This sign reminds me of that Simpson's episode where Moe Syzlak excoriates "those damn immigants":

Via Reddit and this site.

MSNBC anchor refuses to run Hilton story

Staged or not, I rather enjoy this clip of MSNBC anchor Mika Brezinski refusing to lead off the newscast with a story about Paris Hilton, to Joe Scarborough's (condescending) chagrin. Via ThinkProgress.


Living in a Northwest Airlines hub, we Minneapolitans have to live with less than stellar flights from time to time (like our cancelled flight home from San Francisco recently; the airline rescheduled us to a midnight flight that took seven hours. When we chose to stay an extra night at a hotel instead, they refused to kick in for the extra expense). So when given a chance to give a little less to this repeatedly disappointing company, I jump.

Like their recent offer of 500 free miles in exchange for filling out a survey. I tried to take the survey, but a technical glitch prevented it. Today, I was asked again, only the ante -- measley already -- was upped to 750 miles. I successfully completed the survey and, in true Northwest fashion, got my reward.... 500 free miles.

Totally minor, but par for the course.


The Splasher speaks

Claiming to be a collective of men and women, the New York street-art critics mailed a "newsprint memoir" to Gothamist. Jake Dobkin prints a few of the nearly unreadable tracts from the "labyrinth of weird grammar, circular reasoning, and leftist politico jargon."


Video of Building's Rotating Facade

Via Archinect's forum, a video of sculptor Richard Wilson's rotating-facade building in Liverpool.

Will Ridder's 'Absolute Confidence' Hold as He Takes the Stand?

Star Tribune publisher Par Ridder released a statement in April about the lawsuit his former employer, the Pioneer Press, leveled against him, saying he was "absolutely confident we will prevail."

But at the first day of hearings over a temporary injunction that could keep Ridder and other former PiPress executives from working at the Strib for a year or more, the source of that confidence might seem nebulous.

In a videotaped deposition aired in court Monday, Ridder called the data he took on Pioneer Press revenues, expenses, personnel and advertisers "sensitive information." He admitted to removing noncompete documents signed by himself and other executives he aimed to hire at the Strib, saying, "I was concerned that those documents could be used to slow my progress on to the Star Tribune."

And witnesses he might have expected to be friendly offered less than favorable testimony. Art Brisbane, a former vice president at Knight Ridder testified -- contrary to Ridder's claim -- that he didn't recall verbally releasing Ridder from his noncompete agreement. Brisbane said such a move would've been a serious (and memorable) decision, and added that he recalled other conversations about Ridder's desire to challenge noncompete clauses in the contracts of others, but not Ridder.

OhSang Kwan, a partner at Avista Capital Partners, testified that Ridder assured him his noncompete agreement had been repealed -- an overt untruth. And James Finkelstein, another Avista partner, said Ridder shouldn't have taken the information: "It was clearly a mistake."

Adding to Ridder's woes, a computer expert hired to analyze computers accessed by Ridder found that around 3,300 files were transferred from Ridder's Pioneer Press laptop to a portable USB drive on March 1 and 2; on March 6 -- the day after Ridder's hire -- those files were moved to Ridder's Star Tribune laptop. These files, which took up around 30 terrabytes of information, contained "vital contractual information for 3890 separate customers," said former Pioneer Press writer Brian Lambert, who was in the courtroom.

Ridder took the stand in his own defense at noon today. In his opening statement, he said, "I talk to a lot of people in this community and I think most of them know what this is all about. They see this as a competitive battle, an effort to vilify someone for competitive advantage."

Still, prospects for a Ridder win seems slight -- or at least not aligned with Ridder's initial confidence. Especially since many legal experts commenting in past news articles have already questioned  his chances. In April, Dennis Farley of the Intelligence Group, a company that investigates corporate espionage, said, the wholesale copying of competitor's files is a no-no. "For somebody to be that brazen and to leave with his whole laptop, and a competitor to feel that it's within the bounds of fair play to acquire all that information about their competitor really surprises me," he told the AP.

