Speaking of boobs...

George W. Bush, on a tape released by Osama bin Laden the Friday before the 2004 election:
What does it mean? ...Anything that drops in at the end of a campaign that is not already decided creates all kinds of anxieties, because you're not sure of the effect. I thought it was going to help. I thought it would help remind people that if bin Laden doesn't want Bush to be the president, something must be right with Bush.

Found body art.

Yoko Ono's film Bottoms consisted entirely of footage of the undulating asses of her friends, up close and personal. Eadweard Muybridge's pioneering experiments with moving images used loincloth-clad soldiers and nude ditch-diggers. But when it comes to absurdist nude art, the Bounceometer is a found-art venture that has them both beat. Created to sell (apparently upscale) sports bras, the obviously NSFW site uses computer animation to simulate bouncing breasts in sizes ranging from A to FF to G, from various angles and with varying degrees of vigor.

How low will the MN GOP go?

Very. ThinkProgress:
A story by Minnesota Public Radio reveals a disturbing new way that a political party is secretly grabbing sensitive personal information about voters.

This week the Minnesota Republican Party is distributing a new CD about a proposed state marriage amendment. Along with flashy graphics, the CD asks people their views on controversial issues such as abortion, gun control, illegal immigration, and so on.

The problem – the CD sends your answers back to headquarters, filed by name, address, and political views. No mention of that in the terms of use. No privacy policy at all. The story concludes: “So if you run the CD in your personal computer, by the end of it, the Minnesota GOP will not only know what you think on particular issues, but also who you are.”

These practices fall way below the standard for today’s polling firms and web sites. The norm for polling firms is to anonymize the data and report only statistical totals. The norm for commercial web sites is to have a privacy policy, with Federal Trade Commission enforcement if the web site breaks its privacy promise.

Without a privacy policy, the state party can tell your views to anyone at all. If you give the “wrong” answers on abortion or other issues, they can tell your boss, members of your church, or anyone else. In fact, these answers could get distributed to campaigns in your town during get-out-the-vote efforts – precisely the place where “wrong” answers can be most damaging.

The right answer here is simple. If you are collecting data and keeping it in identified form, then you should tell people. If you are selling your lists or sending them to other groups, you should tell that as well. That goes for all political parties.


Bush by the numbers

34: Percentage of Americans who now approve of the president.

18: Percentage of Americans who view Dick Cheney favorably.

1300: Number of Iraqis killed last week in sectarian violence

400: Approximate number the military and media had previously reported were killed.

244: Number, in billions of dollars, the war in Iraq has cost so far.

50: Number, in billions of dollars, Donald Rumsfeld in 2003 said the war would cost.

72.4: Number of dollars, in billions, the Bush administration is requesting in additional "emergency supplemental funding" for the Iraq war.

39: Percentage of Americans today who think we're winning the war on terrorism.

44: Percentage of Americans in January who thought we were winning the war on terrorism.

60: Percentage of the 41,856 people around the world polled by BBC who think that the war in Iraq has "increased the likelihood of terrorist attacks worldwide."

14.5: Averange length of stay, in months, of the approximately 500 prisoners kept in wire cages at Bagram Air Base , without any legal representation or ability to challenge their detention, in conditions described as "more bleak" than Guantanamo.

50: Number of US governors who signed a letter to Bush saying his planned cuts to the National Guard would hurt states' preparedness.

28: Number of state governors who are Republicans.

2087: Number of U.S. military personnel killed in Iraq since Bush challenged insurgents there, saying "Bring 'em on."

2294: Total number of US fatalities in Iraq.

60: Percentage of the 2004 vote that went to Bush in Wisconsin's conservative Walworth County, where Democrats are officially calling for the president's impeachment.

I'm not sure what I'm looking at here,

but I like it.

Tarp couture

After hurricane Katrina, the blue tarp has become ubiquitous in New Orleans: it covers woodpiles and serves as a makeshift roof; it shrouds pickup truck loads of debris and boxes in the garage. And now blue tarps are finding their way into fashion runways and Mardi Gras parades:
Some of the Mardi Gras parade clubs have used blue tarp symbolically in this year's floats. (The Krewe of Mid-City hemmed all its floats in it.) A wetlands-preservation benefit at Antoine's restaurant last week featured a blue tarp fashion show, with outfits made by local artists. According to the Times-Picayune, one model "took a turn in her own frock, swishing back and forth in the season's hottest look, a five-tiered tutu and matching corset in the fabric du jour: blue tarp.
The Washington Post has more.

Practice random acts of knitting.

There's something refreshing about street art that's no so aggressive or destructive, street art that says, "bundle up." Behold, Knitta, a "tag crew of knitters, bombing the inner city with vibrant, stitched works of art, wrapped around everything from beer bottles on easy nights to public monuments and utility poles on more ambitious outings."

Octavia passes.

Brilliant sci-fi writer, MacArthur "genius" grant winner, and one of science fiction's few African Americans, Octavia Butler died yesterday at age 58.


The death of environmentalism.

Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I have a dream speech" is famous because it put forward an inspiring, positive vision that carried a critique of the current moment within it. Imagine how history would have turned out had King given an "I have a nightmare" speech instead.
That's one of my favorite lines in "The Death of Environmentalism" [pdf/html], an essay by Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus, two of the founders of the Apollo Alliance, a "crash program for sustainable energy independence [that aims to] create three million good jobs, free the nation from imported oil, and promote a healthier environment." The gist of the must-read piece is that environmentalism, like most "liberal" causes, has long been seen as a "special interest," thanks in part to environmentalists themselves who define what they're about too narrowly. The essay argues for a more wholistic environmental focus, including labor, healthcare, ownership and taxation, and a slew of other issues beyond just those that directly affect natural habitat--all while framing the issues in an optimistic, values-based approach. I'm reading the essay in preparation for book I'm contributing to for the Royal Society of Art's Art & Ecology program. Closer to my interests, then, is this quote on how art--and religion and storytelling and...--can contribute:
Environmentalists need to tap into the creative worlds of myth-making, even religion, not to better sell narrow and technical policy proposals but rather to figure out who we are and who we need to be.
(Thanks, Max.)


You know those six American ports that United Arab Emirates-owned shipping company is set to take over operations at? They're really 21 ports, despite what Bush and the much of the media have reported, "ranging from Portland, Maine to Miami, Florida, and 10 on the Gulf Coast, from Gulfport, Miss., to Corpus Christi, Texas." I guess we shouldn't be surprised that a guy who can't wave and ride a bike at the same time should screw up basic math.


Feel-good story of the day

I'm heading out of town, but I wanted to leave you with a sweet story:
Senior Jason McElwain had been the manager of the varsity basketball team of Greece Athena High School in Rochester, N.Y.

McElwain, who's autistic, was added to the roster by coach Jim Johnson so he could be given a jersey and get to sit on the bench in the team's last game of the year.

Johnson hoped the situation would even enable him to get McElwain onto the floor a little playing time.

He got the chance, with Greece Athena up by double-digits with four minutes go to.

And, in his first action of the year, McElwain missed his first two shots, but then sank six three-pointers and another shot (video), for a total of 20 points in three minutes.

"My first shot was an air ball (missing the hoop), by a lot, then I missed a lay-up," McElwain recalls. "As the first shot went in, and then the second shot, as soon as that went in, I just started to catch fire."

"I've had a lot of thrills in coaching," Johnson says. "I've coached a lot of wonderful kids. But I've never experienced such a thrill."

The crowd went wild, and his teammates carried the excited McElwain off the court.

"I felt like a celebrity!" he beamed.
Read more.


Architecture for humanity.

Several years ago, I attended a talk by the late Sam Mockbee with my brother. Mockbee ran the innovative Rural Studio at Auburn University, a project whereby architecture students built affordable, well-designed housing for people living in Alabama's--and the country's--poorest areas. I recall him saying something like: Habitat for Humanity is great, but would you want to live in one of those houses? "Everybody wants the same thing, rich or poor ... not only a warm, dry room, but a shelter for the soul," he once said.

Mockbee died too young, from leukemia, in 2001. But his thinking is being carried on: tomorrow at the TED (Technology Entertainment Design) conference, architect Cameron Sinclair will be given $100,000 to make a "wish" come true. And given his work in founding Architecture for Humanity (AFH), it's a safe bet he'll use it to continue building temporary housing for victims of war and disaster in places like Louisiana, Serbia, earthquake-struck Pakistan, and areas devastated by the Southeast Asian tsunami in 2004. (Here's a list of AFH projects.)

In a profile of Sinclair, The Christian Science Monitor describes his grad-school project: "[H]e designed temporary housing for New York's homeless that would obscure the view of the Statue of Liberty. His proposal: Once the city could properly house its 'huddled masses,' it could have its view of the lady with the lamp back." Born in Scottland and based in Montana (but currently teaching at the University of Minnesota), Sinclair has a motto that guides his work--"design with pride, not pity." And some of his methods reflect those values:
• He refuses to reveal the locations of AFH projects to television news crews. The story should be "What do we need to do to allow this community to rebuild?' " he says, but too often TV crews' attitude is "let's see some suffering."

• Plans for a building or other structures developed for AFH are available to anyone - for free. "Any nonprofit can come to us and ask, 'Can we have the construction documents for that project you did?" he says. "[And we say,] 'absolutely!' "

• AFH won't put signs with its name or that of donors on a project it builds. The building, Sinclair says, belongs to the community, not AFH or the donors. "If you donated to our organization, you know you built it, I know you built it," Sinclair says. "Why do you need to force it down their throats?"

• AFH doesn't rush in after a disaster. "We shouldn't be there in the first day or to. That's inappropriate. That's really offensive to communities," he says, whose first needs are food, clothing, and information about family members. "The idea that an architect is this person who flies in, jumps off the plane, and goes to the rescue is just about the worst image possible."
Keep up with the TED conference at TEDblog.

On view: HOME House Project: The Future of Affordable Housing at the Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum, University of Minnesota.

Read an Eyeteeth interview with Sinclair here.

Photos: Rural Studio's Music Man House" (top); AFH slat-house in Sri Lanka and temporary housing in Grenada.

More from Weimar

The campaign in Weimar continues...


Hill of Crosses, near Siauliai, Lithuania.

Beach of shoes, caused when the contents of an Asian shipping liner washed up in the Netherlands.


Fecal fuel.

Dog poo: that's what San Franciscans will be turning into methane gas for cooking, heat, or electricity under a new pilot program. A waste collection company will provide biodegradable baggies for picking up poop at a dog park. It'll all go into a methane digester which produces usable methane. San Francisco has an estimated 240,000 dogs, which produce some 6,500 tons of the brown stuff. "The main impediment is probably getting communities around the country the courage to collect it, to give value to something we'd rather not talk about," said a representative of Norcal Waste. "San Francisco is probably the king of pet cities. This could be very important to them."

