Impaler Imprisoned

This can't be good for a gubernatorial (or presidential) run:
Gubernatorial candidate Jonathon Sharkey being held on 2 Indiana felony warrants
Jonathon "The Impaler" Sharkey, who announced in Princeton Jan. 13 that he was running for governor, was arrested at his Princeton apartment about 8:30 Monday evening.

Princeton officer Todd Frederick initiated a search yesterday afternoon that led to the discovery of two active felony warrants from Marion County (Indianapolis) in Indiana.

The 2005 warrants were issued in May for stalking and in September for escape on a $100,000 bond.

Sharkey is being held in the Mille Lacs County Jail in Milaca and Indiana authorities have indicated they will come to pick him up, said Princeton Police Chief Dave Warneke Tuesday morning.
More from WCCO.

On Fanaticism.

Digging through my attic last night, I found a series of blank books I've filled over the years with excerpts from books I've read. Finding them in times when religious and political extremists are taking charge around the world and at home, they seem to take on new meaning. Another:
Fervor is the weapon of choice of the impotent. Of those who heat the iron in order to shape it at once. I should prefer to warm man's body and leave him. We might reach this result: mankind retaining this fire through self-combustion. Mankind set free of the trampoline that is the resistance of others, and digging into its own flesh to find a meaning.
—Frantz Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks


Wow, it's been a tough winter. Three gigantic figures have passed on: 74-year old media artist Nam June Paik, who died Sunday; Coretta Scott King, MLK's widow, passed away this morning at age 78; and playwright Wendy Wasserstein (The Heidi Chronicles) died at 55 of lymphoma. Rest in peace...


The fairest thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science. He who knows it not and can no longer wonder, no longer feel amazement, is as good as dead, a snuffed-out candle. It was the experience of mystery--even if mixed with fear-that engendered religion. A knowledge of the existence of something we cannot penetrate, of the manifestations of the profoundest reason and the most radiant beauty, which are only accessible to our reason in their most elementary forms-it is this knowledge and this emotion that constitute the truly religious attitude; in this sense, and in this alone, I am a deeply religious man. I cannot conceive of a God who rewards and punishes his creatures, or has a will of the type of which we are conscious in ourselves. An individual who should survive his physical death is also beyond my comprehension, nor do I wish it otherwise; such notions are for the fears or absurd egoism of feeble souls. Enough for me the mystery of the eternity of life, and the inkling of the marvellous structure of reality, together with the single-hearted endeavour to comprehend a portion, be it never so tiny, of the reason that manifests itself in nature.
—Albert Einstein, quoted by The Huge Entity

"Everybody knows" is the invocation of the cliché and the beginning of the banalization of experience, and it's the solemnity and the sense of authority that people have in voicing the cliché that's so insufferable. What we know is that, in an uncliched way, nobody knows anything.
—Philip Roth, The Human Stain

We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.
—Kurt Vonnegut, Mother Night



US kidnappers: Isn't kidnapping wives of suspected Iraqi insurgents by the US Army as shitty as the kidnapping of Christian Science Monitor reporter Jill Carroll?

ABC reporter injured in Iraq: Bob Woodruff and ABC cameraman Doug Vogt received serious head injuries when an IED exploded near them in Iraq.

Contradictions by the commander-in-chief: At the same time that 50,000 soldiers have been forced to extend their service through the military's "stop-loss" program, Bush wants to cut the size of the Guard and Reserves to their lowest levels in three decades.

The Dead: 2242 in Iraq so far. I just realized I haven't heard much about the death toll in awhile.

Faceplant recipient speaks

Less than two months ago, 38-year old French citizen Isabelle Dinoire received the world's first successful face transplant, with suicide victim Maryline Saint-Aubert's nose, cheeks, lips and chin grafted in after a brutal dog attack. While she's finally left the hospital, Dinoire seems to have psychological scars that are yet to heal: she says she's not yet ready to be seen in busy public spaces. The Sunday Times has more.

Technical difficulties

My high-speed internet connection is down, so I've only got dialup. Posts will probably be light for awhile.


Folk typography

There's a Flickr pool for everything. Here's one dedicated solely to "outsider" or folk typography, "letterforms created by people who are not designers, typographers, calligraphers, or graffiti artists--in other words, people outside of all traditional schools of typographic influence."

Images: otherthings, Tim Walker.

(Thanks, Ben.)

Urban type: And here's a gallery of graffiti artist Eine's complete alphabet appearing on shopfront shutters.



On February 3, astronauts on the International Space Station will launch an unlikely satellite: SuitSat. NASA's Frank Bauer explains:
"We've equipped a Russian Orlon spacesuit with three batteries, a radio transmitter, and internal sensors to measure temperature and battery power. As SuitSat circles Earth, it will transmit its condition to the ground."
If you've got a big antennae and a radio receiver tuned to 145.990 MHz FM (click here to find out when it'll pass over your town), you can hear it:
SuitSat transmits for 30 seconds, pauses for 30 seconds, and then repeats. "This is SuitSat-1, RS0RS," the transmission begins, followed by a prerecorded greeting in five languages. The greeting contains "special words" in English, French, Japanese, Russian, German and Spanish for students to record and decipher. (Awards will be given to students who do this. Scroll to the "more information" area at the end of this story for details.)

Next comes telemetry: temperature, battery power, mission elapsed time. "The telemetry is stated in plain language—in English," says Bauer. Everyone will be privy to SuitSat's condition. Bauer adds, "Suitsat 'talks' using a voice synthesizer. It's pretty amazing."

The transmission ends with a Slow Scan TV picture. Of what? "We're not telling," laughs Bauer. "It's a mystery picture."


