Video: Kenji Nagai murdered, shot at point blank range

The National Press Photographers Association has more on the murder of 50-year-old AFP contract photographer Kenji Nagai by Burmese police. Yes, murdered. A heart-wrenching video on Japanese television shows a soldier or police officer aiming a gun at Nagai and shooting him, point blank, capturing Nagai falling to the ground. "A loud crack is audible as a soldier points his rifle at the prone figure before launching himself at the dispersing crowd of protesters," reports The Times of London.

"Something deplorable is happening there," said Japanese PM Yasuo Fukuda. "We must consider what on earth we should do to resolve the situation."

Video below. Warning: graphic content.

My Flak Moment

First came the butter-up, then the drubbing.

As a guest host on this week's edition of the Flak Magazine podcast, I was introduced as being among Taylor Carik and Jim Norton's all-time wish list for guests, an auspicious roster with names ranging from John Goodman to Nelson Mandela, Chilean president Michelle Bachelet to Gwar. Disoriented by flattery, I was then summarily destroyed by Taylor in the news quiz (who knew Twinkies have some of the same ingredients as rocket fuel and shampoo?).

But before that, we had a great discussion on new media and the Twin Cities newspaper scene, internet oddities (from a TV news report on a drunk guy stuck in a chimney to Eyeteeth's post on the Bush family pool boy), new music (Iron & Wine's The Shepherd's Dog and the inadvisability of metal bands attempting to cover a Ronnie James Dio classic), and Taylor's discovery that entire movies, like Red Dawn and Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure, are available in small-screen splendor on YouTube.

Sincerely, these guys are great -- sharp as tacks, incredibly informed, funny as hell, and definitely worth your listening time -- and I enjoyed being a part of their show. Give a listen.

The death of brands / Death and brands

Above: Laura Keeble's installation of branded gravestones, Idol Worship. Below: Pepsi's truth in advertising.


Buddha's Army

I confess I have this thing about democracy -- people, together, guiding a shared future: it's a beautiful thing they're fighting for. So the Burma/Myanmar protests touch that part of me. But also there's something moving about the symbols, the aesthetics, and the powerful example set by brave individuals acting collectively.

Some of the most affecting images of the Saffron Revolution, for me, are the ones where "armies" of orange-robed monks march in perfect regimented lines, like soldiers, but with a confidence deeper than the false one that comes from carrying sidearms. A Reuters photo series (where I got most of these photos) also shows some of the individual actions, from the example of resolve set by long-imprisoned opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi to the image above that seems to show a lone, anonymous protester in a moment of bravery not unlike the man at Tiananmen Square who stopped a line of tanks with his will alone.

Their courage, wherever it comes from, must be linked to deep frustration. I can't help thinking: life under the junta must be awful for a revered institution like Buddhism to have its members turn their alms bowls upside down in direct defiance of the government and its supports. Or: life must be bad when Buddhist monks and nuns, who likely understand better than the rest of us that life is suffering, have had enough.

Nine people are confirmed dead in the violent police crackdown on protest, including AFP photographer Kenji Nagai (above and below), who lying injured after being shot by soldiers still kept taking photos.

Yet they still march.

had a sobering photo essay on all the protests these last 19 years. All registered dissent, but none toppled the junta. Will this one be any different? Maybe: The eyes of the world are on Burma like never before (not that the regime has cared one iota about what we think). What I want to know is: how can we help?

One answer came in my inbox (thanks, Mary): Amnesty International has launched an email campaign where you can urge Bush to call for an immediate deployment of a UN Security Council mission to Burma. A letter-writing campaign doesn't seem like much, but according to blogger Nyein Yan Char, who says there are now more than 1400 (and counting) political prisoners held by the regime, direct action by the UN is what's needed.

Protest Q&A from The Telegraph
Video update from Global Voices
Hour-by-hour updates on the situation, from The Buddhist Channel
Photos by Flickr user gmhembree

*A note about terminology: Out of habit, I refer to Myanmar with the anglicized name, Burma. Long ago, I heard -- somewhere -- that because the junta made the official decreee that changed the name to Myanmar, Burma was the preferred name.

Orange power

Love this picture. [via TIME]

Monk meme

Saffron Revolution Worldwide has made a stencil of Burma's marching monks so people can visually show solidarity with their peaceful resistance. Spread the meme.

