a few excerpts from a good book on the history and culture of squatting and the lawless, seafaring characters of the Richardson Bay.

(photo by Paul Gachot)

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Happy Easter, Passover, Spring, etc...

Can you believe 2006 is almost a third over? Time moves mysteriously. Large chunks of time zoom by, and yet when you have two hungry hours to kill before your dinner reservation, as Sarah and I did last night, you remember just how long a minute is. If timing is everything, how come it's so unfathomable?

(Rabbit on the Lawn, Beijing Natural History Museum, by Julie Dermansky)

Saturday, April 15, 2006

This is the end...

The very undead Jim Morrison strolls to the beach to read some new poems to the girls...

So yesterday, I am running on the treadmill like a sweaty hamster, the usual non-time, non-existence of the gym in full effect. It's strangely meditative that way. You wouldn't want to see a picture. They play music videos, mostly a rotation of unlistenable rejects from the 80's and 90's, but occasionally they will throw in some random oddballs: James Brown, Iggy Pop, Jane's Addiction, old Bowie, or The Chemical Brothers, who have some truly extraordinary visuals. Maybe the regular video guy was sick yesterday because I was seeing things I'd never seen before. Roxy Music, Led Zeppelin, Sex Pistols and strangest of all, The Doors, a band I had literally forgotten about. You'd think in LA that would be hard, but unless you live in Venice, or above a Hollywood Blvd souvenir shop, those classic rock days are long gone. The streets were hosed clear of bell bottoms and So-Cal stoner culture well over a decade ago.

At the risk of embarrassing myself, I'll say this: The Doors were on to something. Not Jim Morrison the preening poser, but the ideas fueling the band and the music as a whole, when they first arrived on the scene. Before they became a tired cliche, they had something primal and dark and willing that cut hard against the prevailing gooey grain of the late 60's. Something vital, bacchanalian, fiery and doomed, like a burning strip of magnesium. For a moment, they were the precursor to punk, but all too soon they became a bloated mess - a thousand Parisian bathtub loads of pomposity and pseudo-profundity. The world will always have its way with your image.

The Doors' song they played at the gym was "The Unknown Soldier." It was a live performance and it was horrible in every regard. There's an especially lame bit of theater where the guitarist pretends to shoot Morrison, and he falls to the stage writhing and screaming like he got his finger slammed in a car door. And I couldn't stop laughing, there, running in my Adidas, remembering in full flashback just how great and important all that seemed when I was 15. And I don't know if it was the endorphins or what, but no matter how badly The Doors have aged, I still have great respect for those kids up there, 40 years ago, challenging their day in a big way with really nothing more than a couple of ideas stolen from books. That and their vainglory and their mediocre songs and their bad-ass white boy grooves.

Cut to this morning, a quick scan of CNN turns up this. Remember, yesterday I had forgotten they existed. Today, I learn that the band is actively looking for ways to keep the spirit of the Doors alive for a new generation. And how exactly do the remaining Doors intend to pass on their unruly, notorious, outsider legacy, and keep it unwholesome and pure, in the tradition of Nietzsche, Poe, Baudelaire, Rimbaud, Verlaine, Vicious, and a hundred other orgiastic rebels? (Besides paying off the video jockey at Gold's that is...)

"The history will sell itself," says Jeff Rabhan of the Firm, which represents the Doors for licensing and in other management issues. The article goes on to explain, "That means spreading word to the younger market through remixes, videogames, high-end clothing and online and mobile platforms. Meanwhile, the older, existing audience will be targeted through coffee-table books, boxed sets featuring 5.1 surround-sound versions of the group's first six studio albums and more. An interactive experience in Las Vegas, a touring memorabilia attraction and a filmed documentary are intended to appeal to all fans."

Now that's some dark poetry. Way to break on through to the other side guys! You kicked open the doors of perception and charged ahead to the mobile platforms. You know, Jim Morrison should really quit pretending to be dead and put an act together with Siegfried and Roy before the rest of his bandmates monopolize on all the transcendent fun.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Master Blaster: Ultra Sonic Weapons...

Do you remember when pirates attacked the cruise liner "Spirit" off the coast of Somalia back in November? (Refresher here.) The pirate aspect of that story got so much attention that it was mentioned almost in passing that they were thwarted with a sonic weapon (and rightfully so - nothing feeds the imagination quite like a Somali pirate). Prior to this, my only memory of sonic weapon usage was back in the first Iraqi war where ultra sonic weapons brought charging Iraqi foot soldiers to their knees, vomiting out their guts before they were bulldozed into the sands of time.