No shit? As Jeff writes, maybe it's a ploy to coincide with Bush's green PR tour, but it's cool nonetheless: the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island will now be run on wind power.

The Rundown

I've been sick in bed all day, so now that I've risen from the dead, I present a random rundown of today's happenings:

Imams spur cartoon violence: Nat Hentoff writes that the most egregious cartoons featuring Mohammed——"Muhammad as a demonic pedophile; Muhammad with a pig snout; a Muslim at prayer raped by a dog"—wasn't among the 12 that ran in the Danish newspaper. "Imams in Denmark toured the Middle East with these additional cartoons... to show, they said, the degree of hatred in Denmark of Muslims," which is why cartoons that ran in September are sparking worldwide riots in February.

Worth a veto? Bush has never used his veto powers, but he's threatened to take the maiden voyage by blocking emergency legislation that would prevent a company headquartered in the United Arab Emirates from taking over port security duties at key American ports. Politicians of both parties, from Michael Bloomberg and Bill Frist to New York's Sen. Chuck Schumer and Rep. Peter King, have expressed alarm at allowing port security to be run by a company based in Dubai, the "logistical hub" (and major source of financing) of the 9/11 hijackers. A little investigation couldn't hurt, but why's Bush so adamant? Could the White House's ties to the company have something to do with it?

A lightbulb moment: A bright idea via WorldChanging: a Long Island science teacher is leading his class in providing every kid in America with a compact fluorescent light bulb. If they succeed, they'll help us save $2.3 billion in energy costs. Who can fork over the dough needed? Why, Oprah, of course (and those who watch her). Send her a letter requesting her show features "Mr. Luna's Bright Idea."

TNT-eating fungi? From NewScientist: "When explosives are used for mining or demolition, some may fail to detonate and get lost in the rubble. [Inventor Robert] Riggs reckons the remedy could be to mix pellets of dormant fungal spores in with the explosive charge before inserting the wick into the explosive package. The dry spores lie dormant while the explosives are in storage and, if the charge detonates as intended, will get blown to smithereens. But if the explosive fails to detonate, water from the air should migrate down the wick and into the charge. The spores should then germinate and devour the charge, rendering it harmless."

The O'Reilly Faker: In a longstanding feud with Fox News' Bill O'Reilly, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof challenged O'Reilly to demonstrate his "traditional values" by assessing the horror in Darfur first hand so he could use his "talents for an important cause." Through his readers, Kristof has raised over $725,000 for the trip. But O'Reilly calls Kristof's efforts a "gimmick" and says he won't go: "I do three hours of daily news analysis on TV and radio. There's no way I can go to Africa."

Heretofore unsung: Two funny things about the new Scooter Libby Defense Trust website. 1. In the banner, Libby uses a quote from Dick Cheney to vouch for his competence and talent. 2. The site heaps praise on the Indicted One thusly: "Since September 11, 2001, Lewis "Scooter" Libby has been one of the unsung heroes in fighting the war on terror..."

At least Cheney didn't shoot you? Or did he? Make your own, customized CNN story on Cheney's hunting mishap at igotshotbydickcheney.com. (Via Siva, who also got shot by Cheney.)

Dr. Bronner's Magic Soapbox

Dr. Bronner's soap, the bottles and bars covered with cryptic sayings and quotes from the likes of Gandhi and Abraham Lincoln, have become ubiquitous in health-food stores across America. With lo-fi graphic design and all-natural ingredients, the soaps--nearly two million hand-packed bottles a year--are the brainchild of a very unusual man. Emanuel Bronner grew up in an orthodox Jewish family in Heilbron, Germany, the third generation of master soapmakers. Defying his father, he moved to the US in the 1920s. In 1938, the Nazis nationalized his family's soap factory and killed his family; this history--the soap and the memory of the Holocaust--permeated Bronner's eventual business enterprise. He built a soap-making company founded on pure ingredients, fair employment, and a deep belief that, despite what the Nazis thought, humanity is "All-One!"

Now the subject of a new documentary, Dr. Bronner's unusual beliefs are coming to light. Some are strange: the FBI has a "nut file" on Bronner, who called and wrote frequently urging the agency to investigate efforts by "commies" to take over the US by fluoridating the water supply. But, while idiosyncratic, Bronner's philosophies were productive, generous, and deeply countercultural. Often referring to the world using Buckminster Fuller's term "Spaceship Earth," Bronner used profits to help build wells in Ghana, donate over $1 million to the Boys and Girls Club, and fund an orphanage in China. And his employees are well cared for: each one receives a profit-sharing bonus of anywhere from six to $20,000 each year, according to Bronner's son Ralph, and their benefits include a pension, health, dental, and optical care.

A hugely successful company, Dr. Bronner's offers a compelling alternative to the profit-over-people mindset of most corporations. And the loyalty of its customers is ferocious. Ralph Bronner says:
Here's a letter from a man who says the soap makes him feel like someone put a York Peppermint Pattie in his underwear. Here's another from a man who thanks us for giving his life purpose: "My dear friend Dr. Bronner. [It always floors me how many people who had never met my father thought of him as a close friend.] My life was empty until one day, while washing the daily grime from my skin and anticipating my demise, I noticed the words on the wrapper of a bottle of soap. I read them, and instantly there was purpose to my existence. Your words of eternal wisdom returned faith to an old man's black heart. For this I cannot thank you enough." And he signed it, "My eternal gratitude."