Searching Google images, this happened to catch my eye: it's Dave Hershberger's entry in the 2005 Kinetic Sculpture Race in Baltimore, a 42-mile trek made by an assortment of bizarre vehicles. Aptly dubbed Unwheeldy, it's a two-wheel hand-made bike with nine-foot wheels, 112-tooth sprockets, 120 spokes per wheel,and--oh yeah--it floats. (Here's Hershberger's journal of its construction.)

Surely, thought I, this is an oddity, a one-of-a-kind.

Not really. There's the Killer Tomato, and a slew of historic side-by-side two-wheelers called dicycles:

And don't forget the monowheels:

No doubt.

The last time Bush had "no doubt" about something it was "that the Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised." So when he says "there's no doubt in my mind it is legal" to wiretap citizens without a warrant, we're suppose to believe him?

Nixon, May 1977: "When the President does it, that means that it it is not illegal.


State of the Union

A new photo by Brian Ulrich.

The case against consumer-driven healthcare

Last year, Bush trumpeted his healthcare reforms--high deductible health plans paired with a health savings account--as the future of American healthcare: "It means you're in charge of your health care decisions, not a, you know, somebody far away in an office complex that you'll never visit."

This newspaper clipping, of a pregnant smoker worried about the effects of noise on her fetus, prompts a thought: is that such a good idea?

(Thanks, Andy.)

Service to country, Santorum style

Sacrifice? Nah. A Rick Santorum bumpersticker is all it takes to serve America:
Santorum: "And yet we have brave men and women who are willing to step forward because they know what's at stake. They're willing to sacrifice their lives for this great country. What I'm asking all of you tonight is not to put on a uniform. Put on a bumper sticker. Is it that much to ask? Is it that much to ask to step up and serve your country?"
Another all-time low: Bush's approval rating has bottomed out at 36% approval, according to a new poll by American Research Group.



"Obey Starbucks" is the subtle (and as yet undetected) message of this sign in Boulder, adbusted to feature the face of Shepard Fairey's ubiquitous Andre.

Bloggers, declare your independence!

As a new experimenter with Google's Adsense, a thrilling way to make just pennies a month (click those links!), this may seem a bit hypocritical but: this is cool. Adfreeblog is a new site (or movement) for bloggers to stay ad-free. With this free, downloadable icon you cant attest:
1. That I am opposed to the use of corporate advertising on blogs.

2. That I feel the use of corporate advertising on blogs devalues the medium.

3. That I do not accept money in return for advertising space on my blog.
(Via StayFree!)

Positively Sforzian

Greg Allen highlights the Bush White House's "Szforzian Baroque" period, a term that refers to Scott Sforza, the brainchild of Bush's on-message stage backdrops. Greg describes the site of Bush's latest campaign-style town hall meeting:
Here, the classic "Sforzian Backdrop" gives way to a more spatially complex theater-in-the-round composition, complete with white picket fences, white white people [oops], and on-message Astroturf [oops again].

But wait, there IS a Backdrop, a pop-out house, complete with shingles and clapboard siding. [and on-message banner, of course]. I'd be interested to see if WH Prod. built the house, or if it was pre-existing, and thus served as a source for the WHP design.
But the best part of his post is the hilarious similarity between Bush's faux-idyllic picket-fence getup and Saddam's courthouse paddock.

Earlier: Fool with a fool is Sforzarrific!

(Via Modern Art Notes.)


It's my birthday, and I'm taking a blog holiday! Probably.

Update: I lied.



From Metropolis:
It's often hard to convince people that Olivo Barbieri's aerial photographs are real. They look uncannily like hyperdetailed models, absent the imperfections of reality. Streets are strangely clean, trees look plastic, and odd distortions of scale create the opposite effect of what we expect from aerial photography--a complete overview, like military surveillance. "I was a little bit tired of the idea of photography allowing you to see everything," Barbieri says. "After 9/11 the world had become a little bit blurred because things that seemed impossible happened. My desire was to look at the city again."
Above: Santa Monica Pier, Los Angeles

(Via MetaFilter.)

Green Futures on art and social change

In one of his installation pieces, artist Mark McGowan outraged gallery visitors by featuring a running car inside a gallery, its exhaust pipe extended to spew fumes out the gallery's window onto a public square. His point: why is idling your car inside a gallery less heinous than doing it [as a woman across the street from me right now is] outside?

McGowan's work is cited in a Green Futures story that ponders what happens to creativity when art is about social change. It's an interesting read, going from McGowan to Banksy to Turner Prize-winner Simon Starling (who exhibited the fuel-cell bike he rode across the desert) to Richard Box (above, who placed fluorescent lightbulbs under high-tension wires to illuminate the fact that possibly dangerous electromagnetic radiation seethes around us). While more of a rundown of ways artists can engage in social change--presenting alternatives, protesting, proposing remedies--I link to the piece simply because it contributes to the discussion on the many roles art can play outside galleries and museums and the unique power this form has. As Charles Landry, author of Creative Cities, put it, art “can communicate iconically.” “You can provide people with charts and statistics until the cows come home,” adds curator Clive Adams. “But if they don’t actually feel moved by something, they won’t do anything about it.”

(Thanks, Jeff.)

Life Partners bets on death (and loses)

In "one of the most morbid contract disputes ever filed in New Jersey Superior Court," a woman with AIDS who outlived her doctor's diagnoses is getting bilked by her insurance company. When she was diagnosed in the early '90s, "M. Smith" responded to an ad from Life Partners, a company that agreed to buy up her $150,000 life insurance plan for $90,000, allowing her to comfortably live out the two years doctors said she had left. Now that their "sure thing" investment isn't so sure--Smith lived, and is now 50 years old--Life Partners wants to bail on its contractual agreement "to make any necessary contributions to the escrow fund to pay future premiums in the event that escrowed funds are exhausted and Seller shall have no further liability for payment of premiums on the policy."