So what the hell is a sonic weapon? The main problem for us civilians is that no one knows exactly where to draw the line between science fiction and what is currently sitting on the seat of some armored vehicle rumbling through Tikrit this afternoon. Some of these weapons have been described as sonic bullets, sonic grenades, sonic mines, or sonic cannons. Some make a focused beam of sound or ultrasound; some make an area field of sound. One concept is to blowout someone's eardrums open and render them imbalanced (and in agony) - this is pretty much considered science fiction in the open air, but using extreme sonar waves to bleed the ears of underwater targets is a longstanding practice. The more prevalent concept is to cause extreme nausea and discomfort using extremely high or low sound frequencies.

Wikipedia states, "The U.S. DOD has demonstrated phased arrays of infrasonic emitters. The weapon, about the size of a truck, usually consists of a device that generates sound at about 7 Hz. The output from the device is routed (by pipes) to an array of open emitters, which are usually one wavelength apart. At this frequency, armor and concrete walls and other common building materials vibrate, and therefore provide no defense. The frequency is chosen to be near the resonant frequency of internal organs, causing illness, deafness, and internal injuries."

Wikipedia also states, "The possibility of a device that produces frequency that causes vibration of the eyeballs, and therefore distortion of vision, was apparently confirmed by the work of engineer Vic Tandy while attempting to demystify a "haunting"’ in his laboratory in England. This "‘spook" was characterised by a feeling of unease and vague glimpses of a grey apparition. Some detective work implicated a newly installed extractor fan that, Tandy found, was generating infrasound of 18.9 Hz, .3 Hz, and 9 Hz - which, combined, generate a frequency of 0.56 Hz."

And don't forget this morsel: The 2002 French film Irreversable used (real, not fictional) extremely low-frequency sound during the opening 20 to 30 minutes to create a state of disorientation and unease in the audience.

But back to our pirates. Supposedly, they were stopped in their tracks by an LRAD (long range sonic device) that was on board the "Spirit". Since when did cruise liners carry these? Can't seem to find anything about that except this little item. Of course, It's only a matter of time before the pirates don't get ahold of one of these master blasters. Fairness in all things.

Certainly we're looking at the crowd control of the future here. So next time you go to a massive street protest or a post Lakers game parking lot stampede, and your eyeballs start quivering or your eardrums explode, don't panic... relax: you've just been zapped by an ultrasonic weapon silly!

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Memories of the Space Age...

Just another fond look back
to when looking forward
was something to
look forward to.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

The Iran Safety Net...

What you are looking at here are not enriched Uranium atoms breaking apart in a nuclear reactor. It is a graphic visualization of the political blogosphere and the patterns of blue vs. red blog coverage of the 2004 U.S. Election put together by HP Labs and The goal was to measure the degree of interaction between liberal and conservative blogs, and to study how often they referred to one another and to quantify the overlap in the topics they discussed, both within the liberal and conservative communities, and also across communities. Good graph. Ed Tufte would be proud.

Now that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran is stepping up to the world microphone with some very new material (and some very pretty flowers ), it is time for us to rethink our routine. Obviously, the Republicans are going to use the ongoing quagmire in Iraq coupled with the escalating tensions of a nuclear Iran to try and ensure themselves a victory in 2008. (If we get there that is...) Will we be duped into another 8 year regime of inept leadership and time reversal? It's hard to stop a wave.

What is still shocking to me is how silent and ineffective the Democrats are. Their only chance of defeating a an incumbent party mid-war is to vocalize a take-over plan now, and to make it resonate across the nation (and globe). If Hillary Clinton is a "shoe-in" then why is she not stomping that shoe and galvanizing a disillusioned majority of the country? Is she playing the don't-dare-speak-of-an-ambition-before-you-know-you-can-make-it-happen card? I don't pretend to know the intricacies of political strategy, but I suspect that making no move, remaining silent, is not the way towards a better future...

On that note, here's another supercool graphic depicting possible moves on a chess board, as worked out in nanoseconds by the remarkable strategy bot Thinking Machine 4. Thinking Machine 4 in '08? Has a ring to it...


Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Only 363 shopping days until...

...Cheeta's 75th birthday. That's right, the old monkey is turning 75 next April 9th. Cheeta, as in the ape that played Tarzan's sidekick in the 30s and 40s, is the oldest chimp in the world. Cheeta spends his golden years out in Palm Springs living with six other chimpanzees on a private primate sanctuary. Though (vaguely) remembered for his on screen performances, Cheeta has won no film awards until just two days ago. Fox News reports that "Representatives from a Spanish film festival showed up for Sunday's party to present Cheeta with an International Comedy Film Festival of Peniscola prize." (That sounds wrong, unless there's a "Peniscola" in Spain? Oh those wacky Fox guys).