Think of the childrens.

What better spokesman? George Bush, promoting No Child Left Behind after the National Assessment of Education Progress results came out yesterday:
"As yesterday's positive report card shows," Bush said, "childrens do learn when standards are high and results are measured."
Of course, the official transcript of his words don't have that pesky "s."


$600K fix planned for swastika-shaped Navy complex

"The U.S. Navy has decided to spend as much as $600,000 for landscaping and architectural modifications to obscure the fact that one its building complexes looks like a swastika from the air," Tony Perry reports in Monday's edition of the LA Times. "The four L-shaped buildings, constructed in the late 1960s, are part of the amphibious base at Coronado and serve as barracks for Seabees."

Quotes du Jour: Liberals & Conservatives

Via Neatorama:
"A liberal is a person whose interests aren’t at stake at the moment."

- Willis Player, businessman (1915-1981)

"A conservative is a man who sits and thinks, mostly sits."

- President Woodrow Wilson (1856-1924)

Shirts for monks?

Out of print and probably intended for type geeks and hipsters, these "Avant-Gandhi" t-shirts by Emil Kozak oughta come in saffron.

Saffron Revolution marches on despite violence

It's been amazing watching resistance to the junta in Burma grow: tens of thousands of saffron-robed monks, nuns, and student supporters taking to the streets in peaceful protest against an oppressive 19-year military dictatorship and the high prices and restricted freedoms that have come with it. Now riot police are kicking back.

Yesterday monks worried about "white heads" -- police, their freshly shaven heads as a giveaway, posing as monks -- infiltrating their ranks and stirring up violence to create an excuse for a military response. Today, police have charged crowds, firing tear gas and beating some (including an 80-year-old monk), reportedly killing one, and troops now are surrounding at least six monasteries. Other reports say a nun and six monks have been shot, 17 have been injured, and four have died.

Pro-democracy protesters topped 100,000 in Yangon Monday, led by the monks, who chanted "Do-aye!": "It is our task!"

The big question, of course, is whether the regime will respond to the monks and mounting world pressure. Looking at the crowds, it's hard not to not be hopeful about momentum being on the side of democracy.

For more: Democratic Voice of Burma


Geek Protest

Vatican to go carbon-neutral

Jesus, that's cool:
[T]he Vatican has just become the world's first state to announce its intention to become carbon-neutral.

Its vital partner in this endeavor is a start-up enterprise from Hungary called KlimaFa and its San Francisco parent company, Planktos International. The company plans to recultivate an area that once was the lush 37-acre Tiszakeszi forest northeast of Hungary's capital, Budapest.

The so-called Vatican Climate Forest may be more than 500 miles away from the Vatican, but according to KlimaFa it will be large enough, at least in theory, to offset the Vatican's entire carbon-dioxide emissions for 2007.

[Read more]


George H.W. Bush's poolboy speaks

James Razsa, who grew up in Grey, Maine, and found himself pool boy to former president George Bush, recently spoke with the San Francisco Chronicle about the experience. His summation: "If every American had to pool-boy for these people for a day, you'd have a revolution on your hands."

While a leaf skimmer doesn't get great access to the powerful, the story does offer this glimps of the Bushes:
Razsa recalls one day when former first lady Barbara Bush was on her way over, and it looked like there wouldn't be time to bring the pool's temperature up to her desired 82 degrees in time. The family's caretaker was in a panic, he says.

"He kept shouting, 'Barbara will go crazy! Barbara will go crazy!'" Razsa recalls. "This is the same woman who after Hurricane Katrina said (of the Houston Astrodome refugees), 'You know, they're underprivileged anyway, so this -- this is working very well for them.'"

Wilco Action Figures

File under: "You know you've made it when..." One of my favorite bands, immortalized in plastic, by Portland-based UNKL (Derek Welch and Jason Bacon).

Francis' Fabiolas

For some 20 years, Francis Alÿs has collected paintings of the Catholic saint Fabiola. Each of his nearly 300 paintings is based on a now-lost original by 19th century French painter Jean-Jacques Henner. Last week, Alÿs' collection went on view at the Hispanic Societey of America in New York. The Belgian artist first noticed two of the paintings at a Brussels flea market in 1992; he didn't buy them but they registered in his mind: a woman in profile, always facing the same direction, always wearing red. He kept noticing the woman, rendered in paint, thread and carved wood. The ubiquity of the iconic image, Alÿs said, "indicates a different criterion of what a masterwork could be." The Dia-commissioned exhibition is on view through April 2008.