My favorite quote from the label, and one of Dad's favorites, is "God must have loved the common people of the earth, he made so many of them." That's Abraham Lincoln. I have no friends in the corporate world of briefcases and ties. They only want to buy us out, tell us how to double our sales, or get something out of us. My friends are the people stocking the shelves, cutting the carrots in the food pantries, and shopping in stores all over America.
See a clip from Dr. Bronner's Magic Soapbox here.


Artist Judi Werthein has designed a line of shoes specifically made for immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border. Called Brinco--from the Spanish verb brincar ("to jump")--the shoes have a pocket in the tongue to store Tylenol:
"If they go through the sierra, they walk eight hours. Their feet get hurt. There's a lot of stones and there are snakes, tarantulas. So that's why it is a little boot," Werthein says. The Brinco is an ankle-high trainer which is green, red, and white - the colors of the Mexican flag. An Aztec eagle is embroidered on the heel. On the toe is the American eagle found on the US quarter, to represent the American dream the migrants are chasing. And on the back ankle, a drawing of Mexico's patron saint of migrants. A map - printed on the shoe's removable insole - shows the most popular illegal routes from Tijuana into San Diego.


The Washington Post:
The Energy Department said it has come up with $5 million to immediately restore jobs cut at a renewable energy laboratory President George W. Bush will visit on Tuesday, avoiding a potentially embarrassing moment as the president promotes his energy plan.


Crude art.

Iraqi Crude Oil in the Form of Democracy, Andrei Molodkin, 2005

Iraqi Crude Oil in the Form of Blessing Hand, Andrei Molodkin, 2004:
The cold whiteness of marble is replaced with the black instantly inflammable liquid. The solid is replaced with the flexible. The inorganic is replaced with the organic. The safe and secure is replaced with the fire-hazardous. The names of ancient gods are replaced with oil indexes. Our Heritage is measured in Barrels.

Danish editor explains cartoon decision

Flemming Rose, culture editor of the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten, explains his decision to run cartoons depicting Mohammad as an effort "to push back self-imposed limits on expression that seemed to be closing in tighter." He writes:
Has Jyllands-Posten insulted and disrespected Islam? It certainly didn't intend to. But what does respect mean? When I visit a mosque, I show my respect by taking off my shoes. I follow the customs, just as I do in a church, synagogue or other holy place. But if a believer demands that I, as a nonbeliever, observe his taboos in the public domain, he is not asking for my respect, but for my submission. And that is incompatible with a secular democracy.

This is exactly why Karl Popper, in his seminal work "The Open Society and Its Enemies," insisted that one should not be tolerant with the intolerant. Nowhere do so many religions coexist peacefully as in a democracy where freedom of expression is a fundamental right. In Saudi Arabia, you can get arrested for wearing a cross or having a Bible in your suitcase, while Muslims in secular Denmark can have their own mosques, cemeteries, schools, TV and radio stations.
Near the end, Rose reports that his "newspaper has received 104 registered threats, 10 people have been arrested, cartoonists have been forced into hiding because of threats against their lives and Jyllands-Posten's headquarters have been evacuated several times due to bomb threats. This is hardly a climate for easing self-censorship."

Ray Fong/Barry McGee

Either Ray Fong is copping Barry McGee's style, or the subject of a show that opened at Giant Robot's LA gallery on Friday is Barry McGee, aka Twist. The latter seems most likely, as Caryn at Art.Blogging.LA and commenters at FF suggest. But stylistic similarities aside, the fact a popular McGee artwork shares Fong's name is the clincher for me.

Also: McGee TV. And another of McGee's Ray Fongs.


The Peace Tower

At this year's Whitney Biennial, Rirkrit Tiravanija and Mark di Suvero are remounting a 1966 project called "Artists' Tower Against the War in Vietnam," which was designed by di Suvero and erected in Los Angeles. Participating artists ranged from Leon Golub and Ad Reinhart to Judy Chicago and Elaine de Kooning. The 2006 Peace Tower, on view March 2 through May 28, features 2x2-foot panels designed by 180 artists including Carl Andre, John Baldessari, Matthew Barney, Dara Birnbaum, John Bock, Chakaia Booker, E.V. Day, Tacita Dean, Sam Durant, Olafur Eliasson, Joseph Grigely, Hans Haacke, Pierre Huyghe, Sol Lewitt, Robert Mangold, Jonas Mekas, Yoko Ono, Irving Petlin (an originator of the 1966 project), James Rosenquist (one of the original contributors), Martha Rosler, Dread Scott, Kiki Smith, Yutaka Sone, Nancy Spero, Fred Tomaselli, Lawrence Weiner, and Andrea Zittel.

"The Peace Tower is a powerful statement of protest," said Biennial curators Chrissie Iles and Philippe Vergne. "By constructing it outside the museum’s entrance for all to see, Mark and Rirkrit remain true to the spirit of the original. The tower gives us a chorus of strong artists’ voices in a very public reminder that art is being made in a world that is, in the words of Antonin Artaud, 'a theatre of cruelty.'"

[Image: The 1966 Peace Tower. Via NEWSgrist, the blog of participating Tower artist Joy Garnett.]

"Hi, my name is Daniel Johnston, and I'm going to be famous!"