But what is really of interest here is that Cheeta spends his days painting "ape-stract" paintings (and apparently watching some television too). Samples of artwork here and here and here. Sort of Cy Twombly meets pachyderm painting with a few Pollock splatter references thrown in for the critics. Of course the paintings are whisked away from under the artist's brush and sold at auction to keep the sanctuary operating. So maybe Cheeta doesn't really choose to paint as much as his owner insists upon it? Why not? Seems he's got him doing the household chores already.

I love an ape. And actually, I met Cheeta once in his 60's. But does all this cutesy animal exploitation - or should I say... "Ape-sploitation" - kind of make you a little nauseated? I've just spent fifteen minutes clipping this all together and I feel like I need a shower and a Dramamine.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Damien's Dots...

Since they first covered the walls of an infamous 1988 London art exhibition called "Freeze," Damien Hirst has in many ways claimed ownership of the colored spot. His spot paintings (most of which are actually painted by assistants) have been to Mars and decorated cars and bars. In 1999 Hirst sued British Airways, claiming an advertisement for the airline, "Go," bore a resemblance to his spot paintings. (Watch out Twister!)

The spot paintings' spotty origins trace back to one of Marcel Duchamp's first ready-mades (Pharmacy, 1914) in which he painted small, colored dot-people on top of an existing landscape painting. To Duchamp these figures represented the colored pill bottles generally seen in pharmacy windows at that time. Pharmacies are also one of Hirst's recurring emblematic themes.

I like the spot paintings mostly because they capture a complex memory from my youth. There were these little pastel colored candies that came glued on rolls of paper. I can't remember what they're called now, but I hated them.
{UPDATE: Candy Buttons}.
They had the most cloyingly sweet and medicinal taste at the same time, and yet the packaging was so compelling - dainty candy not wrapped but affixed to paper where it was exposed to the elements, the germs, the brutality of life. I remember many a plastic jack-o-lantern stuffed with yards of that tooth-rotting stuff, not eating it but not being able to throw it out.

"Yes, yes, but where's the animal embalming!" you ask? Here is the latest...

("LSD" by Damien Hirst)

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Atlas and the weight of the world...

Atlas, the Titan god, is frequently depicted bearing the earth on his shoulders. This is completely wrong... Mostly the error of overworked advertising creatives rushing by Rockefeller Center in the 1930s, who saw a statue bearing a large hollow orb and assumed that it was our planet. Unfortunately, they were only projecting their own worldweariness and geocentric ideas of endurance. (The hubris of suggesting that the earth is more of a load than the heavens is probably the ultimate form of intergalactic bigotry and narcissism.)

Back to Atlas. Before the Olympian gods came to power, they were engaged in a brutal war with the Titans. In the kerfuffle, many of Atlas' brothers and ladyfriends defected to the Olympian side, leaving him and the few remaining Titans powerless. After the defeat, the Olympian king, Zeus, sought to punish Atlas (who was a very strong guy) by banishing him to the mountains of the western most corner of Earth and making him carry the vault of the heavens (believed to be spherical in shape) on his shoulders for the rest of time. (At the time, the western most point known to man would have been what we now call Morocco, home of... The Atlas Mountains).

Later Greek Mythology also casts Atlas as an ace astronomer who knew the map of the stars by heart, and who could also explain the zodiacal mysteries of the constellations to other earthbound souls. Because of this talent, we call a collection of maps an atlas.

For the ultimate blog on maps please visit The Map Room.

("Atlas" by Maxfield Parrish)

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Self-Dramatizers and Self-Extinguishers...

This is sort of my twist on Jung's old introvert/extravert whammy. To refresh: Introverts withdraw energy from the world and tend to be quieter and more interested in their own internal world. Think Marcel Proust. Extraverts direct their energy outward toward other people and action in the external world. Think Bill Clinton.

So... Self-dramatizers are people who (often elaborately) play out their internal fantasies and neuroses in reality. They are big, mesmerizing and potentially dangerous personalities, slightly oblivious, prone to lies, mythmaking, are generally unemployable and rely on trust funds or benefactors to keep their bubble intact. Think Zero Mostel/Max Bialystock. Self-Extinguishers are highly sensitive people who are hyperaware of themselves and the world around them. They are careful, non-impulsive, and self-censoring often to the point of a kind of invisibility. They too have internal fantasies and neuroses that well up and must be extinguished or diffused before they begin to show in the external world. They are generally unemployable and rely on trust funds or benefactors to keep their bubble intact. Think young Sissy Spacek.