"We don't have homosexuals in our country"

That's what Iranian president Ahmadinejad said, drawing laughter, at Columbia University this morning. As John at AMERICAblog puts it: "Methinks the bearded lady doth protest too much."


Colbert on The Simpson's

Stephen Colbert discusses his appearance tomorrow night on The Simpson's, with clips from the episode.

MASS MoCA wins right to show Büchel installation

A mobile home being moved into MASS MoCA's Building 5, by John Carli, The New York Times

As MASS MoCA describes on its blog, the relationship with Swiss artist Christoph Büchel soured long ago. Last summer, Büchel began an ambitious installation that was budgeted to cost $160,000 and was slated to open this December. Housed in a football field-sized building, Training Ground for Democracy would be a reflection on living in wartime and would include a replica of the "spider hole" Saddam Hussein was captured in, a two-story house, a smashed police car, a rusty oil tanker, and other outsized items.

Long story short, Büchel abandoned the project after a few months, stating that the museum "proved not to be capable — neither logistically, neither schedule- nor budget-wise — to manage the project." MASS MoCA doubled the budget (later offering to throw in an additional $100,000) to entice him to complete the work.

He refused, ratcheting up an ugly standoff between the artist and the institution. He would neither finish the piece nor agree to remove materials from the site -- and he wouldn't let the museum open the installation for public viewing (it did, however, but with obscured views of the project).

After leaving the state, Büchel sent a communique listing demands, which can be summarized by this line: “The artist demands full autonomy with regard to his artwork.

MASSMOCA filed suit in an attempt to win the right to show or dispose of the work. Büchel countersued, seeking an injunction against the museum and financial damages. He cited the Visual Artists Rights Act of 1990 (VARA), which protects artists by preventing "the use of his or her name as the author of the work of visual art in the event of a distortion, mutilation, or other modification of the work.” On Friday, a federal court judge ruled that the museum could exhibit the installation, as long as it clearly indicated it was an unfinished work.

Some, like Yale art school dean Robert Storr (whose affidavit in the case said under no circumstances should a work be shown until the artist deems it complete), have sided with Büchel. But Judge Michael Ponsor questioned who owns the work's copyright in the first place. The Hartford Courant writes:
While museum workers in North Adams spent months following Buchel's meticulous instructions for completing the work, the judge said, the artist spent only six weeks on site in Massachusetts. The museum acquired most of the objects for the display -- including an oil tanker truck, a Cape Cod house and a vintage movie theater -- and coordinated the complicated task of acquiring cast-off appliances from residents of North Adams. E-mail exchanges between the artist and museum staff included such minutiae as whether a wrecked police car should rest on its side or its wheels.

"I put all of this together and ask myself where is the copyright here?" Ponsor said during questioning in his court Friday. "Who owns the work when what is being created is collaborative art? The museum spent most of the money and did most of the work."

Ponsor toured the exhibition for two to three hours as research for his decision, calling it "the kind of art that wakes you up in the middle of the night."

"I have never been so powerfully affected by a piece of art," he said. "I'm very disappointed that such a powerful piece finds itself embroiled in controversy."

And embroiled it may remain.

MASS MoCA, according to press reports, isn't yet sure when or if the public will have the opportunity to see the work. And Büchel's lawyers Friday said they'd likely appeal the decision.


Homeland Security Blanket

No comment necessary. [via]

Iraq Democracy: US, Blackwater ignore Iraq govt ban

See how democracy is flourishing in Iraq? Corporate mercenaries Blackwater USA, banned by the Iraqi government after killing eight civilians, refuses to comply. And the US apparently backs them up: Blackwater is back on security detail for US State Department employees, a job, one might conclude, the US armed forces should provide.


Miss Rockaway Armada run aground?

The Miss Rockaway Armada -- the pomo-boho sustainable art flotilla that set off down the Mississippi from Minneapolis last summer -- is apparently grounded in St. Louis. The AP reports that the rafts were "taking on water" and that the Coast Guard was on hand to help out. No news to that effect yet on the group's blog.

Night shot of the barge that carries the pedal-power ferris wheel via Flickr user tchandler.