Shiny mud balls (and other miscellany)

Mud balls! Take a glob of mud, shape it, dry it, buff it and—voila—you've got one of Japan's newest trends, hikaru dorodango. Read more: a how-to, a more complicated how-to, and an academic treatise on dorodango and the "essence of play."

Government Googling: So, the government wants to search your Google records? Here's a way to do your part: Patriot Search makes your search activity public. But Bob Harris has another suggestion: make your Google search records reference this query, those seemingly ignored words from the 4th Amendment about citizen's right to be secure "against unreasonable searches and seizures." And, from the New York Times, Ogling Google: Government as Pornographer.

CEOs who make sense: Can the man called in to save the Ford Motor Company do so by inventing a recyclable car? And, by saying no to Wal-Mart, the CEO of lawnmower manufacturer Simplicity will probably lose access to the big box's 3,800 stores, but he's doing right by his 10,000 independent dealers and his business.

Living Treehouse: Treehugger's post on MIT's efforts to design houses from living ecosystems reminds me of an old book I gave my brother years ago: How to Grow a Chair: The Art of Tree Trunk Topiary.

Progressive assignment: When an Iraq War vet ripped protest signs from a group of nuns, a "weak spot in progressive arguments" became clear: "While the horrors of war can point some toward a more critical review of its purpose and necessity, it just as often forces survivors to cling to the war's legitimacy to provide meaning for the carnage." Our assignment, says Peek: "Find a message that doesn't destroy the meaning behind the carnage for those trapped in tragedy, yet doesn't legitimize the war."

Bee flight mystery solved

After observing bees in a tank filled with helium and oxygen, researchers now know how the small wings of bees can keep the larger mass of their bodies aloft—by lengthening their wing stroke amplitude instead of increasing wingbeat frequency. It's a blow to "intelligent design" advocates who point to bee flight as a mystery science couldn't--til now--solve.

Kerry blogs

On his (ahem) inaugural blog post at DailyKos, John Kerry suggests that maybe comparing Osama bin Laden and Michael Moore isn't the best use of the airwaves after the al-Qaeda leader resurfaced via video—like, maybe we could discuss how Bush let bin Laden get away at Tora Bora, or how we can capture him in the future.

An Open Letter to Chris Matthews.


Dodge, spin, thrust...

A new sea creature discovered off the coast of Australia has an unusual trait: it fences with its penis. A new species of flatworm commonly known as oyster leeches engages in a strange sexual behavior described thusly:
The new flatworms are all hermaphrodites, meaning they have both male and female parts. To reproduce they try to stab each other with their genitals. The first to penetrate inserts sperm and then goes on to spar with another flatworm, while the "loser" lays and broods the eggs.


Wilderness blogging

A friend, with deep awe, calls my brother--the psychologist who bow-hunts, makes knife blades, and killer campire coffee--the "professional boy scout." This site is for him: Ropes and Poles, a South African scouting blog dedicated to making all kinds of wilderness gizmos, from a trebuchet to camp couches to a pontoon raft. And don't miss the step-by-step guide to building a treehouse.

Via The Treehouse + The Cave

Help wanted:

When filmmaker Deepa Mehta tried to make her film Water, about widows in her native India who are considered worthless without a husband to borrow status from, she was met with angry protests, death threats, government intervention, and a movie set that was lit on fire by an angry mob. Demonstrators felt Mehta, who lives in Canada, was casting India in a negative light. A fascinating story in and of itself, the tale of the film (which we're showing at the Walker in March) includes this reference to a profession I never knew existed:
One key protester had taken a boat out into the middle of the Ganges, consumed poison, tied a rock around his waist, and jumped into the water, yelling that Deepa Mehta and her film were his reason for attempting suicide. Days later the press revealed that the man, who was rushed to the hospital and survived, was a professional suicide attempter, employed by various political parties to attempt his own execution for various political reasons. This had been his sixth suicide attempt, and this was the reason given for closing the film down. Law and order was in jeopardy.

Comment snafu

I just realized I accidentally deleted a few comments when moderating. Sorry if yours never appeared...

How rich?

There are over six billion people in the world, and I'm richer than 5,809,565,217 of them, according to the Global Rich List. The site's not a bling tracker, but a clever way for the anti-poverty group CARE International to raise awareness of poverty and seek donations.

(Thanks, Giselle.)


Pop Art.

Mark Jenkins of Storker fame returns with a series of parking meters encased in what looks like popsicle sugar.

Via Wooster Collective.

Mel Chin's "invisible aesthetic"

If Michelangelo takes a block of marble and starts to make a David, he carves it and carves it. The art is this idea transformed into reality. But what happens if your material isn't marble, but a toxic, dead medium—earth that can't sustain life? Scientific process, not artistic process, has to be the tool. To take that soil and make it live again, to sculpt a diverse ecosystem from it—that to me is beautiful.
In 1990, as part of a residency at the Walker Art Center, sculptor Mel Chin began a work every bit as monumental as Michelangelo's but far less visible: with USDA scientist Rufus L. Chaney, he planted hyperaccumulators, plants that can extract and store heavy metals from soil, at the Pig's Eye Landfill in St. Paul, a plot so polluted by incinerator ash that it's on the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency's Permanent List of Priorities. The work, a fenced-in area reminiscent of a crop circle, was called Revival Field and consisted of a target-shaped square of land circumscribed with a circle with an X in the middle, a reference to the project's pinpoint cleanup. As Pruned quotes:

The divisions are also functional, separating different varieties of plants from each other for study. In the circular field the intersecting paths create four fields where six types of plants and two pH and two fertilizer tests can occur in each quadrant. The land area between the square and circle functions as a control plot where plants will be seeded with local grasses. The design for revival field facilitates the chemical analysis of each section.