Friday, April 07, 2006

Interspecies communication...

Dr. Doolittle tried to talk with the animals. Gorillas are learning sign language. But who says a word-based language is the way to go? Dance seems like a more honest form of communication between a human and a beast. Our shared ground is a strong sense of motion, body language and the tiny fluxuations that occur within the other's nervous system. Do you dance with your dog or cat when no one is looking? Then you know what I mean. Those are some good conversations.

But it's not all about the jitterbug. There are deadly serious showdowns and longstanding gripes between species that require more final arguments. That bulls have a beef with us humans, that they instinctively hate us for eons of butchering and consuming their flesh, should come as no surprise. As humans, we invite them to challenge us in the ring, to express their anger in a balletic fight to the death. Granted it is our turf, our rules, but you could argue that the bulls and the cows aren't exactly offering theirs. As horrific as the carnage may be, bullfighting cuts deep in to our psyche, and at the very least is a dramatic reminder of our history of lording over the animals, and of the unseen daily mega-slaughter that keeps our burgers flipping on the grill.

On the other side of the fence, Natalie Jeremijenko's Ooz project is one fascinating experiment in interspecies communication where the animals have the advantage.

Like a zoo, Ooz is a series of sites where animals and humans interact. But it's a place where animals interact with humans by choice rather than because they're caged. Throughout the Ooz communication habitats (horses, ducks, water striders and bats), the animals can learn to control the human spectators by pressing the appropriately designed button or lever that communicates their wishes into human speech. For example, a button may trigger the recorded voice: "Yo! If you are going to stare, how ‘bout inserting 25cents and delivering a dose of that beaver biscuit!"

More Lucien Clergue photography here.

Learn to bullfight here.

Dr. Temple Grandin, the "real" Dr. Doolittle, info here.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

East meets West...

Enjoy Masami Teraoka's saucy updates on Hokusai's prints.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Optima Durant...

R. Crumb may be old news, but find me a better social critic and I'll find you a Guantanamo Bay detainee. I still find great solace in his particular brand of humor and horror.

Opitma Durant is the motto of the grade school I attended in my yonker years. It means "The Best Endure." But looking around at my peers, I am tempted to ask, "Endure what?" Ulcers? Drug addiction? Plush nepotistic banking jobs? Self loathing? Bird Flu? Life on Earth? What exactly am I supposed to be enduring?

Lately, not a day goes by where I'm not somehow roped into to an existential camel clutch with the meaning of life, (the 78 year terrestrial experience that is, not the great 107 minute movie). So far the meaning of life has the upper hand. But I figure a few more months of contemplating my navel and I'll be ready for that rat bastard.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Three least favorite words...


Beware friends. These three little words combine to form the most noxious concoction known to the world of publishing. So morbidly toxic I didn't dare include a picture with today's post. In Special Advertising Supplements you will find the land of bland hand models who fondle wares and goods and tout getaways and gadgets all under the guise of actual content. Of course no one falls for it. You see the desperation, right? Turn the equation around for a second, when was the last time you saw content poorly disguised as advertising? And what the hell is so "special" about a special advertising suplement anyway? The fact that some marketing genius blew a lot of cash on birdcage liner? And "supplement"? Are these supposed to be good for me like vitamins?

SAS's are meant to be quickly thumbed through and ignored if they have the audacity to appear in the pages of a magazine, or if they are inserted into your daily paper, they go right in the fireplace where they can actually be of some service. Above all, never, ever, call any number, enter any sweepstakes, reply to any survey, or request a free gift from any of these cheap and soulless bloodsuckers. I wept when the Berlin wall came down, but I will fight to the death to keep in place every boundary, crocodile moat, mine field, and mountain range that separates the bounty of actual content from the scourge of advertising and marketers.

Common wisdom states that advertising keeps economies thriving and somehow makes civilizations appear "civilized." OK, this I (reluctantly) accept. But where do we draw the lines? Does every single molecule in the solar system have to have a billboard etched into it with lasers? Is every breath of air for sale?

For more thoughts on a world less dominated by advertising and marketing culture, and for practical and meaningful advice on culture jamming, why not spend some quality time over at Adbusters.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Hanging on your thumbs...

Capitalist cultures such as ours have no shortage of attention grabbing items and diversions to fill our time. As consumers of this manufactured culture it is easy to feel like our role in it is to pass judgment on the stuff around us. We become thumb wielding Eberts and Roepers and dead serious authorities on the subject of our personal likes and our dislikes. We begin dividing the world into things that are good and bad based on our taste. We are attracted to others who seem to reflect our biases and resistances.