As Minnesota Lawyer reported last month, "noncompetes have teeth in Minnesota." Courts in the state have a national reputation for enforcing such agreements, the publication said:

Not only do noncompete agreements have relatively more muscle in Minnesota than in other states, but companies here can even impose them retroactively in some cases, thanks to the state's Uniform Trade Secret Act, which provides that confidential business information is protectable as long as the information can be shown to be classified as a trade secret.
And Minneapolis employment attorney Lee Watson made a prediction in an April AP story: "Mr. Ridder, being where he is in the company hierarchy, it's probably going to be enforced."

If today's hearing yields the kind of information yesterday's did, the case might have a swift conclusion. Lambert, now writing for The Rake, recalls this exchange yesterday:

During a break midway through the proceedings, I stopped Dean Singleton in the hallway and asked, "Have these guys [referring to Avista] offered to settle this thing? Because based on what I've just seen I'd be astonished if they haven't."

  Singleton, who walks with a cane, pivoted and looked at me. "I can't say anything about that. But if you're astonished you'd be right."


Now Playing: Jeff Chang

The Walker Channel is now playing a panel discussion from a week or two ago on the ideas behind Jeff Chang's book Total Chaos: The Art and Aesthetics of Hip Hop. Chang, who I interviewed here in advance of the talk, was joined by graffiti legend and graphic artist Cey Adams, filmmaker Rachel Raimist, and Juxtaposition Arts co-founder Roger Cummings.

Watch it.

Strib's Ridder admits he stole data from Pioneer Press as he left

In videotaped testimony played in Ramsey County District Court today, Star Tribune publisher Par Ridder acknowledged he copied confidential financial documents onto a portable hard drive before leaving his old employer, the Pioneer Press, and said he shared the information on personnel matters, advertising and profits with managers at the Star Tribune.

William Dean Singleton, CEO of MediaNews, the Denver-based company that owns the Pioneer Press, was in the courtroom today as a judge heard his paper's request for a temporary injunction that would prevent Ridder and two other former PiPress executives from working for the Minneapolis paper. At issue are noncompete agreements the Pioneer Press says Ridder, Strib senior vice president of operations Kevin Desmond, and Jennifer Parratt, now director of niche publications, signed when the paper was still owned by Knight Ridder. Par Ridder acknowledged he asked an assistant to shred a stack of noncompete agreements -- including his own -- on his last day at the St. Paul paper, but changed his mind. He stopped her in the parking ramp as she left work and retrieved the documents himself.

In a legal filing on June 19, the Star Tribune argued that the data Ridder took wouldn't damage its crosstown rival. In its legal brief, the Pioneer Press said "[t]hese individuals were top executives with firsthand knowledge of [the Pioneer Press'] business strategies, customer relationships, and overall strengths and weaknesses."

Newsweek's "correct" opinion

A new Newsweek survey finds that 41 percent of Americans polled "think Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq was directly involved in planning, financing, or carrying out the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001" -- an increase over past polls. While that fact is getting a lot of play, what about this question? The "correct answer" is marked in bold:

Ironic protester

Via Reddit, a curious capture by photographer Timothy Allen:

Mapping a missing lake

On October 22, 2007, artist Ledia Carroll completed a chalk outline of a lake that once covered much of San Francisco's Mission District. "Drawing the line in reference to maps from the 1800s, Carroll’s chalkline allows the still visible ancient depression of the lake to become apparent to the eye," Carroll's press release said. More from SoEx. Via Pruned.

Tunnel House

In spring of 2005, artists Dan Havel and Dean Ruck set out to "sculpturally alter" two houses in Houston's Montrose neighborhood. In the temporary project, called Inversion, they created "a large funnel-like vortex beginning." Their press release at the time described the project; both houses, already scheduled for demolition, were ultimately destroyed:
The exterior skin of the houses will be peeled off and used to create the narrowing spiral as it progresses eastward through the small central hallway connecting the two buildings and exiting through a small hole into an adjacent courtyard.


The Splasher caught?

Wooster Collective is reporting that two guys caught trying to set off a stinkbomb at a Shepard Fairey opening in Dumbo last night might be tied to the "Splasher." Meanwhile, Fairey, interviewed by New York, says nearly all of his pieces have been hit by the Splasher's paint bucket. "I think people who don’t do street art are more bummed out by this than the artists. They look at it as sacred, but the street artists have this understanding that everything they do will ultimately be destroyed,"he said. He admits, he's irritated by the destruction of his work and calls for a little street justice.