Bush wants permanent snooping powers

Not only does Bush want to make warrantless wiretapping powers permanent -- like, forever, in peacetime and war -- he also wants telecom companies who are gathering information to be immune from future prosecution if the procedures are deemed illegal. The Los Angeles Times reports:
President Bush plunged directly into the campaign to save his warrantless wiretapping program, arguing Wednesday that telecommunications firms that cooperated with spy agencies should be granted retroactive immunity from possible prosecution.

Bush also urged Congress to pass a permanent revision of legislation that gave the program a six-month lifespan.

His comments came as he toured the national Threat Operations Center at the ultra-secret National Security Agency at Ft. Meade, Md.

"The need for action is clear," Bush said. "Unless the reforms in the act are made permanent, our national security professionals will lose critical tools they need to protect our country."

Bush argued that telecommunications companies that provided data to the government under the program should be granted immunity from prosecution in the event that their actions are determined to have been illegal.

Rights advocates have filed dozens of lawsuits against telecommunications companies for assisting the government.

"It's particularly important for Congress to provide meaningful liability protection to those companies now facing multibillion-dollar lawsuits only because they are believed to have assisted in efforts to defend our nation following the 9/11 attacks," Bush said.

It is not clear how much personal information the companies may have provided the government under the warrantless surveillance program, or how many Americans may have been affected.... (more)

Improvised Explosive Device

Senatorial TP Sale!

"Larry Craig's toilet paper" winds up on ebay. Ish.

Obama: Senate vote on MoveOn ad a cheap political stunt

Barack Obama, unlike 72 Senators distracted from dealing with a costly bloody war in a substantive way, gets it right when he says today's symbolic resolution against a silly MoveOn ad is a waste of time:
"The focus of the United States Senate should be on ending this war, not on criticizing newspaper advertisements," Obama said. "This amendment was a stunt designed only to score cheap political points while what we should be doing is focusing on the deadly serious challenge we face in Iraq. It's precisely this kind of political game-playing that makes most Americans cynical about Washington's ability to solve America's problems. By not casting a vote, I registered my protest against this empty politics. I registered my views on the ad itself the day it appeared."
And David Kurtz at TPM makes this observation:
But by my calculation, more U.S. senators (72) voted today to condemn a newspaper ad attacking Gen. Petraeus than voted yesterday (56) to lengthen the time off troops get from the frontlines in Iraq, thereby reducing individual soldiers exposure to actual attacks.
Meanwhile, 3,793 US military personnel have died in Iraq, 1.2 million civilians have died violent deaths (according to a recent study), countless GIs have been injured, and we've spent $453 billion on the war.


Paulose or Pelosi?

When Republican Mark Foley resigned during the congressional page scandal last September, Fox News three times identified Foley as a Democrat. A glance at the website of the network's local affiliate, Fox 9, today makes me wonder if they're at it again. Their (otherwise solid) coverage of the federal investigation into US Attorney Rachel Paulose's office last night has a headline that just might be confusing Paulose, a Bush appointee, with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat.

Benefit of the doubt: let's call it a typo.

Ratzi to Condi: I'm on vacation

I'm not sure what to make of this. Either Pope Benedict is finally resisting politicization by the Bush administration or he's an unswervingly die-hard fan of vacation. Either way, it's cool that he refused to meet with Condi Rice, who sought to improve her diplomatic "credit" prior to a Middle East trip. Ratzinger's people told Condi he was "on holiday" and couldn't meet.


Minnesota's Paulose under federal investigation

Eric Black breaks the story: The Office of Special Counsel is in the midst of a long-running (and apparently quiet) investigation of Rachel Paulose, Minnesota's Bush-appointed US Attorney. Among the allegations: Paulose mishandled "secret" war on terror documents, retaliated against subordinates she deemed disloyal, and, in one instance, denigrated an employee, calling her "fat," "black," and "lazy," among others.

Minnesota Monitor has more.


Mpls Hand Job

What is it with Minneapolis and hand-drawn typography? Something in the water?

The new book Hand Job: A Catalog of Type by Mike Perry (Princeton Architectural Press, 2007), is a fascinating 250-page tome in its own right, with clever, cute and sometimes bizarre examples of custom-penned letterforms by the likes of Kate "Obsessive Consumption" Bingaman and design great Stefan Sagmeister.

