Behave around the Buddha

It took awhile to figure out this shot, taken in Ayutthaya, Thailand by Twin Cities journalist Maryn McKenna. A similar view of the sign here seems to suggest that clowning around when photographing thousand-year-old Buddha statues is frowned upon -- that is, when you come upon an ancient headless Buddha, don't stand behind it so it looks like you're the head of the enlightened one. (For more images of Ayutthaya, check out Maryn's Flickr set or World Heritage's 360-degree "panographrapies" of temples and reliquary towers in the former Siamese capital city.)

With that, we're off to LA, then to Thailand on Sunday. Look for updates here soon.


Seeing pink elephants with the GOP

Is the GOP trying to capture the gay vote? Maxine, the plush elephant for sale ($35!) at the party's online store, would seem to suggest it. But Andy Birkey wonders if that's a good idea, since "seeing pink elephants" usually means... hallucinating. He adds:
The Simpsons have toyed with the idea of a pink elephant in a different way. In one episode of the TV cartoon series, a pink, elephant-shaped balloon floats into a Log Cabin Republicans meeting just as they are trying to decide on a new logo. "Something that says gay AND Republican?" asks an LCR member. The response? "A little on the nose, don't you think?"

Spiral Jetty endangered

Just got an email from Tyler Green of Modern Art Notes:

Nancy Holt, Robert Smithson's widow, recently sent an email out detailing specific threats to Smithson's masterpiece, Spiral Jetty. Please take action before 7 pm ET today.

Yesterday I received an urgent email from Lynn DeFreitas, Director of Friends of the Great Salt Lake, telling me of plans for drilling oil in the Salt Lake near Spiral Jetty. See Attachments. The deadline for protest is [today] Wednesday, at 5PM. Of course, DIA has been informed and are meeting about it today.

I have been told by Lynn that the oil wells will not be above the water, but that means some kind of industrial complex of pipes and pumps beneath the water and on the shore. The operation would require roads for oil tank trucks, cranes, pumps etc. which produce noise and will severely alter the wild, natural place.

If you want to send a letter of protest to save the beautiful, natural Utah environment around the Spiral Jetty from oil drilling, the emails or calls of protest go to Jonathan Jemming 801-537-9023 jjemming@utah.gov. Please refer to Application # 8853. Every letter makes a big difference, they do take a lot of notice and know that publicity may follow. Since the Spiral Jetty has global significance, emails from foreign countries would be of special value.

They try to slip these drilling contracts under the radar, that¹s why we found out so late, not through notification, but from a watchdog lawyer at the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, the group that alerted me to the land leasing for oil and gas near Sun Tunnels last May.

Thank you for your consideration of this serious environmental matter.

How to write on the West Bank wall

At 620 km long and up to eight meters high, the Israeli West Bank barrier is a looming symbol of division. But it's also a mighty big canvas. A Dutch NGO has launched a project whereby anyone around the world can have their message spray-painted on the wall. For 30 Euros, web visitors to sendamessage.nl can get a personalized tag on the wall and three digital photos via email.

A portion of the funds go to the Amsterdam-based nonprofit that hosts the site, but "bulk of the money will go to the Palestinian NGO's (independent foundations) doing the work. They will fund small social, cultural and educational projects with the money earned (from buying bicycles to fixing the roof)." The funds will not go to purchase weapons, the site assures.

There are some restrictions to content: no extremist messages, no obscenity, and nothing that's "hurtful" to anyone, Israelis or Palestinians alike. The organizers say they hope to make a symbol of division and strife into a vehicle for bringing people together. The project's Palestinian participants, the site says, have a single, simple message: "We are human beings, just like you, with sense of humour, and lust for life."

[Thank, Emily Taylor!]


On primary day, Florida lives up to its reputation

It's primary day in Florida, and you know what that means:
Sheneka McDonald spent 10 minutes trying to convince poll workers at the same precinct that she should have a Democratic ballot. She questioned poll workers when she was handed a Republican ballot but was told, "this is the only ballot we have."

"I said, 'How can this be the only ballot,'" McDonald recalled. "That's when the guy chimed in from the back and said the Democratic primary was in March."

The poll captain eventually apologized to McDonald and told her they had forgotten to unpack all the ballots. "It was a little unnerving this morning," she said. "I don't see how you forget to unpack ballots. This is what gives Florida its reputation."
Via Norwegianity; image appropriated from Wired.