"I think he needs to be caught. I’m totally about peace, but I’m totally about justice too. I wouldn’t kill him. I’d just beat him up."

(Thanks, Taylor.)


RexSpeak: Fimoculous' Sorgatz on community journalism and keeping a "small media mentality"

Over the past few days, I've been interviewing Rex Sorgatz, an executive producer for MSNBC.com, Wired contributor, and creator of the local community blog, MNspeak. A pioneer of "placeblogging," he spoke about the difficulties for newspaper journalists making the shift online, "big media" adopting a "small media mentality," how the Star Tribune's Buzz.mn blogger James Lileks is doing, and the future of citizen journalism. Read it all at Minnesota Monitor. Here's an excerpt:
Sorgatz: Looking at the online media landscape right now, I see one sector that no one has really figured out: local. There are good publications around every single vertical market imaginable, but there are only a handful of good local blogs. If you follow this industry, you've read about some of the attempts at local citizen journalism. American Journalism Review recently had a story about the failure of the more prominent citizen journalism sites. But all of those failures have one common characteristic: they were started by former Big J newspaper people. And that reveals the other quality that is required to make "placeblogging" work: sexiness. It's a crass way to think of publishing, but it's an essential quality. City Pages in the early '90s, The Strib in the early '80s -- these had a certain kind of sexiness. (My definition of sexiness: hot content with a strong voice that leads to people talking about the author and engaging with the publication.) I just don't know if these new citizen journalism projects will have the sexiness to gain audience. It's like old media dressed up in new media clothes.

It looks as though a lot of recently unemployed newspaper people are trying to move online. Of course they should, but I worry they won't create anything that feels fun, that has the vigor and excitement of Facebook, that thinks about itself like Digg, that has a relationship with its audience like Newsvine. I predict they will all make the same mistakes: they will talk to their audience rather than with it, they will view "comments on stories" as their big statement about cracking open journalism, and they will vainly try to move the newspaper model onto the internet. And they will likely fail for not understanding the power of the medium: networked communities creating a collaborative news experience.

Thanks for the chat, Rex.


Billboard-Free Sao Paulo

On January 1, 2007, Sao Paulo's rightwing populist mayor made a striking proclamation: no outdoor advertising anywhere in the city. Suddenly, the city of 11 million people had no visible billboards, illegal street posters, kiosk ads, or neon signs -- not even the Goodyear Blimp could pass muster. " Within months," as On the Media put it, "the city has gone from a Blade Runner-like vision of the future to a reclaimed past." The "visual pollution," in the mayor's words, was erased. The imagery, captured in a Flickr pool, is truly amazing.



Dessert @ First Amendment Arts


I checked out the opening of Dessert at First Amendment Arts Saturday night. The show features 100 or so collaborative artworks created by six-year old Cohen Morano with artists like Barry McGee, Shepard Fairey, Gary Taxali, Kaws, and others. We ran into Witt Siasoco from the Walker, hip-hop graphic designer (and Cohen's onetime collaborator) Cey Adams, and Burlesque of North America's Wes Winship, as well as Cohen and his dad, Aye Jay. The artist and his dad were gracious and warm. Aye Jay told us about his new project, the follow up to his Gangster Rap Coloring Book, The Heavy Metal Fun Time Activity Book:
Headbangers get the chance to color legends like Metallica, Danzig, and Pantera; help get Spinal Tap through a backstage maze; complete the Black Metal word scramble and hair metal crossword; and solve heavy metal Sudoku.
The opening featured music by DJ Mike the 2600 King (shown below beside Cohen's skateboard designs and a print of Che-bacca by Aye Jay) and an ice cream sundae bar complete with chocolate-covered gummi worms.