When the project concluded in 1993, research showed that Alpine pennycress was the best at leeching heavy metals, although no plants were effective enough at cleaning up the land. But it did seem to provide an expansive definition of art. Chin said, "For a time, an intended invisible aesthetic will exist that can be measured scientifically by the quality of a revitalized earth. Eventually that aesthetic will be revealed in the return of growth to the soil.

For more on Land Art, visit the Center for Land Use Interpretation's catalogue of projects.

One man's art: The fungal counterpart to Chin's art might be mycoremediation, the use of mushrooms to clean up everything from oil spills to pesticides to chemical weapons and deal with problems from termite infestation to roads destroyed by logging operations.

(Thanks, Alex and Pruned. Cross-posted at Off Center.)

Signs of life

From Signs of Life, a community photography project:

Seen in a Hiroshima bathroom

Coining the term "trashcan philosophy."

Rooftop ads

Oh Christ Almighty: Target and others are placing ads on rooftops to woo the eyeballs of Google Maps viewers. Yup. MIT's Advertising Lab has more.


The Lord "said": Terry Gross interviews Bart Ehrman, whose book Misquoting Jesus examines how the Bible was changed, both accidentally and intentionally, by the scribes who transcribed it by hand. He began his examination of the original texts of the bible while a born-again Christian at Moody Bible Institute, where he started questioning a literal reading of the book; he now considers himself an agnostic.

Ask Pat Robertson to retire: A petition he'll ignore.

Peas in a pod: Like his stateside cohort, Tony Blair's got spying on his mind. He's preparing to overturn a 40-year ban on the tapping of MPs' phones.

"Third-world" firsts: Chile has elected its first female president (and an agnostic, single-mom, socialist one at that) and Liberia has elected Africa's first woman president. And the US hasn't had a woman on the ticket in the last two decades.

Cuba Libre: Cuba has joined a growing list of governments using Linux, the free, open-source operating system.

Deceit, encapsulated.


Bush Gored

In a forceful MLK Day speech, Al Gore connects the dots: the wiretapping and harassment of King was one of the factors that lead Congress to enact the Foreign Intelligence and Surveillance Act (FISA), the very law George Bush violated when he authorized wiretapping of citizens who've committed no crime. He says, "At present, we still have much to learn about the NSA's domestic surveillance. What we do know about this pervasive wiretapping virtually compels the conclusion that the President of the United States has been breaking the law repeatedly and persistently."

And that's just the beginning. Gore went on to blast Bush for an unprecedented expansion of presidential power: now a president can imprison Americans for life without charge or warrant, he can intercept email and phone calls, he can torture suspects and fly them to countries where torture is legal, he can launch war on false pretenses and suffer no one's wrath. "If the President has the inherent authority to eavesdrop, imprison citizens on his own declaration, kidnap and torture, then what can't he do?," Gore asks.

Here's the clincher:
Once violated, the rule of law is in danger. Unless stopped, lawlessness grows. The greater the power of the executive grows, the more difficult it becomes for the other branches to perform their constitutional roles. As the executive acts outside its constitutionally prescribed role and is able to control access to information that would expose its actions, it becomes increasingly difficult for the other branches to police it. Once that ability is lost, democracy itself is threatened and we become a government of men and not laws...
And he notes how the Republicans do it:
...by consistently resorting to the language and politics of fear in order to short-circuit the debate and drive its agenda forward without regard to the evidence or the public interest. As President Eisenhower said, "Any who act as if freedom's defenses are to be found in suppression and suspicion and fear confess a doctrine that is alien to America."

Fear drives out reason. Fear suppresses the politics of discourse and opens the door to the politics of destruction. Justice Brandeis once wrote: "Men feared witches and burnt women."

The founders of our country faced dire threats. If they failed in their endeavors, they would have been hung as traitors. The very existence of our country was at risk.

Yet, in the teeth of those dangers, they insisted on establishing the Bill of Rights.

Is our Congress today in more danger than were their predecessors when the British army was marching on the Capitol? Is the world more dangerous than when we faced an ideological enemy with tens of thousands of missiles poised to be launched against us and annihilate our country at a moment's notice? Is America in more danger now than when we faced worldwide fascism on the march-when our fathers fought and won two World Wars simultaneously?

It is simply an insult to those who came before us and sacrificed so much on our behalf to imply that we have more to be fearful of than they. Yet they faithfully protected our freedoms and now it is up to us to do the same.
While Gore's speech feels like he's campaigning (two words for you: Gore-Feingold), such political labeling ignores the fact that he's saying what needs to be said. Please, oh please, watch or read his important speech.

Worth highlighting: Gore quoted George Orwell, a thinker quoted frighteningly often during the Bush era:
[W]e are all capable of believing things which we know to be untrue, and then, when we are finally proved wrong, impudently twisting the facts so as to show that we were right. Intellectually, it is possible to carry on this process for an indefinite time: the only check on it is that sooner or later a false belief bumps up against solid reality, usually on a battlefield.

And: Gore quoting Lincoln:"We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country."