But it also features a slew of artists and designers with local ties, including former Walker Art Center designers Andy Beach (onetime Off Center guest blogger who's now an independent designer after working for years at Urban Outfitters) and Kindra Murphy (an associate professor at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design). Murphy's samples include sketches for promotional materials she designed for Walker family programs.

It also showcases the work of MCAD grads, including Adam Garcia (who I last saw at First Amendment Arts' show with six-year-old Cohen Morano), Emily C.M. Anderson, J. Zachary Keenan, Jeff Lai, Sparky Hardisty, Patrick Miller, Travis "Mint Condition" Stearns, and Sam Sherman. Even the non-hand-drawn typefaces in the book have Walker connections: Eric Olson of Minneapolis-based Process Type Foundry created Bryant, one of the fonts the book's body text is set in. A U of M grad and former Walker designer, he helped create the Walker's identity system.

So is Minneapolis a mecca of hand-drawn type? Is there a cabal of custom typemakers here, a hand-job underground railroad? Both, says author Mike Perry. He went to MCAD, studied under Kindra Murphy there, is friends with Olson, and tried, unsuccessfully, to get a Walker design job -- which put him in touch with other designers.

"I applied for the Walker internship and [design director] Andrew Blauvelt wrote in my rejection letter that I should get in contact with Andy [Beach] at Urban," he wrote in an email. "So I did and six months later I got hired at Urban Outfitters where I got to know Andy and Erin [Mulcahy, Beach's wife and a former Walker design fellow]. I worked at Urban for 3 years."

Artwork: Typography by Paul Clark (top), Andy Beach, Andy Funderburgh (middle)

Sally Field censored at Emmys

At the Emmy Awards last night, Sally Field's acceptance speech went out "to all the mothers of the world - may they be seen and valued." She went on:
“May they be seen, may their work be valued and raised. Especially to the mothers who stand with an open heart and wait. Wait for their children to come home from danger, from harm’s way, and from war. I am proud to be one of those women.
Then comes the part that Fox deemed too dangerous. They cut Field's mic and shifted the cameras away from Field just as she was saying:
"If mothers ruled the world, there would be no god-damned wars in the first place."
According to a 2004 FCC ruling, what Field said is not technically "profane." So was Fox silencing her for political reasons? (The Canadian broadcast of the show didn't bleep Field's words.)

Backstage, she told reporters, "I would have liked to have said more four-letter words up there!"


By Aye Jay, via We Are Digging for Fire.

Blackwater banned in Iraq

After hired guns at Blackwater USA killed eight civilians and injured 14 more in Baghdad yesterday, Iraq's Interior Ministry revoked the US-based firm's license to work in the country.


Recycled Rose

Mircea Cantor's Rosace (2007), made from discarded, crushed aluminum cans, now on view at Yvon Lambert - New York. Via New York Magazine.

Dispatch from the U of M AFSCME Strike

Tom Elko, a member of AFSCME 3800 and author of Sky Blue Waters, offers a unique videoblog view from the picket line at the University of Minnesota, where clerical, technical and healthcare workers have been on strike for a week. He highlights morale-boosting support from Barack Obama (who sent a letter of encouragement) and Senate candidate Al Franken (who showed up in person), and shares the voices of union memors who come at it with "passion, reason, rebellion, and a little bit of rock and roll -- whatever it takes." Speaking into a megaphone, one AFSCME member counters the argument that the strike is merely a "numbers game," as a nearby group suggested. "We're not out here for a couple of bucks. We're out here to be able to control our labor. We're out here to be able to control our lives. And we're out here to provide checks and balances so that people at the top can't work with impunity and keep us down."

Via Minnesota Monitor.


Walker gets new director

The Walker Art Center named 41-year-old Hirshhorn director Olga Viso as its new director, effective January 1. Don't know much about her, but from what I've read she's good: young, focused on multidisciplinary and global art, artist-centric, not necessarily revolutionary but fairly bold in her leadership of the Hirshhorn.

A roundup of links:

New York Times
St. Paul Pioneer Press
Washington Post
Minnesota Public Radio (1, 2)
Modern Art Notes
Star Tribune
Mpls.St.Paul Business Journal

Who gave the Osama video more coverage?

Fox News or Al-Jazeera. Guess.