Shepard Fairey's Obama Posters

Barack by ShepardAs Obama supporters are calling on Al Gore to endorse Barack before Super-Duper Tuesday on Feb. 5 and the NY Post characterizes Ted Kennedy's endorsement as "Bamalot," Shepard Fairey puts his skills to use on a three-part poster series for the Illinois senator.


HTML stencil

In honor of tonight's State of the Union address, Bush's last.


Target billboard/blogger flap hits the NYTimes

"Ahem! So bloggers don't count!" So said Amy Jussel, after learning that "Target does not participate with nontraditional media outlets," including her Shaping Youth blog. While the flap over a Target billboard she felt was sexually suggestive spread across the blogosphere and Twin Cities mainstream media, it took two weeks for it to go national -- and prove that, despite Target's longstanding policy of not communicating with them, bloggers have unexpected influence: Today the New York Times picked up on the story, asking: "Could Target, the ever-hip, contemporary retailer, really have such a low opinion of blogs, the ever-hip, contemporary media channel?"

Target has gotten attention for the billboard and its blogger policy from publications ranging from Minnesota Monitor and the local site Parents for Ethical Marketing to WCCO and Fox 9. But the New York Times' coverage is by far the biggest. Two questions, then: While Target has assured me that changes in the no-blogs policy are on the way, will this press accelerate that process? And, when a photo of an advertising billboard runs free of charge in the New York Times, is there such a thing as bad press?


Saturday in NYC: "Crafting Protest" Panel

Tomorrow afternoon at The New School's Vera List Center for Art and Politics:
01/26/2008 3:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m.

Many contemporary artists are using craft to make diverse and timely political statements. Because creating crafts is so often social and communal, they can play a vital role in the public sphere. The speakers examine the role of craft in forming national identities, especially in times of political turmoil or war; notions of patriotism; feminism and the domestic sphere; and unconventional economic models. Five artists will present projects and discuss their work. By linking the act of production and handmaking in the public realm to ideological issues of agency, participants ask how art makes political subjects. Panelists include Liz Collins, artist/designer; Sabrina Gschwandtner, artist/curator; Cat Mazza, artist/activist; and Allison Smith, visual artist. Moderator: Julia Bryan-Wilson, art historian and critic, University of California at Irvine.

Habitat destruction

From BLYGAD 2.0

Covert castle

When the town council rejected Robert Fidler's plans to build a home on his farm in Surrey, England, he went ahead anyway, building a stone castle complete with turrets (built around two grain silos), ramparts and a cannon. He hid it behind a gigantic wall made of hay bales. After four years, he removed the bales, hoping the structure would be deemed legal since it'd been around so long. Local officials say it should be bulldozed.

Voytek, World War II Soldier Bear

Campaigners in Great Britain are hoping to build a permanent memorial to Voytek, the "soldier bear" who aided Allied troops in World War II. The 250-pounder was befriended by Polish troops as a cub and was later trained to carry munitions during a battle at the front line in Italy in 1944:

He helped the supply side by cradling 25lb shells or boxes of ammunition in his arms and passing them down the line.

Off-duty, he loved nothing more than a bottle of beer, a cigarette and to wrestle with the men - in between raids on the cookhouse.

By the end of the war, Voytek had become a symbol of ursine courage, but his country was under Soviet domination, so he travelled with other Polish troops to Scotland and the Berwickshire village of Hutton.

Soldiers who were stationed with him say that he was easy to get along with.

Polish veteran Augustyn Karolewski, 82, who still lives near the site of the camp in Berwickshire, said: 'He was like a big dog, no-one was scared of him.

"He liked a cigarette, he liked a bottle of beer - he drank a bottle of beer like any man."


TC artists represent in "Sweet" rock poster show

Two of my favorite design shops are representing the Twin Cities in the University of Maryland exhibition Sweet: The Graphic Beauty of the Contemporary Rock Poster, which opens Feb. 6. Aesthetic Apparatus (above) and Burlesque offer up two posters apiece.

Via Unbeige.

Bush passes Iraq costs to successor

Way to support the troops!

Bush, before:

“I believe it is the job of a President to confront problems, not pass them on to future Presidents and future generations.”

Bush, now:

The White House confirmed Wednesday that its new budget next month will not request a full year’s funding for the war in Iraq, leaving the next president and Congress to confront major cost questions soon after taking office in 2009.