Robot ice carver

On Saturday, I went to the opening of Art Shanty Projects on Medicine Lake, just west of Minneapolis. The dozen or more icefishing shacks/sculptural environments included a karaoke hut (which broadcast the strained yodelings on the radio frequency used by the local pirate radio station), a giant pinhole camera, an enormous igloo, a Thomas Hirschorn-esque yurt made of discarded food packaging, etc. A highlight was a robot ice carver made by Jesse Hemminger and Bruce Shapiro. Wired to a PC running CAD software, an ice auger can carve custom shapes in the ice. Pictured is that beginning of a George Washington-shaped hole. Both participants are artists who use robotics in their work (here's Shapiro's robotic Easter egg painter from 1990 and here's some of Hemminger's student work at Ohio State). Due to some power issues—they're carving on a frozen lake, after all—the inaugural run of the carver will take place next Saturday.


In Europe We Trust

As Hollywood-style blockbusters go, United We Stand: Europe has a Mission seems to have it all: superstar hotties Ewan MacGregor and Penelope Cruz, international intrigue, gripping action. But what it doesn't have is American heroes. Or a budget. Or a distributor. Or... film.

United We Stand is a fake, a send-up of America-saves-the-world action films by Italian-born hacktivists Eva and Franco Mattes (aka 0100101110101101.org). Now on view at Postmasters Gallery, the non-existent (but "fully EU-produced") film is set in the year 2020, when the US is on the verge of war with China and only a team of European agents can prevent global disaster. In the movie posters, as Artnet writes, "The clash of codes is almost palpable. The jingoistic conventions of American action movies are thrown into relief against expectations about the more arty content of European movies, and vice versa."

Via WiFi Art



Pluto's patron: Meet "the only person in the world who can claim to have named a planet."

They'll say anything: Bush uses 9/11 to justify spying on US citizens with a court order. One flaw in that argument: he authorized the spying well before that attack.

Credible threat? The US government has been spying on UC-Santa Cruz's Students Against War, dubbing the peace group a "credible threat" to national security. In other news, bin Laden and Zawahiri are still at large.

Free Jimi! Video footage of Jimi Hendrix playing "Hey Joe" at the '67 Monterrey Pop Festival and "The Wind Cries Mary" in Stockholm the same year.

2004 revisited

Deja vu all over again: a decorated combat vet is being swiftboated, while the president's "missing-in-action status during the Vietnam War is relevant again."


Tees for Freepers

People on the left seem to think rightwingers are idiots. People on the right seem to want us dead.

(Via Sivacracy)

Earlier: Open season on Cindy Sheehan.

Fool with a fool.

This image is third in a series that includes Boob with a Boob (John Ashcroft with bare-breasted Justice) and Turkey with a Turkey (Bush's grandiose Thanksgiving fly-in to Baghdad with a fake bird). I know the jester is a symbol of New Orleans and all, but don't you think the master image manipulators who brought us "Mission Accomplished" and a series of precisely crafted presidential backdrops might've thought twice about putting Bush in front of this? Heckuva job.


Impaler for President

They don't call Minnesota gubernatorial candidate Jonathon Sharkey "The Impaler" for nothing: a self-described "Satanic Dark Priest, Sanguinarian Vampyre and a Hecate Witch" with the "Magikal Path" name of "Lord Area," he is a "strong believer and supporter of Impalement for terrorists and criminals." The operator of two covens, a disabled army vet, and a former pro wrestler and boxer, Sharkey's platform includes an opposition to war, more support for education and veterans' services, religious freedom (naturally), boot camp for juvenile offenders, a blacklist of American companies that relocate offshore and, yes, impalement of terrorists (among others). The best part: Sharkey is running for president, so he can take impalement national. The impaler launches his gubernatorial campaign in Princeton, Minnesota, tomorrow, Friday the 13th.

I stand corrected: A post on political quotes at Governing.com includes Sharkey:
“Thank you very much for placing Jonathon’s name for the race for Governor. However, he is a Satanic Dark Priest, not a Wiccan.”

Jonathon Sharkey, the Vampyres, Witches and Pagans Party candidate for governor of Minnesota, in an e-mail to the Politics1.com blog, after a post mistakenly identified him as a "Wiccan Dark Priest"

Tilting at new windmills

A credit card proposed by Adbusters to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the publication of Don Quixote is just one entry in X_Reloaded, a contest which "proposes new readings of fragments of the Spanish masterpiece, reinterprated by the aesthetics of various artists" including Barbara Kruger and others.

Corbu's chihuahua Quixote: Famed architect Le Corbusier allegedly bound his beloved copy of Don Quixote with the skin—and apparently, fur—or his beloved dog, Pinceau. (Via reBlog.)


Louts and fishes

Pat Roberton's Galilee World Heritage Park might be on the rocks thanks to the good preacher's assertion that Sharon's stroke was divine retribution for "dividing God's land." Israel has suspended contact with Robertson after the remarks, casting doubt on the theme park Robertson and a group of evangelicals are planning to build on the land where Jesus turned loaves to fishes.

Telemarketing counterscript

Alter the balance of power when a telemarketer calls using the EGBG anti-telemarketing counterscript.

Boozersize Me.

What Morgan Spurlock did with fast food in the film Supersize Me, Nicky Taylor has done with alcohol, and the results aren't pretty. A 39-year old woman, Taylor is the subject of a British documentary in which she is studying the effects of binge drinking. The rules and the results:
Over 30 days, going out five nights a week, Nicky consumed a staggering 516 units of alcohol -- 17.2 units a day. Guidelines say women should drink no more than two or three units a day, and a maximum of 14 a week.

One unit is 8g of alcohol, or a small glass (125ml) of wine, half a pint (284ml) of beer or a pub measure of spirits. But stronger beers may contain 2.5 alcohol units per half pint.

...Her body fat increased from 37.4 per cent to 38.9 per cent, she put on more than 3kg, and her skin became so damaged she had the complexion of a 50-year-old.
Above: Taylor, before and after

Pro-war blog payola?