Utne on Eyeteeth on The Splasher

Last week, Chris Gehrke at Utne Reader's webwatch kindly quoted Eyeteeth on the NYC "Splasher," a Dadaist-trope-slinging destroyer of street art. Wrote Gehrke:
Putting aside the validity of the Splasher's objectives, the art blog Eyeteeth has suggested that it's worth analyzing the Splasher's techniques in the context of other art movements such as "the Dadaists acts of destruction, Jackson Pollock's drip paintings, the Francis Alys work where he punctured a can of paint in a museum and wandered with it throughout the neighborhood, dripping all the way and ended up nailing the empty container to the gallery wall." Though Eyeteeth writer Paul Schmelzer ultimately condemns the Splasher's agenda as "hokey," he notes that street artists might "relax a little" and "reconsider the tenuous canvas they're using."
That seems to simplify my argument, making me sound a bit more easygoing about the Splasher's efforts than I really am. So, to be clear, this passage from my post fleshes out Gehrke's sample:
Such readings seem far too generous for work that's over-wrought to the point of feeling like an art-school prank. The critique is too easy, taking only a few seconds to accomplish and with little personal risk, and it's mean-spirited instead of mischievous, like the Dadaists it refers to. At the bottom of each wheat-pasted poster accompanying paint blasts is a warning (which those who've seen the posters first-hand say is bogus): "The removal of this document could result in injury, as we have mixed the wheat paste with tiny shards of glass."

Given this, the Splasher's anti-art sentiment reads as anti-artist.
All that said, thanks for the link-up, Utne friends.



We've seen the skeletal structures of cartoon characters, now... the skull of Pac-Man.


Golf simulator? Ridder's reported mansion suggests Strib austerity plans aren't for him

The five-bathroom, three-car-garage mansion that Star Tribune publisher Par Ridder reportedly purchased is impressive in its grandeur -- as it should be, I suppose -- but not over-the-top in a William Randolph Hearst kind of way. Yet to the 145 or so Star Tribune employees affected by Ridder-orchestrated downsizing -- and the dismayed Pioneer Press employees who are emailing the real estate link around this week -- the 8,000-square-foot Lake of the Isles mansion might seem excessively posh.

The home, according to an architectural walking tour that once made its way through Minneapolis' Kenwood neighborhood, was the first home of another newspaper man, Plumleigh Rogers, who edited the Daily Market Record. But it's likely that another news icon, former WCCO anchor Paul Magers, who owned the home before moving to Los Angeles in 2004, added amenities like a golf-simulator (if, like me, you haven't played simulated golf, it must be something like this). The realty listing also boasts a heated in-ground pool, gourmet kitchen and a "lavish master suite with great views." The Rake's media critic Brian Lambert is convinced Ridder bought the property, which sold on May 14 for $2.73 million. The taxes this year are just shy of $42,000, according to Hennepin County records. (The May sale and the home's new owner have not yet been recorded with the county.)

The realty link made it to my inbox with a note from a former Pioneer Press newsroom employee who took a buyout, along with 21 others, last December: "Apparently, Par isn't too concerned about any judge's ruling that might encourage him to leave town anytime soon."

Ridder's former paper is suing him and two other former executives who took jobs at the Star Tribune for, among other charges, violating the contract clause that prohibits them for working for the competition within a year of leaving St. Paul. If Ridder has indeed bought the mansion, he's probably fairly confident that Ramsey County District Judge David Higgs will not prevent him from keeping his new job at the Strib. The next phase of the suit is a June 25 hearing over a temporary injunction related to the hiring of Jennifer Parratt, a PiPress executive the paper says had a non-compete clause in her contract. The injunction has kept Parratt from working at the Strib.

"The pricey house is another statement on how well people at the top are doing in big business these days, while the rank and file continue to lose ground," said the former Pioneer Press newsroom employee.

Cucumber-flavored Pepsi?

Pepsi has apparently launched a new product for Japanese sensibilities: Pepsi Ice Cucumber. After its Tuesday debut, one review wasn't so glowing:
While the bottle clearly describes it as “combination” of cucumber and cola, there just isn’t much cola flavor to it. The drink takes on a somewhat sweet and fruity flavor, but the artificial cucumber flavor is noticeable, in my opinion. It’s interesting for a few sips, but then the artificial cucumber aftertaste kicks in, making it pretty nasty.