American Happiness: Brian Ulrich in Mother Jones

Yesterday, I did a phone interview with my friend, Chicago photographer Brian Ulrich, about his newest series of photos shot in backrooms at big-box stores, as well as his two earlier pieces that'll appear in the Walker Art Center's show on suburbia, Worlds Away, which opens next month (fellow Chicagrapher and friend Greg Stimac will be featured, too).

Taking a break from audio editing, I stopped by MotherJones.com to read a chilling essay about the Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act, a piece of legislation described by Dennis Kucinich as a "thought-crimes bill" that "sets the stage for further criminalization of protest" (it sailed through the House and will hit the Senate in the coming weeks). And there on Mother Jones' sidebar I see Brian's work. The magazine's March/April issue features his photo essay, headlined "American Happiness and the need to consume." Check back in the next week to get a little context: My audio slideshow with Brian will be posted here and at the Walker's Off-Center blog. Congratulations, Brian!

Your daily Huh?

Dan Savage finds this headscratcher in Jackson, Michigan. Care to translate?


Mitt keeps it real.

The New York Times on Mitt Romney's visit to Jacksonville, Florida, on Martin Luther King Day:
In his dress shirt and tie, and with his unwavering smile, he walked over and posed for photographs with a group of black youngsters. Putting his arm around a teenage girl, he waved to the cameras and offered, “Who let the dogs out?” He added a tepid “woof woof.”

Somewhere, the Baha Men, the Bahamian group whose 2000 song the candidate was referencing, must have been shuddering.


God don't make no junk: "Eyesores" headline riles readers in Minnesota

The Mankato Free Press is accused of using the Lord's name in vain: On January 14, it ran a story about city ordinance changes that affect highway ads, junked cars and roadside landscaping ornaments. Headlined "North Mankato cracks down on 'eyesores'," it was accompanied by a photo showing a stretch of highway dominated by a big yellow church billboard bearing the one-word header, "Jesus."

The paper received perhaps 20 phone call about it, plus a handful of letters to the editor, wrote Free Press managing editor Joe Spear. "It wasn't intentional," he added. "It's one of those things that happens when people put together 50,000 words and dozens of photographs a day and must, I say must, have it done by midnight, without exception."

Most of the responses came from angry locals, including one who surmised it "certainly wasn't a coincidence" and said it "implies that the editors and The Free Press are attacking Jesus and the Christian religion." But one letter writer approved of the mistake, stating that the billboard for a Assembly of God church in St. Peter is just the kind of "visual clutter" the city should be clamping down on. "Billboards are placed along highways for one reason: To sell us something. I don't need their help deciding what religion or product to choose. I never wanted to see that sign, or any others, along Highway 22. It is blight on the landscape and an assault to our senses -- it truly is an eyesore."

A penitent Spear concluded that "perhaps Jesus will forgive us."


Not graphic, definitely horrifying

The New York Times presents a heartbreaking slideshow of images from a female circumcision ritual for young Indonesian girls, one as young as nine months old. The accompanying article says that as many as 140 million women worldwide have had some version of genital cutting. Indonesia's version is less extreme, but it is in the minority:
The most common form of female genital cutting, representing about 80 percent of cases around the world, includes the excision of the clitoris and the labia minora. A more extreme version of the practice, known as Pharaonic circumcision or infibulation, accounts for 15 percent of cases globally and involves the removal of all external genitalia and a stitching up of the vaginal opening.
The Times piece concludes that, "as Western awareness of female genital cutting has grown, anthropologists, policy makers and health officials have warned against blindly judging those who practice it, saying that progress is best made by working with local leaders and opinion-makers to gradually shift the public discussion of female circumcision from what it’s believed to bestow upon a girl toward what it takes away."

That bit is hard to swallow, especially as I feel outrage at the pain and fear I see in these girl's eyes. But a World Health Organization rep says, "For our culture that is not easily understandable. To judge them harshly is to isolate them. You cannot make change that way."


Vonnegut Napkin


George W. Bush's favorite painting

George Bush's favorite painting, Slate reports, is W.H.D. Koerner's A Charge to Keep, and he identifies with the lead horseman (whom he says he resembles). In his autobiography he wrote:
I thought I would share with you a recent bit of Texas history which epitomizes our mission. When you come into my office, please take a look at the beautiful painting of a horseman determinedly charging up what appears to be a steep and rough trail. This is us. What adds complete life to the painting for me is the message of Charles Wesley that we serve One greater than ourselves.
But as Jacob Weisberg writes in his new book The Bush Tragedy, the president is reading more into the work than is really there:
He came to believe that the picture depicted the circuit-riders who spread Methodism across the Alleghenies in the nineteenth century. In other words, the cowboy who looked like Bush was a missionary of his own denomination.