This file is getting fat: from paying favorable columnists like Armstrong Williams to having military personnel write news stories for Iraqi papers, the Bush administration's propaganda tactics now apparently include buying off bloggers. The Washington Post reports that a PR firm associated with the US Army has been offering top dollar to pro-war bloggers who write glowingly of the Iraq effort—and they're offering "exclusive content" to such bloggers. Here's an inquiry Fuzzilicious got:
Hi, Lioness. I’m writing from a PR firm on behalf of the U.S. Army. We’re contacting a few bloggers to test a new outlet for public information. The Army believes that military blogs are a valuable medium for reaching out to soldiers. To that end, the Army plans to offer you and selected bloggers exclusive editorial content on a few issues you’re likely to be interested in. If you do decide you are interested in receiving this material, whether you choose to write about what we send you is, of course, entirely up to you.

Like I said, we’re only contacting a handful of bloggers at this time. If you are interested, please let me know, and we’ll send you further information as it becomes available. Either way, thanks for your time.
Charlie Kondek
Account Executive
Web Producer
Hass MS&L
Sploid has more.

How big is my ego?

According to EgoSurf, pretty big. Just type in your name and the URLs of your blog or other pages you're associated with, and it'll search various engines, from Google to Technorati, and give you a ranking (I think it just means I'm the Paul Schmelzeriest of all the Paul Schmelzers out there, the most frequently cited). If you're really in need of ego massaging, you can subscribe to an RSS feed to be constantly updated on your ever-changing wonderfulness.


What's up with text-messaging?

I've been told by a younger co-worker that there's a generational divide about text-messaging, and I seem to be on the yonder side of said gap. I can't stand peering into my cellphone, aggravating my carpal tunnel with every furtive jab of the thumb. And this abbreviated lingo—the emoticons and jargon and CU L8Rs (or whatever)—are too cutesy to endure. Jeff at the Walker puts the cut-off at around 26, give or take: older than that, you hate SMS, younger you love it.

But as a guy who can type a zillion words a minute, a web-based solution could get me on board. Textmessage.cc is one site that allows you to send free text messages via a web interface to two dozen cellphone providers in the US and UK. It also offers a function where you can include a sidebar in your blog from which your readers can send free messages. Downside: as with everything that's free, you have to endure an ad embedded in your message.

Ricksha Art of Bangladesh

From touristy scenes of the Taj Mahal to images of Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden to schmaltzy depictions of movie stars, the art that covers Bangladesh's foot taxis, or rickshas, runs the gamut. But as anthropologist Joanna Kirkpatrick reports, these elaborately painted vehicles don't have counterparts in nearby Hindu India or Buddhist Sri Lanka. Why?
Perhaps the over-the-top flamboyance of the country's ricksha art is a sign of the "return of the repressed." This is a psychological state that, in the case of art, is based on the human longing to see desired objects and figuratively to possess them. The act of looking at figurative pictures is symbolic appropriation, but it is also experienced as sin because it is condemned by ultra-pious religious authorities: a repression based not on the Koran but on hadith literature. Popular conveyance arts are, therefore, a visual means to openly express officially condemned desires by members of a social class that tends to be ignored, thus opening up the public space for their recognition.
To learn more than you ever wanted to know about ricksha art read Kirkpatrick's essay in Persimmon or visit her Ricksha.org.

(Via Metafilter.)

While I'm at it: Chewing gum art?


Found on Flickr

Chomsky street art

Repealing the Magna Carta

It's pretty clear, George W. Bush and his ultraconservative colleagues want to roll back Clinton-era progress, not to mention earlier progressive gains (the Voting Rights Act, Nixon's environmental protections, the New Deal), but the Village Voice's Nat Hentoff argues their aim is to undo reforms dating earlier than that—almost 800 years earlier:
The President's threatened veto of the McCain anti-torture amendment, the Vice-President's pro-torture campaign, the President's illegal spying, which he proudly claimed he had re-authorized many times over, his attempt to squelch the free press (which Thomas Jefferson once called "the only security of all" and about which he stated, "Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter"), and his own and the Attorney General's defense of all of the above, are not only the latest examples of the administration's quest to shred the U.S. Constitution and expand already vast presidential powers past anything conceivably envisioned by the founders of the United States, but also a direct attempt to overturn nearly 800 years of Anglo-American legal precedent. In other words, the administration has launched nothing short of a bid to invalidate the guiding precepts of what the U.S. government acknowledges to be the Ur document that inspired and provided precedent for America's founders to issue their Declaration of Independence in 1776: the Magna Carta.
Credit where it's due: Nick Turse had the same idea a few days ago.

[Image: "The U.S. Flag Code says that the American flag should never be flown upside down except as a signal of dire distress, which would appear to give the practice official sanction."]

Another call for impeachment... of Blair

General Michael Rose, commander of UN forces in Bosnia in 1994: "No one can undo the decision to go to war. But the impeachment of Mr Blair is now something I believe must happen if we are to rekindle interest in the democratic process."

Anoniblogging in repressive regimes

As Craig Newmark writes, "BlogSafer contains a series of guides on how to blog under difficult conditions in countries that discourage free speech." Included in this expanding "anoniblogging wiki" are country-specific tips on anonymous blogging in Iran, Malaysia, Zimbabwe, China, and Arabic countries.