Within this realm there are two important types of reactions that serve as pronouncements of something's badness. They are radically different and best exemplified with an er, example... Let's say two people go to see the latest blockbuster movie from Hollywood which turns out not to be very good at all. Leaving the theater, one asks the other did you like it? "No, it was bad." comes the reply. "Did you like it?" "Yes, it was bad." comes the second reply. Simple enough, seems they both didn't like the movie. But actually the difference between a "No-bad" and a "Yes-bad" reaction is huge and has enormous ramifications on our worldview.

A "No-bad" implies a conscious rejection and a strong resistance to the entirety of the movie or sandwich or idea or whatever. As if to say, That's not going to make it into my well guarded sphere of goodness or "likes". A "Yes-bad" person on the other hand is accepting. They see the flaws and whatever else makes something bad, and they do not resist them. That person might even like the bad movie or sandwich or idea, having seen some good in it or at least having learned a lesson about what makes something less than great or good. Its badness doesn't trip any alarms and the idea of resisting or rejecting flat out seems way too strong to the "Yes-bad" person. They are not defending a sphere of goodness.

My opinion is that the "yes-bad" person has the advantage in our culture since they are less threatened by the world around them, and have less energy invested in "petty" resistances. Certainly this is not true in other places where there are totalitarian regimes of oppression and censorship. In these cultures the "No-bad" person has the advantage, for the act of resisting and rejecting is directly tied to survival and basic human rights and ultimately the betterment of circumstances.

And of course there are instances where resistance is just a plain old good idea, as this pit bull who met a porcupine might attest.

And while we're talking about dogs... A healthy dog tied to a moving cart has two choices: Trot or don't trot. No matter how much the dog may or may not not want to trot, there is no case in which not trotting is less painful than trotting. In other words, the universe is taking us somewhere and our free will gives us the power to resist that course. Usually our resistance is in vain, and it just leads to pain and suffering. But sometimes there is a type of visionary resistance, and this can lead to a snowballing succession of changes that make the resistance entirely worth the pain and suffering. At which point the universe laughs and says, good boy (or girl), and throws us a bone.


Sunday, April 02, 2006

Vlad & the Brazilian Space Program...

Did you know that Brazil has the most advanced space program in Latin America?

And did you know that it was almost entirely shut down after an attempt to launch South America's first satellite ended in a horrible explosion killing 21 people in August of 2003? And that Vladamir Putin has recently stepped in to salvage the agency and bring it back up to speed? And finally, that yesterday, Brazil's first man in space, Marcos C. Pontes, a 43-year-old father of two who enjoys weightlifting and watercolor painting, floated into the International Space Station bearing what else? A Brazilian flag, a soccer jersey, and a beaming smile. I don't know about any of the political ramifications here, but I do know that the Soviets (oops, I mean the Russians) are damn good with those space programs. If Vlad Putin wants to invest in your space program, you'd should definitely let him. And let him play with your dolphins too. He thinks they're really smart and cute.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

That's what friends are for...

I can always count on my outspoken pal Johannes to toss my half-baked ideologies into the woodchipper. On the phone this morning, I mentioned that there are some people who go and get rich by being shrewd and exploiting the marketplace and others who accidentally become rich as a result of pursuing their passions much to the delight of (paying) others. Reasonable, if not profound. (Actually, I stole the line from some ridiculous horoscope, so, mind your sources). I also said (again based on the horoscope) that of the two types, I would definitely fall in the latter camp. Johannes was quiet until I finished then said that this was a completely "redneck" thing to say, and that anytime I have such thoughts I should "take a breath and not say them." He said that most of us unsatisfied souls struggling to realize ourselves end up being no more than useless self-flaggellators lost in our own self-limiting mind games, and that he new a good shop where we could all buy cat-o-nine tails and whip ourselves bloody on the streets of LA. I suppose he was gently implying that one should not entertain such "either/or" fantasies, or impose strict rules as to how life should (must) unfold. It was a sobering remark. I am not a masochist, but show me a person who couldn't benefit from a cold (rhetorical) slap in the face every now and then, and I'll show you a cadaver. Oh and, "The Squid and the Whale" is worth watching, especially to see Jeff Daniels' brilliant dead-on portrayal of a vainglorious, cheap, and royally self-deluded mass of urban leftovers. The movie does a good job of showing that the sources of our ideas and words are often as flimsy as a horoscope, even as we pretend to have invented them ourselves.