Only that is not the title, message, or meaning of the painting. The artist, W.H.D. Koerner, executed it to illustrate a Western short story entitled "The Slipper Tongue," published in The Saturday Evening Post in 1916. The story is about a smooth-talking horse thief who is caught, and then escapes a lynch mob in the Sand Hills of Nebraska. The illustration depicts the thief fleeing his captors. In the magazine, the illustration bears the caption: "Had His Start Been Fifteen Minutes Longer He Would Not Have Been Caught."


Bobby Fisher's dead

The exiled American chess champ died of an "unspecified illness" at age 64.


Unforeseen circumstances, eh?

The Astrological Magazine didn't see it coming.

Reverse graffiti and "recycling pollution"

"Cleaning is not graffiti, is not a crime. Pollution is a crime." So says "reverse graffiti" artist Alexandre Orion. He cleans soot off roadway tunnel walls, then wrings the soot from the cloths, mixes it with acrylic base and paints -- back in the studio -- with it. In this YouTube clip, found at Wooster Collective, a Dutch TV host sums up Orion's soot-painted image of a Peterbilt semi: "The message is actually in the material."

Republicans have their heads in the sand in S.C.

You've got to wonder if the artists behind the sand-sculpture heads of Republican candidates outside the Myrtle Beach Convention Center are showing their preferences for this Saturday's GOP primary in South Carolina. While Mike Huckabee looks perfectly presentable, Mitt Romney seems caught in mid-grimace, Rudy Giuliani's teeth are the size of New Hampshire, and Ron Paul looks a lot like Pat Robertson.

The sculptures were created for the Jan. 10 GOP debate there, but one shot of the installation seems to suggest the make-or-break nature of the Jan. 16 primary for Fred Thompson, who, as the Wall Street Journal says, has "fizzled" in all previous contests. From the looks of it, he's being... buried alive.

Photo: Bob Urban

Inflatable cars?

Triple Pundit: "A Bay Area startup, XP vehicles is tossing in its radical idea for a proposed ultra light, ultra-efficient car that is powered by both fuel cells and batteries. The body of this radical concept is proposed to be made up of preinflated airbags, of which, the company claims will be so safe that you could actually drive the car off of a 25-ft cliff without inflicting injury."

Madrid: Solar "Air Tree"

I'm going to lift this one straight from Metaefficient, where you can read more:
In Madrid, Spain they currently building a huge structure called an “Air Tree” or “Eco Boulevard de Vallecas”. The Tree was created by Urban Ecosystem to be a social center, and to improve the surrounding environment. The structure is also completely self-sufficient, generating all its own power with solar cells. Any surplus energy is sold to the electrical grid. It also produces oxygen using its arrays of plants and trees, hence the “tree” appellation.

After burglary, humanitarian magazine finds itself in need

NEED Magazine, friend of Eyeteeth and all-around wonderful endeavor, is now in need itself. Over the weekend the Minneapolis-based humanitarian magazine's offices were ransacked and burglarized. Damages and theft are estimated at $25,000. Co-founder Stephanie Kinnunen says, "They took everything electronic: computers, mouses, printers, even our $8 Ikea lamps."

"We're going to move forward," she said. "But we need some angels to come in and help us out financially, at least in the interim until our insurance kicks in."

Get the full story at MNMON.


Be Advised:


"The Ghetto Pieta"

My friend Giselle, remembering the "Love Thy Bro" graffiti tag I spotted in North Minneapolis, emails a link to this reflection by Jim at Sweet Juniper on a memorial mural to "Brice" outside of Pittsburgh:
...The painting may be slightly amateurish, fading across two rickety sheets of plywood in Mount Oliver, Pennsylvania. But who among us will have something so heartfelt and beautiful created to remember us when we're gone? If we're lucky, maybe a few lines in the local paper about our works and days, the names of those we'll leave behind. A wake full of uncomfortable people eager to move on with their lives...


Target to reconsider no-blogs communications policy after billboard flap

Target spokesperson Amy VonWalter admits that her company has been traditionally conservative when it comes to dealing with the media, and its policy of not talking to trade publications and bloggers stems from that. But after this week's flap over a billboard deemed sexually suggestive by a mom and blogger, she says the company is looking at revising the policy.