Baudrillard on the "art scene"

OK, it is French theory, but there's something interesting in this bit from Baudrillard:
Disneyland is not, of course, the sanctuary of the imagination, but Disneyland as hyperreal world masks the fact that all America is hyperreal, all America is Disneyland,” he said. “And the same for art. The art scene is but a scene, or obscene”—he paused for chuckles from the audience—“mask for the reality that all the world is trans-aestheticized. We have no more to do with art as such, as an exceptional form. Now the banal reality has become aestheticized, all reality is trans-aestheticized, and that is the very problem. Art was a form, and then it became more and more no more a form but a value, an aesthetic value, and so we come from art to aesthetics—it’s something very, very different. And as art becomes aesthetics it joins with reality, it joins with the banality of reality. Because all reality becomes aesthetical, too, then it’s a total confusion between art and reality, and the result of this confusion is hyperreality. But, in this sense, there is no more radical difference between art and realism. And this is the very end of art. As form.”

US troops detain Guardian journalist

File under: Free press in Iraq/Importing democracy
American troops in Baghdad yesterday blasted their way into the home of an Iraqi journalist working for the Guardian and Channel 4, firing bullets into the bedroom where he was sleeping with his wife and children.
Ali Fadhil, who two months ago won the Foreign Press Association young journalist of the year award, was hooded and taken for questioning. He was released hours later.

Dr Fadhil is working with Guardian Films on an investigation for Channel 4's Dispatches programme into claims that tens of millions of dollars worth of Iraqi funds held by the Americans and British have been misused or misappropriated.

The troops told Dr Fadhil that they were looking for an Iraqi insurgent and seized video tapes he had shot for the programme. These have not yet been returned.

The director of the film, Callum Macrae, said yesterday: "The timing and nature of this raid is extremely disturbing. It is only a few days since we first approached the US authorities and told them Ali was doing this investigation, and asked them then to grant him an interview about our findings.

"We need a convincing assurance from the American authorities that this terrifying experience was not harassment and a crude attempt to discourage Ali's investigation."

Dr Fadhil was asleep with his wife, their three-year-old daughter, Sarah, and seven-month-old son, Adam, when the troops forced their way in.

"They fired into the bedroom where we were sleeping, then three soldiers came in. They rolled me on to the floor and tied my hands. When I tried to ask them what they were looking for they just told me to shut up," he said.

Lego Turbo.

Lego forays deeper into the realm of affordable consumer robotics with the $250+ Mindstorms NXT. And there's more than snap-together plastic blocks:
LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT highlights include:

• All-new NXT intelligent brick
• 3 interactive servo motors feature inbuilt rotation sensors to align speed for precise control
• New ultrasonic sensor makes robots “see” by responding to movement
• New sound sensor enables robots to react to sound commands, including sound pattern and tone recognition
• Improved light sensor detects different colors and light intensity
• Improved touch sensor reacts to touch or release and allows robots to feel
• 519 hand-selected, stylized elements from the LEGO TECHNIC® building system ensure robot creations will be sturdy and durable while also looking authentic
• Opportunities for physical programming of robots and interaction with robots during programming
• 18 building challenges with clear, step-by-step instructions help acclimate users to the new system to create robots ranging from humanoids and machinery to animals and vehicles
• Digital wire interface allows for third-party developments

Torture and Yoo.

This has been around awhile, but... yeesh: While at DoJ's Office of Legal Counsel, John Yoo wrote the infamous memo OKing government-sponsored torture. Now he's on record--and tape--stating that it's OK to torture a child, even if the method is squashing said child's gonads.
Cassel: If the president deems that he's got to torture somebody, including by crushing the testicles of the person's child, there is no law that can stop him?

Yoo: No treaty

Cassel: Also no law by Congress -- that is what you wrote in the August 2002 memo...

Yoo: I think it depends on why the President thinks he needs to do that.
Even Angela Merkel, conservative German chancellor, is more humane than the compassionate conservatives stateside. She told Der Spiegel, "There was a similar debate in Germany over the 2002 kidnapping of Jakob von Metzler, the banker's son. The issue then was whether it is legitimate to threaten or use torture to save the life of a child. The public debate showed that the overwhelming majority of citizens believed that even in such a case, the end does not justify the means. That is also my position."

Fishy in Bushland

The Bush administration has illegally stopped making public detailed tax enforcement data, which has been used to show which kinds of taxpayers get the most and toughest audits, a noted tax researcher says.

Syracuse University Professor Susan B. Long said in papers filed in U.S. District Court in Seattle late last week that since Nov. 1, 2004, the Internal Revenue Service has violated a 1976 court order requiring the release of the data...
And in other corruption news:
• "In President Bush's first 10 months, GOP fundraiser Jack Abramoff and his lobbying team logged nearly 200 contacts with the new administration as they pressed for friendly hires at federal agencies and sought to keep the Northern Mariana Islands exempt from the minimum wage and other laws."

• Indicted on money laundering and conspiracy charges, former GOP House majority leader Tom Delay's request to have the charges dropped or sent to a lower court have been dismissed.

• As a leaked FBI email admits that there are bigger fish to fry in Jack Abramoff's corruption case, Howard Dean sets Wolf Blitzer straight: "There are no Democrats who took money from Jack Abramoff, not one, not one single Democrat. Every person named in this scandal is a Republican. Every person under investigation is a Republican. Every person indicted is a Republican. This is a Republican finance scandal." [transcript / video]


Don't Trust Anyone Over Thirty

Last night, we caught the much-touted puppet rock opera Don't Trust Anyone Over Thirty, a collaboration of visual artists Dan Graham, Tony Oursler, and Rodney Graham with punk duo Japanther (just a drum and a bass) and, of Being John Malkovich fame, the Huber Marionettes. The show's been getting some hype, with an upcoming performance at UCLA's Hammer Museum and an installation at the Whitney Biennial in March. My take on it?

It was ok.