"Hip hop's Howard Zinn": An interview with Jeff Chang

Jeff Chang -- co-founder of the record label that's now Quannum, author of Can't Stop Won't Stop, and about the most accessible cultural historian I've met -- is coming to Minneapolis tomorrow night for a panel discussion on hip-hop aesthetics [Walker Art Center, 7:00, Free]. In anticipation, I interviewed him for the Walker's Education blog.

An excerpt:

In Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop, you wrote about the cultural, econonic, and political conditions in the Bronx in the late '60s that gave rise to hip-hop culture (you called it the “politics of abandonment”). Here in Minneapolis, like elsewhere, we're seeing record-breaking home foreclosures, inner-city school closings, and a spike in violent crime in our urban neighborhoods. How is today like that seminal period in the Bronx? Is there a creative counterpoint to all this bad news?

Well, I would never want to suggest that we need to have social upheaval in order to create beautiful art. In fact, often societal turmoil does not lend itself to progressive work, but to xenophobic, constricted cultural production. What I can say is that it’s deeply human of us to want to make beauty and truth in the face of despair. Hip-hop, in its most vital forms, lives close to these stories, and can tell them more truthfully than most of what we are confronted with in this ether of globalized, corporatized images and narratives.

In an an interview about Total Chaos, you said, “Name your genre, and I can probably tell you how hip-hop has changed it.” Ok: Crocheting. Kidding. But what about, say, mainstream media? Or country music? Is there a far-flung genre you can name that I'd be surprised has changed because of hip hop?

Mainstream media–er, Don Imus? OK, very bad example. Country music–Big & Rich?! How about modern dance? I’m still surprised at how choreographers like Rennie Harris have transformed the ways in which elite dance critics now discuss Black social dance.

Wooden wheels

Not many details on this one, so I'm not sure if it's a genuine modification, a weird advertising campaign or even an art installation. Anything’s possible. I like to think though, that it's a Hungarian motorist who places sustainability as a higher priority than comfort, speed, handling or self preservation.


Lil Cohen, 6-year-old street-art phenom, to show in Mpls

At six years old, Cohen Morano has a list of collaborators that would be the envy of most artists. He's created works with Barry McGee, Tim Biskup, Albert Reyes, UPSO, David Choe, and Aaron Horkey, to name a few.

Thanks to his dad, Aye Jaye Morano, who took his son's watercolors on the road while doing book-signings for Gangsta Rap Coloring Book, Cohen now has more than 100 joint works to his credit. The pieces will be on view at Minneapolis' First Amendment Gallery (run by the principals of the design firm Burlesque of North America, formerly of Life Sucks Die magazine) at an opening June 16. Images, via Mumble Magazine, are by Barry McGee, Doze Green, and Winston Smith.

Pentagon's "gay-bomb" plans revealed

The Berkeley-based Sunshine Foundation says it's unearthed Pentagon plans to build a hormone bomb that would turn all those hit by it gay. Uncovered through a Freedom of Information Act request, the plans, dated 1994, indicated that the Air Force's Wright Laboratory in Dayton, Ohio, had asked for $7.5 million to develop the bomb. The proposal said, "One distasteful but completely non-lethal example would be strong aphrodisiacs, especially if the chemical also caused homosexual behavior."

A January 2006 BBC report says the six-year development plan was never funded or implemented.

Dial up the sounds of a dying glacier

Glasgow-based artist Katie Paterson has set up a phone line so callers can hear the creaking last gasps of Europe's largest glacier as it melts. Climate change is destroying the glacier, Vatnajokull, and only one caller at a time can hear its death rattle (call 07758 225698; international rates apply). But Paterson, who seems to intend something closer to poetry than politics, says the point is about "grandeur slipping away":

"It is really poetic: a river of ice slowly disintegrating, quite discreetly, quite invisibly. Sheets of ice are constantly slipping off, huge bits cracking, moving very slowly.

"It is sad to see a vanishing world."