I first learned about Daniel Johnston when listening to an in-studio recording of Yo La Tengo covering his song "Speeding Motorcycle"; Johnston called into the studio and sang (or screeched, at times) the vocals. I didn't realize that he's an artist--and now one to be featured in this year's Whitney Biennial. The International Herald Tribune profiles Johnston, an artist whose "outsider" aesthetic and bipolar disorder would seem to belie his art education at Kent State, his affinity for Marcel Duchamp, or the inventiveness of his childlike drawings. Johnston lives at the home of his elderly parents after multiple hospitalizations and is the subject of the forthcoming documentary The Devil and Daniel Johnston" and appeared in POPaganda: The Art Crimes of Ron English (an artist mentioned here and here).

More: Rejected Unknown, the Daniel Johnston fan site, and Johnston's Wikipedia entry.


Japan's iPod art stars

Here's an interesting bit of art technology: Japanese Art Scene Monitor reports that one of Japan's largest printing companies is releasing a slideshow of art by Yoshitomo Nara, Takashi Homma, Kenji Yanobe, and others for viewing on iPods. The Artstar project comes on CD and includes on music track plus 175 images, from drawings to photographs. Or in some cases, meta-photographs: "[Takashi] Homma has taken photographs of his photographs, creating 167 deliberately low-fi images, perhaps in a humorous acknowledgement of the iPod's limitations as a visual media."

Above: works by Yoshitomo Nara

Cross-posted at Off-Center.


Street Art: Weimar

man beside stepOne of a series of stencils, based on photos of local residents, appearing in Weimar, Germany.


Organic culture-jamming

By dead of night, a group of "guerilla gardeners" in the UK are reclaiming urban wastelands, from a "huge shrubbery/urinal behind the bus stops on London Road" to a North London plot "filled with weeds, beer cans, and a pool of vomit," by clandestinely planting bulbs, bushes, and herbs. As it turns out, the London duo aren't pioneers, but part of a growing movement. Check out Pure Genius, Primal Seed, Wikipedia's entry on the topic, and Toronto's Guerilla Gardening site (sponsored by the city's Public Space Committee).

Via Sustainablog and Treehugger.

Art/ecology blogroll additions

A few new ones: Free Soil, "an international hybrid collaboration of artists, activists, researchers and gardeners who take a participatory role in the transformation of our environment," by artists Amy Franceschini, Nis Rømer, Stijn Schiffeleers, and Joni Taylor; and Strange Weather, "a resource hub about climate change for artists, writers and activists," by First Pulse Projects. Also, a shout out to Pruned, a journal on landscape architecture and related fields.

Pixel map

A new population map where each pixel equals a million people. Click for larger image. Via Bruce Sterling.


Condi's coiffure

Is Condoleeza Rice going Boondocks on us with a new hairstyle? As Wonkette explains in a post entitled "Breaking Hair News: Condi's Gigantic, Square Afro," the Reuters shot at left captures Rice in front of the Hungarian flag. It seems such confusing photos of Condi are stacking up.

Hail to the Chief!

"Monitoring the situation"

Revisionist competency: On August 30--the day after Hurricane Katrina hit--George Bush took a break from his vacation to hang out with country singer Mark Wills, who gave him a prop for Bush's most infamous photo-op: a presidential guitar. Now Scott McClellan accuses The New York Times of "rewriting history to fit an inaccurate storyline and conveniently ignoring key facts." Bush, McClellan now claims, “was closely monitoring the situation [with the hurricane] and not ‘on vacation.’”

Liberty and Justice: "The CIA’s top counter-terrorism official was fired last week because he opposed detaining Al-Qaeda suspects in secret prisons abroad, sending them to other countries for interrogation and using forms of torture such as 'water boarding,' intelligence sources have claimed."

Cost of War: According to the Oxford Research Group, a major US attack on Iran's nuclear sites would kill 10,000 people, kick off a protracted war in the Middle East, and send oil prices skyrocketing.

Shot in the face, and you're to blame... "The White House blamed the 78-year-old man whom Vice President Dick Cheney shot during a weekend quail hunting trip in Texas for the incident, as officials struggled Monday to explain why they waited nearly 24 hours before making the news public." But as Paul Begala and other hunters note, their argument--that Whittington got in Cheney's way--violates the first rule of hunting. Also, hilarious coverage of said face-shooting by The Daily Show.


Perspectives on public art

A new public artwork by Felice Varini, who writes:
The vantage point is carefully chosen: it is generally situated at my eye level and located preferably along an inevitable route, for instance an aperture between one room and another, a landing... I do not, however, make a rule out of this, for all spaces do not systematically possess an evident line.

It is often an arbitrary choice. The vantage point will function as a reading point, that is to say, as a potential starting point to approaching painting and space.

The painted form achieves its coherence when the viewer stands at the vantage point.When he* moves out of it, the work meets with space generating infinite vantage points on the form. It is not therefore through this original vantage point that I see the work achieved; it takes place in the set of vantage points the viewer can have on it.
Click on images to see at full size.

American Jesus.

Visiting family in Sicily, Rob Borsellino realized there was a topic he couldn't bring up--the hijacking of Jesus in America:
He used to bring people together and give them hope. He wouldn't have his people get in your face and tell you to fight gay rights or you'll burn in hell. That's not what he was about. That's not the Jesus who made folks such as Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson rich and famous. He was a different guy from the 21st-century American Jesus Christ...