Activist detained for "overconfident" bearing

Mark Thomas, an activist and a speaker for the Campaign Against Arms Trade, tells how he was detained by police in the London docklands earlier this week to demonstrate at an arms fair. The police's official rationale? Thomas' overconfidence.

As I walked up the entrance ramp I was stopped by police. "I am afraid I can't let you past me until I have searched you, as I have reason to believe that you could have articles intended for criminal damage," said an officer.

"What good reason?" I asked.

"We watched you address the crowd."

"I am being stopped for what I said in a speech?" I spluttered.

"Oh no. Not because of what you said. It is because you look overconfident."

That was the official reason, I was "overconfident"; bless them, they even wrote it on the stop-and-search slip the police have to provide.


Lessons in Dying

In Belgium, some are upset that a teacher in the Netherlands has asked her elementary school class to design her coffin. Diagnosed with cancer, she got permission from each child's parents and none of the kids seems to have a problem with it. Sounds beautiful to me:

A DUTCH primary school teacher dying of cancer is overseeing one last class project: her pupils are making her coffin.

Eri van den Biggelaar, 40, has just a few weeks to live after being diagnosed last year with an aggressive form of cervical cancer.

She asked the woodwork teacher, a friend, to build a coffin for her. "Why don't you let the children make it?" replied Erik van Dijk.

Now pupils of the school in Someren, who normally plane wood for baskets and placemats, have been helping with the finishing touches. They have already sawed more than 100 narrow boards and glued them together. Only the lid needs to be completed.

The coffin now stands in the middle of one of the classrooms.

Although Miss van den Biggelaar can no longer teach, she has looked at sketches of the coffin and is being kept up to date about it by pupils, aged between four and 11, who visit her at home.

"Life and death belong together," she said. "The children realised that when I explained it to them. I didn't want to be morbid about it, I wanted them to help me. I told them: 'Where I will go is much nicer than this world.' "

Recycled Billboards of India

Via the Johnson Banks website comes a beautiful array of billboards from India -- some blank, some bearing hand-written phone numbers (presumably of the person you call to rent the space), and some created by recycling old ads.


Six years after 9/11, Congress still has no emergency plan


Pres. Magoo

A rough day for Bush in Australia, via the Associated Press:
"Thank you for being such a fine host for the OPEC summit," Bush said to Australian Prime Minister John Howard.

Oops. That would be APEC, the annual meeting of leaders from 21 Pacific Rim nations, not OPEC, the cartel of 12 major oil producers.

Bush quickly corrected himself. "APEC summit," he said forcefully, joking that Howard had invited him to the OPEC summit next year (for the record, an impossibility, since neither Australia nor the U.S. are OPEC members).

The president's next goof went uncorrected — by him anyway. Talking about Howard's visit to Iraq last year to thank his country's soldiers serving there, Bush called them "Austrian troops."

That one was fixed for him. Though tapes of the speech clearly show Bush saying "Austrian," the official text released by the White House switched it to "Australian."

Then, speech done, Bush confidently headed out — the wrong way.

He strode away from the lectern on a path that would have sent him over a steep drop. Howard and others redirected the president to center stage, where there were steps leading down to the floor of the theater.

The event had inauspicious beginnings. Bush started 10 minutes late, so that APEC workers could hustle people out of the theater's balcony seating to fill the many empty portions of the main orchestra section below — which is most visible on camera...
There's more.

Stephen Hawking discusses his appearance on The Simpson's

Brave Green Worlds

uovo14.jpgUOVO, an arts quarterly published in Turin, went green this issue, as the Barcelona-based curatorial duo known as Latitudes -- former Walker curatorial fellow Max Andrews (and Land, Art editor) and partner Mariana Canepa-Luna -- were given free reign as guest editors. Continuing their explorations of art and ecology, the issue sounds intriguing:
Issue 14 presents interviews, essays, projects and two CDs around art practices that resist the spectacularisation or romanticisation of ecological issues or the natural world. Instead their practices explore the operational function and processes of ecosystems themselves, a capacity to comprehend connections and transgress disciplines and boundaries while addressing the uniformly conflicted future of the planet. In a world where one of the US government's recent senior environmental appointees (Allan Fitzsimmons) has been supporting his view for nearly a decade that ecosystems do not exist, such artistic provocations – with a keen understanding of the new post-environmental world – can only be valuable for our collective sanity.