Censorship circumvention CDs distributed in Thailand

As the leaders of Thailand's coup continue to crack down on free speech -- they've blocked access to YouTube and some blogspot.com sites, have censored one of its great filmmakers and shut down community radio stations -- FACT (Freedom Against Censorship Thailand) has launched a way to address at least one part of the clamp-down. They're distributing free CDs with instructions on how to beat the country's Information and Communications Techonology censors:

FACT is proud to strike a blow for freedom by making available this CD of circumvention software and instructions, plus MICT’s most current and past secret blocklists ('the owner’s manual’–want to see what they don’t want you to see?) and links to FACT’s website and petition. “Put the petty bureaucracy of senseless censors to bed.” “Censorship is a totalitarian system used as a tool of oppression against human rights and civil liberties, freedom of speech, freedom of expression, academic freedom, media freedom, the free exchange of ideas and freedom of thought. Censorship acts against democracy. Censorship suppresses dissent. Censorship is terrorism.”

FACT’s CD is already spreading virally from user to user in Thailand and will also remain available on FACT’s website; dozens of software vendors at computer venues have already begun selling FACT’s copyright-free CD. In addition, FACT’s “Beat the Censors” CD is available internationally on BitTorrent peer-to-peer networks.

FACT calls the CD its first “weapon of mass instruction”. In fact, the disk is applicable for use in any censored country. Unblock the world!

“Beat the Censors–Unblock ICT!” features 41 software applications to circumvent Website-blocking by Thai censors. Tor, Ultrasurf and many browser add-ons from websites and weblinks blocked by Thai Internet censors are made available in a complete, virus-free installer package for the first time.

Read more.


"The power of subliminal persuasion"

British "psychological illusionist" Derren Brown shows a pair of ad creatives how susceptible even they are to the omnipresent messaging of advertising. Watch all the way to the end...

Beer-Bottle Solar Shower

Street-Use points out a Chinese man's DIY solar water heater made with beer bottles filled with water installed on a rooftop.
"I invented this for my mother. I wanted her to shower comfortably," says Ma Yanjun, of Qiqiao village, Shaanxi province. Ma's invention features 66 beer bottles attached to a board. The bottles are connected to each other [with plastic tubing] so that water flows through them.Sunlight heats the water as is passes slowly through the bottles before flowing into the bathroom as hot water, reports China Economy Network. Ma says it provides enough hot water for all three members of his family to have a shower every day. And more than 10 families in the village have already followed suit and installed their own versions of Ma's invention.

Sculptor creates "rotating facade"

Geoff writes:
In a project that "will astonish the commuters of Liverpool," sculptor Richard Wilson has turned part of a building's facade inside-out. As if learning from Gordon Matta-Clark, Wilson sliced an "egg-shaped section" out of the building's facade – "fixing the eight metre diameter piece on a pivot" so it can spin


What We Eat

Time runs a fascinating photo essay showing all the food families around the world eat in an average week, as well as how much is spent on food. The 15 featured families appear in Peter Menzel's book Hungry Planet.

Shown: The food expenditures for a family in a refugee camp in Chad, above, is $1.23 per week. Below, a four-member family in North Carolina spends $341.98 per week, and a family in Cuernavaca, Mexico, spends $189.09.

Via Information Aesthetics.


Big Q blogger joins Minnesota Monitor

Big news: Eric Black, the veteran Star Tribune journalist and creator of the paper's popular Big Question blog, is joining Minnesota Monitor as a national fellow, blogger, and mentor. As he told me on Friday when he announced he was taking a contract buyout at the paper, he's been experimenting with a new voice that's not the "disembodied voice of the reporter" -- and he hopes to continue such experimentation with MNMON.

"The work I've done in the last couple of years has been my own personal exploration of finding that better way, that sweet spot between the best things about journalism and the best things about blogging," he said. "I don't make any claims that I've located that spot, but I've enjoyed the search, and I'll continue searching for it."

One big question remains, though: what'll happen to the successful blog he leaves behind at the Strib?

Eric is expected to post on these topics at The Big Question any minute now.

Viewmaster contributor Mosedale quits City Pages

While City Pages writer Mike Mosedale has penned some great cover stories and hilarious blog posts, what I'll miss most when he steps down in two weeks are his snapshots contributed to the paper's weekly "Viewmaster" feature. More on Mosedale's resignation here.