...Several times during the week, I thought about telling my family what's happened to Jesus in the United States - how he's been kidnapped by politicians and preachers who decide what he does and doesn't think. They speak for him, and it doesn't always make sense.

They say Jesus is "pro life," but he doesn't seem to have a problem with the death penalty. And he thinks stem cell research - something that would save lives - is no different from murdering babies. They say he's the embodiment of kindness, love, decency and compassion. But he hates gays, lesbians and Muslims. And he's not too crazy about Buddhists, Hindus and the rest. Jews? He can put up with them if he has to.

The Rev. Fred Phelps of the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka claims to speak for Jesus and goes around the country talking about how " AIDS cures fags." Pat Robertson says it would be a good idea if the United States killed the president of Venezuela. It would be a lot cheaper than starting another war.

All week I went over that stuff in my head and decided not to mention any of it to the family.

It would make America look ridiculous.
Via AltText. Image: Óscar Seco.
Alternate images: Antonio Riello, creator of the Padre Pio Rocket.

The new GOP mantra:

It's not my fault.

Bush's $1.6 billion propaganda budget.

How much would $1.6 billion buy in, say, body armor for Iraqi troops (ask this GI's wife; she's holding a bake sale) or housing for the 12,000 recently evicted Katrina victims? How big of a dent would it make in affordable housing or vocational training or family-farm subsidies or alternative fuel research?

$1.6 billion is, as they say, no chump change.

It's also how much of your taxes the Bush administration used to pay for advertising and PR in the last 2.5 years
, according to a new report by the Government Accountability Office.

"The extent of the Bush Administration's propaganda effort is unprecedented and disturbing," said Rep. George Miller. "The fact is that after all the spin, the American people are stuck with high prescription drug prices, high gas prices, and high college costs. This report raises serious questions about this Administration's priorities for the country and I would hope that my colleagues on both sides of the aisle would agree that changes need to be made to reign in the President's propaganda machine."

(Thanks, Jim.)


From DataIsNature:
Translator II: Grower is a simple robot vehicle that navigates the edges of a room drawing lines of grass on the walls corresponding to the levels of carbon dioxide in the air. A remote carbon dioxide sensor tells the robot how much C02 is in the environment every few seconds, the height of the drawn grass is dramatically affected by the amount of people in the room as a result of their C02 output.

‘The metaphoric relation is that grass needs CO2 in nature to grow. Here, my simulated grass needs the breath of human visitors in order to thrive. The height of the ‘grass’ directly reflects on the human activity or traffic in the space. The more people that visit that space, the more amenable that space is to my machine’s ability to create. The relationship between Translator II: Grower, the space, and the public becomes a cross-metabolic one. This piece makes visible how art institutions depend on their visitors to make them ‘healthy’ spaces for new art to evolve and flourish within.'

Plame was investigating Iran's WMDs

What does the outing of Valerie Plame have to do with the nuclear tinderbox in Iran? Maybe everything, writes Raw Story. When Scooter Libby or Dick Cheney or whoever in the White House blew Plame's cover, they apparently outed a woman who "was part of an operation tracking distribution and acquisition of weapons of mass destruction technology to and from Iran." Intelligence sources told the publication that identifying Plame "resulted in 'severe' damage to her team and significantly hampered the CIA's ability to monitor nuclear proliferation." And all for what? To punish Joe Wilson for not going along with a war just next door in Iraq?

Quick links

Questions for the gang who couldn't shoot straight: More questions are arising about Cheney's shooting of a trial lawyer. Why did it take a full day for officials to disclose the accident, and would they have done so had a reporter not been tipped off about it? And why did the owner of the ranch where the shooting took place tell the Houston Chronicle that Harry Whittington was "bruised more than bloodied" and that his "pride was hurt more than anything else," when in fact he'd been airlifted to an intensive care unit? Wonderment abounds at Editor & Publisher.

So much for free speech: A 15-year Veterans Administration nurse is being investigated for sedition. Her crime? Writing a letter to the editor, which, in part, reads: "Bush, Cheney, Chertoff, Brown, and Rice should be tried for criminal negligence. This country needs to get out of Iraq now and return to our original vision and priorities of caring for land and people and resources rather than killing for oil. . . . We need to wake up and get real here, and act forcefully to remove a government administration playing games of smoke and mirrors and vicious deceit. Otherwise, many more of us will be facing living hell in these times.” Let's be clear on what an unapologetic VA is accusing Berg of: sedition, according to Princeton's Wordnet is "an illegal action inciting resistance to lawful authority and tending to cause the disruption or overthrow of the government."


Mapping the global news.

Information Aesthetics points out this cool "aesthetic interface which shows news items as they are released, extracted from RSS feeds, highlighting the location of stories as they arise. recent news items (in yellow) can also be accessed."

More faceplant photos

Pardon the gratuitousness, but this is pretty amazing: 24minutos has a series of detailed photos of face transplant recipient, Isabelle.

Best of "Deadeye Dick"

Best headline about Cheney shooting his huntin' buddy goes to Peek: "Maybe those five deferments weren't such a bad idea after all." Best photo selection for the story goes to ABC News Online, who for a brief time showed a picture of Cheney receiving a gift gun from his NRA pals:

Sky Sails

The Bremen-based Beluga Group will become the world's first shipping company to equip a freighter with a giant kite that'll harness ocean winds and help conserve fuel. While such Sky Sails won't replace diesel fuel, they can, under optimal conditions, cut fuel usage in half.