Andrews and Canepa-Luna are contributors to the exhibition catalogue for Brave New Worlds, the Walker exhibition of socially engaged international art that opens in October, and for the UOVO project, they brought in that exhibition's curator, Doryun Chong, as well as Walker Visual Art Curator Peter Eleey, who interviewed artist Michael Rakowitz.




According to Reason, Wal-Mart rolled up the carpet (and probably cause Karl to roll over in his grave) after racking up billion-dollar losses in the German market, but they were there long enough for someone to snap this shot.


Top Two News Words (By Hour)

newshour01.jpgArtist, web developer, and Poster Children lead singer Rick Valentin has created a new piece. Deceptively simple, he attached an old-school, tractor-feed dot-matrix printer to a computer that scours major news sites looking for the two most frequently appearing terms each hour. Viewers can watch online or subscribe to an RSS feed to get an hourly update. In these times when we can be paralyzed -- or bored stiff -- by the massive overload of available information, it's something of an anti-Google, poetically simple and weirdly powerful in how it seems to distill down the biggest fears and obsessions of the hour into two simple words.

As Chicago-based critic Polly Ulrich wrote of Valentin's work at his 2007 MFA exhibition at the University of Illinois School of Art and Design, "The resulting print-out has the appearance of a concrete poetry piece, with a virtual author. The day I visited the top words were Baghdad and Gonzalez, which pretty much summed everything up."



Bush's tears

In Robert Draper's book Dead Certain: The Presidency of George Bush, set to come out tomorrow, there are plenty of revelations about the commander in chief. For instance, he admits it was a mistake to disband Saddam's army in Iraq, and he forgets that it was the administrator he appointed to lead Iraq, L. Paul Bremer, who forced the dissolution.

When Draper said Bush doesn't have a shoulder to cry on, Bush answered, "Of course I do, I’ve got God’s shoulder to cry on, and I cry a lot... I’ll bet I’ve shed more tears than you can count as president.” Draper assumed he was referring to American casualties in Iraq, now approaching 3,800. Bush has reportedly not attended a funeral for a service member killed in Iraq.

Pictured: Camille Gage, Untitled, from War, Redacted series, 2005; Acrylic on digital fine art print, now on view at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts


Pretty Ricky?

Jeebus: Joe Kimball at Minnesota Monitor introduces us to "Pretty Ricky," the state's largest boar, weighing in at 1,200 pounds. "As son-in-law Jake noted," writes Kimball, "Pretty Ricky isn't."


Vitter, Craig, and My Pen Pal, The Ethicist

When "DC Madam" Debra Jeane Palfrey released her phonelists in July, I, like a lot of other journalists, pored over the lists looking for numbers of local politicians. I found a few numbers in St. Paul, Minnesota, home to our State Capitol and some of the local offices of our delegation in D.C. I called one number and got a voicemail; I heard a male voice I couldn't identify.

Creeped out by such sordid research, I emailed Randy Cohen, who writes "The Ethicist" column for the New York Times Magazine, about the ethics of such digging. He quickly replied, but I didn't end up pursuing a story. But with the news this week of Sen. Larry Craig who pled guilty to soliciting gay sex in a bathroom at the Minneapolis airport, the discussion seems worth reviving, especially since Sen. David Vitter, a "moral values" Republican, apologized that his number came up on Palfrey's list (an admission of guilt, if you ask me) but keeps his job, while Craig -- who got busted before a lewd deed could be committed -- resigned from office today. Vitter is southern campaign chair for Rudy Giuliani's presidential bid; Craig was co-chair of Mitt Romney's.