DTAOT is more spectacle than content: the stage is a white wall (onto which videos are projected) with cutouts for the puppet show on the left and the hilarious, thunderous Japanther in the other. The story, based loosely on the 1968 film Wild in the Streets, satirizes hippie idealism and the '60s mantra of its title, tracking the career of fringed-jacketed Neil Skye, a 24-year old rock star who is elected president after sparking teen riots (which result in the lowering of the voting age to 14) and spiking Congress' drinking water with LSD. Long story short, after reaching power, a drug-addled Skye is ousted by his adopted son, whose modified mantra is "don't trust anyone over ten." Japanther was the highlight. The drummer's back was to the audience the entire time, the guitarist's pick was a credit card, and their mikes were phone receivers. Playing in their lightbulb-edged box, they were like too-big puppets crowded in front of Marshall stacks in a curio case. Which all somehow added to the raucousness of their music. Still, the whole thing never really transcended entertainment to become a cohesive meaningful piece of art.

The gist: brilliant puppetry, excellent music, gratuitously trippy videos, a too-short 40-minute run-time, and a ho-hum story.


The GOP beer ban

Having righted the major wrongs in the world, the GOP is turning its sights on minor ones. Like cold beer:
Under a bill by Sen. Bill Alter, grocery and convenience stores would risk losing their liquor licenses if they sold beer colder than 60 degrees. The intent is to cut down on drunken driving by making it less tempting to pop open a beer after leaving the store.

“The only reason why beer would need to be cold is so that it can be consumed right away,” Alter, who has been a police offer for more than 20 years, said Thursday.

He said the idea came from a fifth-grade student in Jefferson County who was participating in a program to teach elementary students about state government.
(Thanks, Jim.)

Apes and race.

A week ago BlackBloggah wondered aloud whether King Kong director Peter Jackson is a "sly racist hiding behind so-called 'classic' stories or is he unaware that his movies are soaked in racist imagery and the logic of genetic determinism?" Now Wal-Mart is accused of conflating apes and blacks: their online product listing for the DVD Planet of the Apes has a "similar items" link to the DVDs Martin Luther King: I Have a Dream and Introducing Dorothy Dandridge (screengrab here). Racist recommendation or fluke?

Seriously, folks.

Terrorists want to use Iraq as a home base, Bush told reporters on Wednesday. He then added:

"I'm not making this up."

So now you know: This time it's for real.

Judge to decide if Christ existed

Luigi Cascioli, an atheist in Italy, charges a Catholic priest with “abuse of popular credulity” and “impersonation”—both offenses in Italian law—after the priest criticized him for questioning the historical existence of Christ. And now a judge is calling Father Enrico Righi to the witness stand to prove Jesus existed. As the Times explains Cascioli "maintains that early Christian writers confused Jesus with John of Gamala, an anti-Roman Jewish insurgent in 1st-century Palestine. Church authorities were therefore guilty of 'substitution of persons.'"
Signor Cascioli said that the Gospels themselves were full of inconsistencies and did not agree on the names of the 12 apostles. He said that he would withdraw his legal action if Father Righi came up with irrefutable proof of Christ’s existence by the end of the month.
Another Luigi: Also from the Times, baker Luigi Digesù in the southern Italian town of Altamura, has driven a five-year old McDonalds out of town... simply by making wholesome bread.

Amnesty's Poland campaign

Apparently part of this Amnesty International campaign in Poland, this poster reads "Freedom of Speech for Belarus."

Via Guerilla Innovation.

Meanwhile, back in America: The author of Bush's Brain finds himself inexplicably on the government's No Fly List.


Spraypaint prophecy

This tag, found by Eric on his bike ride into work, isn't such a longshot prediction.


Jesusland planned in Israel

This time it's not fiction: sure to delight believers and spark the ire of Islamists, evangelical Christians are partnering with Israelis to build a religious fun park, Galilee World Heritage Park, in the land where Christ is said to have performed the miracle of the loaves and the fish. Led by Pat Robertson, a consortium of Christian groups will spend a total of around $50 million to buy and develop a 125-acre plot that will eventually feature "a garden and nature park, an auditorium, a Holy Land exhibition, outdoor amphitheatres, information centre and a media studio."

But not all are thrilled. The Guardian reports:
However, the alliance has not been welcomed by all Israelis, including some who fear the ultimate aim of the evangelicals is the conversion of the Jews to Christianity rather than support for Israel...

The American Christian right, best known for television evangelism and its stars such as Mr Robertson and Jerry Falwell, has been among the strongest supporters of Israel in the US.

The primary reason is that according to the Old Testament, Israel was given to the Jews by God. Fundamentalist Christians believe that in order for Jesus to return, two preconditions are Jewish control of the land of Israel and the conversion of the Jews to Christianity.

Yossi Sarid, a former government minister and member of the Knesset, said he was wary of the friendship of the American Christian right and projects such as the Galilee centre. He said: "I am not enthusiastic about this cooperation because I have no desire to be cannon fodder for the evangelists.

"As a Jew, they believe I have to vanish before Jesus can make his second appearance. As I have no plans to convert, as an Israeli and a Jew, I find this a provocation. There is something sinister about their embrace."
(Thanks, Jim.)

Baby drop-box

Every year some 400 babies are abandoned in Italy. To make sure that unwanted infants don't end up in trash cans, Ognissanti Church in Padua has devised a baby-drop box of sorts. When someone leaves a baby in the padded "cradle for life," which opens into the offices of a shelter for single women, an alarm goes off alerting workers of its presence. What's most surprising is that only the technology is new: up until 1888, the contraption was designed like a Lazy Susan that'd turn to deliver babies, hors d'ouevre-like, into the arms of waiting nuns.