Earlier: Cargo by kayak

Bush files

Bush hearts Abramoff: After the White House claimed the president doesn't know corrupt lobbyist Jack Abramoff, after the White House allegedly ordered a photo studio to purge photos of Bush's meeting with the former Bush fundraising "pioneer," after Bush flat-out denied any knowledge of Abramoff ("I, frankly, don't even remember having my picture taken with the guy. I don't know him."), a photo of Bush and Jack meeting with Indian tribal leaders is, at last, published (above).

Dubya Dubya III? The Pentagon is advancing attack plans on Iran, reports the Telegraph, with bombing raids backed by submarine-launched ballistic missile strikes intended as a "last resort" to get Tehran to stop enriching plutonium.

Heckuva job, Deutschie: Old news by now, but worth repeating: after it was revealed that he lied about completing college, 24-year old NASA public affairs officer and former Bush campaign worker George Deutsch resigned from the space agency. Deutsch built his resume at NASA by telling a web designer to add the word "theory" to every mention of the Big Bang and directing public affairs officers to limit reporters' access to a key climate scientist. As Jonathan Alter writes, "Doesn’t every single person in the country who ever said a word about George W. Bush’s 'competence' owe an apology to every single other person in the world?"

The Trust Gap: A New York Times editorial today: "We can't think of a president who has gone to the American people more often than George W. Bush has to ask them to forget about things like democracy, judicial process and the balance of powers — and just trust him. We also can't think of a president who has deserved that trust less." Read it.

Levy's call to arms

In "A Letter to the American Left," Bernard-Henri Lévy tells "semi-comatose" American progressives to wake the hell up:
Still others will wax ironic about the disease of writing up petitions, a French specialty, warded off by American pragmatism. Here the objection is more serious; and I know the fatuity that can exist in the mania for nonstop political engagement in the name of myriad causes--but aren't you afflicted, my American friends, with the radically opposite sickness? Hasn't the ethics of sobriety won once too often, with you, over the ethics of conviction? And how could one not yearn for a petition that would address our common nausea when faced with the spectacle of a diabetic, blind, nearly deaf old man, pushed in his wheelchair to the San Quentin execution chamber in California?

I might be mistaken, but it seems to me that a large part of the country is waiting for this. Everywhere, in the innermost reaches of America, you can meet men and women who hope for great voices capable of echoing their impatience in a momentous way. If I were an American writer, I would try to ponder the lessons of the totalitarian century and those of democracy, Tocqueville-style, all at once, in the same breath, and with the same rigor.


Getting religion.

As entrepeneurial Palestinians stock up on Danish flags to sell to match-wielding protesters, the outrage over cartoon depictions of Mohammed seems to be turning into farce. So, to balance things out, a bit of farce on the other side: a highly sacreligious Jesus video.

Post-Rapture dog-sitters: "Are you an animal lover; and also an atheist, agnostic, jew, muslim, or other non-Christian? If so, you might qualify for the JesusPets Partner Program! JesusPets will pay YOU to take care of dogs, cats, and other pets" after The End comes.

And: The New York Sun reviews Breaking the Spell, Daniel Dennett's book on religion as approached "in the same way a Martian would."

[Image via Defective Yeti.]


Sequel to iRaq and iFamine, via Sum1.

Sisters of Terror

Benedictine nuns at the Holy Name Monastery have reason to believe the government thinks they're in cahoots with al-Qaeda: in November, their funds were frozen, and the Patriot Act, they were told, was to blame. One 80-year old nun who was a signatory to the bank account didn't have an ID or social security number on file, triggering a provision of the act. Before everything was sorted out, they racked up around $400 in bounced-check fees.

"[I]f it happened to us, it can happen to anybody," said Sister Jean Abbott. "I think people need to know that nobody is safe from, in some cases, really ridiculous scrutiny."

Who we've got at Gitmo: A new statistical report of detainees at Guantanamo shows that 55% of detainees aren't accused of any hostile act against the US, only 8% are al-Qaeda fighters, and 95% weren't captured by US troops but were turned over by Pakistani and Northern Alliance forces.

Multi-touch sensing

A team led by Jefferson Han has been conducting research on multi-touch sensing technology, i.e. touch-screen interactivity that goes far beyond what you see at the drive-up ATM machine. Apparently Apple owns the patent on the work, and as this video shows, the potential for the technology is huge. Han writes, "The sensing technology is force-sensing, and provides unprecedented resolution and scalability, allowing us to create sophisticated multi-point widgets for applications large enough to accomodate both hands and multiple users." Translation: by "grabbing" images on a screen you can scale them, scroll, draw graphs, set levels like a sound engineer or DJ would, etc.

Also: See the Dialog Table, an interactive tool at the Walker that uses gesture-recognition technology for accessing info on contemporary art.


Saddam sculpture sunk.

Like Damien Hirst's famous formaldehyde-filled sculpture, Czech artist David Cerny's Shark features a killer in murky green fluid. Only this one is a bound Saddam Hussein in his underpants, an image too volatile for the mayor of the Belgian town of Middelkerke: he banned it from the Beaufort 2006 arts festival opening in April.

See Hirst's The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living (1991).

Feingold on warrantless wiretapping

Today, Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold issued a scathing rebuke of the Bush administration, Congress, and--if I can read between the lines--Joe Liebermann. Here's how it began:
Again and again, he invoked the principle of freedom, and how it can transform nations, and empower people around the world.