My email to Cohen (notice how in my question, I seem to try to channel Cohen's pithy writing style):
I'm wondering if you could weigh in on a media-related ethics question: What are the ethics surrounding the release of the phone lists held by the so-called "D.C. madam" Debra Jeane Palfrey? Her release of private phone numbers, even were she in a less, uh, sensitive business, seems to violate privacy. And now reporters (myself included) are considering how to use this information. Some websites are crowdsourcing -- using a vast network of reader-researchers -- to track down all the numbers and see who they belong to (a project Larry Flynt is reportedly devoting a lot of staff time to). A cursory look at the files revealed that there were at least two calls placed by Palfrey to Minnesota numbers -- and who knows how many more to the Washington cellphones of our legislators or business people.
Is it ethical for reporters to reveal the numbers now that Palfrey has? Can we make any firm assumptions about what calls placed by the Madam or her employees mean? (One site mentioned that a call went out to an East Coast oyster shack -- could be a late night booty call, or just a call to whet another insatiable urge -- for crustaceans. After writers like me have decried the Paris Hilton fixation of our biggest papers and news networks, are we hypocrites to dig into these tawdry details? (My take: I think when a senator who crusades for the sanctity of marriage admits he's used the escort service, anything goes!) Are there other ethical issues for a reporter (or even a personal blogger) to consider?
Cohen's reply:
Tough question, Paul. But then, that's why I make the big ethics money.
I think you may be using the wrong analogy. Rather than regarding Palfrey's operation as akin to any other business and hence governed by similar ethical guidelines, I see it as a criminal operation -- that is, if it is proven to be so; she denies criminality -- and thus evoking different expectations of privacy. Much information about criminal conduct is routinely made public. In prostitution arrests, for example, the prostitutes are named, and many people -- including me -- believe that the Johns should be as well, simply as a matter of gender equality.
As you say, simply calling or being called by Palfrey is, of course, not a crime, and journalists must be clear about that: sometimes takeout oysters are only takeout oysters, as Freud should have written. But a reporter can think through the likely reasons for a name being in her phone book.
Palfrey's callers can be written about because there is a reasonable suspicion that they might have committed a crime -- not, as her customer Republican Senator David Vitter of Louisiana says, because he committed a sin. His spiritual failings are his own business; his criminal conduct is relevant to his constituents.

There's another distinction to be made, between a private and a public figure. We accord greater privacy to the former than the latter and rightly so. Choosing to enter public life means voluntarily surrendering much privacy -- financial disclosure forms come easily to mind. As an ethical matter, the same is true about private sexual conduct. I'd not hesitate to report Vitter's involvement in this story; I would be more cautious about naming private individuals.

I'd go further and say that even legal private sexual conduct can be revealed if it has a direct bearing on a public figure's official actions. For example, it is a fine thing to out an elected official who's taken militantly anti-gay stands but turns out to be gay himself. His hypocrisy bears on his politics. But it would not be fine to out a secretly gay Secretary of Agriculture, for instance: his sex life has no bearing on farm policy. Vitter's made political hay out of his "values;" his involvement with an escort service, even a legal one, bears directly on that and should be reported.
So, what do you think: Is the media treating Craig fairly? And what about Republicans, who called for an ethics inquiry on Craig but not on Vitter?

Deerhoof's Children's Ballet?

milkman3.jpgEven without Deerhoof's quirky, experimental music, the lyrics to the band's 2004 song "Milk Man," hardly seem like perfect kids' fare:
Milk Man sleeps on the roof in the noon
Bana-na-na stabbed to the arms, weird man

Milk Man sneaks in the house under moon
Miracle words come to a mouth you may hear

...Milk Man smiles to you "Hi" in a nude
This banana stuck in my arms, oh my love
Stabbed to the arms, ooh-la-la
Yellow one
But as an elementary school drama and music teacher told "Weekend America," when she heard the song "Milkman" she had to use it for a project at North Haven Community School in Maine. Courtney Nalibof saw the connection immediately: both the band and her kids are extremely experimental with music. "When you listen to Deerhoof's music and you teach an elementary music class, you hear a lot of the same things," she said. "You hear a lot of really creative imagery. You hear a lot of non-sequiturs. And you hear a lot of sounds being made in ways you didn't know they could be made. I think there's a lot of crossover there."

The result was Milk Man -- "part ballet, part surreal performance art, and part rock show" -- performed to sold-out crowds at the school in October 2006. (According to the project's website, Deerhoof's members made it to North Haven to offer pointers at rehearsals and see the shows: "They loved it!")

But isn't the story of a masked milkman who kidnaps kids and hides them in a clouds -- and has bananas sticking out of his armpits -- a bit... weird?

"They're a little creepy, Naliboff admits, but adds, "Maurice Sendak books are pretty creepy too, but kids like those too."

Here's a videoclip from the North Haven school's production, followed by a look at "Milk Man" performed by Deerhoof, who visit Minneapolis for an October 2 concert.

Listen to Weekend America's report on The Deerhoof Ballet (RealAudio).