But, almost in the same breath, the President openly acknowledged that he has ordered the government to spy on Americans, on American soil, without the warrants required by law.

The President issued a call to spread freedom throughout the world, and then he admitted that he has deprived Americans of one of their most basic freedoms under the Fourth Amendment -- to be free from unjustified government intrusion.

The President was blunt. He said that he had authorized the NSA’s domestic spying program, and he made a number of misleading arguments to defend himself. His words got rousing applause from Republicans, and even some Democrats.

The President was blunt, so I will be blunt: This program is breaking the law, and this President is breaking the law. Not only that, he is misleading the American people in his efforts to justify this program.

How is that worthy of applause?
Read the entire speech.

Waffle: Bush's main defense of warrantless spying on US citizens, used in the State of the Union, is that had such powers been open to him, the 9/11 attacks could've been prevented. Funny, in 2002, Bush (along with Ashcroft and FBI chief Robert Muller) said there's no way the attacks could've been protected.

The bread & butter of Bush's budget

The Bush master plan still includes extending and expanding tax cuts while at the same time reducing spending on 141 programs, something Clinton economic advisor Gene B. Sperling is like "a man who leases three fully loaded Hummers, finds it stretches his family's budget to the breaking point, and decides his family has to start buying cheaper peanut butter" (as paraphrased by the New York Times).

Love, Charlie.

Nicole Dotin and Eric Olson (a former Walker designer and brainchild behind Process Type Foundry, which realized the Walker's new identity system) have an Italian Greyhound named Charlie. Every day they add a new image of a dog so skinny the sun shines right through him. (Above, he's witnessing a rollover outside the Dotin/Olson window.) Having just returned from a hard weekend helping my parents bury Ace, our family's 14-year old Shetland Sheepdog, I wanted to post this--and this, a Flickr set comprised entirely of imagery of airborne cats--with the Buddha post below (as Ace has long been my furry dharma guide), but Charlie deserves his own post.

Buddha Watch

This photo of a Buddha statue in Burma by Marie Docher is one of hundreds at Lens Culture's Buddha Project, a series of reader-submitted photos of "found Buddha, sacred Buddha, ancient Buddha, kitschy Buddha, handmade Buddha."

Quick links

Ethical microtech: WorldChanging interviews the founders of the Center for Responsible Nanotechnology.

Green challenges: In These Times interviews Heather Rogers, author of Gone Tomorrow: The Hidden Life of Garbage: "If you’ve got a company and you’ve decided to go green, it’s going to cost more. You’re going to be competing with companies that aren’t doing that, and aren’t incurring the greater cost. Either that’s going to drive you out of business, or into the realm of manufacturing luxury items to sell to people who have now embraced this whole new level of consumption that’s connected to organic living, organic lifestyles. But those goods aren’t available to working class families or to people who live in public housing. Those are high-end consumer items. So, that kind of change is not going to affect a greater change across the board."

Red ink: Metafilter: "The White House has just released the budget for 2007. If approved by Congress, this budget would increase defense spending by 24%, cut money from healthcare, education, and the environment all while adding another $354 billion to the U.S. debt. At the end of FY2000, the U.S. debt--the accumulation of the deficit spending of all previous 42 U.S. Presidents--was $5,674,178,209,886.86. Today it is $8,195,544,127,376.07." The budget also calls for cutting $53.5 million set aside for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and no funding for the Department of Education’s Arts in Ed program.

Never forget: Christian Science Monitor reporter Jill Carroll has all but fallen from the headlines, yet she remains captive in Iraq. This CSM blog keeps up the vigil.

Carter cuts to the chase: Jimmy Carter on Bush's domestic spying agenda: "Under the Bush administration, there's been a disgraceful and illegal decision — we're not going to the let the judges or the Congress or anyone else know that we're spying on the American people. And no one knows how many innocent Americans have had their privacy violated under this secret act."



I'm heading out of town tonight to a place where the temporary (I hope) 56k dialup internet connection I have at home will seem luxurious in comparison (19,2bps, folks), so blogging will trickle to a halt til next week. Have a good weekend.

Bush backs big oil.

The AP:
President Bush defended the huge profits of ExxonMobil Corp [Ed: a record-breaking $10.71 billion in the fourth quarter of '05] on Wednesday, saying they are simply the result of the marketplace and that consumers socked with soaring energy costs should not expect price breaks. In an interview with the Associated Press aboard Air Force One en route to Tennessee, Bush also addressed oil's future, offering a more ambitious hope than in his State of the Union speech for cutting imports from the volatile Mideast.

Bush, a former Texas oilman, said of oil costs, "I think that basically the price is determined by the marketplace, and that's the way it should be.
A counterpoint, from The Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights:
"If Exxon Mobil had not artificially kept gasoline inventories running nearly on empty prior to Hurricane Katrina in order to drive up the price of gasoline, it would not be reporting profits greater than any American corporation in the history of the world," said FTCR president Jamie Court. "Exxon Mobil intentionally made gasoline scarce in order to drive up its profits by not investing in needed refining capacity and by exporting needed petroleum products out of America. No oil company should be allowed to reap world record profits from one of the nation's worst natural disasters. These hurricane-force profits should drive the US Senate to legislate new supply-side regulation of the industry."

Blog-age t-shirt

As of December 2004, eight million Americans (and probably more) say they have a blog. Here's a t-shirt for the rest of you.