Amy Jussel, who blogs about marketing that targets kids, spotted an image of a Target billboard showing a young woman, legs splayed in a V with her crotch smack dab in the middle of Target's logo. She includes the Times Square billboard, also on the exterior of the company's Minneapolis headquarters, in a broader category of what she calls "sexualized advertising slop." The billboard has been debated locally at the Parents for Ethical Marketing blog, at MNspeak and on a segment (and blog post) by WCCO-TV last night.

But less discussed is the retailer's policy of not communicating with what, in an email to Jussel, a Target rep called "non-traditional media outlets" -- blogs and trade publications.

Reached by phone on Tuesday, VonWalter told me that workload has something to do with the decision, but there's a bigger factor. "We want to focus on our communications with our customer base and our guests, not on the industry as a whole… That just expanded into blogs."

But she acknowledges that, with the decline in the newspaper industry and more people getting information from online sources, the policy needs an overhaul. "In today's media world, we recognize it's worth revisiting."

Further, "we understand that the public is looking for more transparency, both from government and from corporations."

She couldn't determine what criteria -- site traffic, content, mission of a site -- might guide heightened transparency among online entities. "Is it certain blogs? Is it influencer blogs?" she pondered.

Target hasn't issued a statement about the Times Square billboard, and VonWalter says they've received fewer than a dozen complaints.

"This is a winter marketing campaign," she added, and it featured a series of posters showing winter activities -- skiing, skating and, in this ad, making a snow angel -- atop the bullseye logo. "It's totally innocent."

Covering Macworld.

Future Tense's Jon Gordon is Twittering Macworld, and the Houston Chronicle's Dwight Silverman is both Twittering and liveblogging (sort of).

Your Tech Blog is liveblogging the event too and writes:
Today, a third kind of notebook called MacBook Air being introduced. World's thinnest notebook. 0.76" 13.3-inch screen, LED backlight with instant on. Full-size keyboard with backlighting. Large trackpad with a variety of gestures for panning, rotating, zooming (with iPhone-like pinching), etc.
Via News Cut.

Update: And there it is, Apple's guided tour of the Macbook Air. Nice!

Macworld predictions

Lots of excitement over Steve Jobs' keynote at Macworld 2008 today. One development that's been leaked is an ultra-thin laptop. Wired reports that it "has an extremely thin profile and is shaped like a teardrop when closed — thicker at the top behind the screen, tapering at the bottom behind the keyboard." Another rumor is that Jobs will unveil the MacBook Air, a laptop with no cables for peripherals or charging.

Find out, f'real, during Jobs' speech this afternoon at Apple.com.

Above: Wired's photoshopped guess at what the ultra-thin laptop might look like.


That's not a snow angel...

snowangels.jpgGiselle comments that the Target billboard looks like a poorly executed snow angel. Which reminds me of this: last February, 8,910 people in North Dakota did simultaneous snow angels on the state capitol grounds to try to earn the world record. Speaking of advertising, it only looks like an Absolut ad.


Ed's on-Target analysis

Ed Kohler weighs in on the Target billboard issue, which can be summarized by this excerpt:

Target misses mark on billboard and bloggers

This Target billboard, spotted by a Flickr user in Times Square, seems to have completely missed its mark with some marketing watchdogs. Amy Jussel, founder of Shaping Youth, an organization that looks into the effects of marketing and media on kids, took issue with the bullseye on the female model's crotch. Calling it "sexualized ad slop," she ties it to a marketing efforts aimed at young girls -- from a toddler tee bearing the words "Hooter Girl in Training" to hyper-sexual clothing for teenagers (she links to The Telegraph's article, "Girls 'being brainwashed to be promiscuous'").

"This sort of objectification is not only harmful to the way girls think about themselves, it encourages boys to 'target' girls sexually; in other words, to objectify girls rather than treat them as whole people," said Michele St. Martin, editor of the Minnesota Womens Press. "As the parent of two young daughters, I find it disturbing that a hometown corporation like Target seems to feel that it's beneath them to respond to a parents' organization's legitimate questions."

She's referring to the reply Jussel got from Target HQ when she tried to speak to someone about her concerns: They wouldn't give her the time of day.

Thank you for contacting Target; unfortunately we are unable to respond to your inquiry because Target does not participate with non-traditional media outlets. This practice is in place to allow us to focus on publications that reach our core guest.

Once again thank you for your interest, and have a nice day.

Target doesn't consider a parent concerned about advertising's effect on children as a "core guest"? And Target, touted as a forward-thinking revolutionizer of big-box retail, won't engage with smaller blogs?

I've left a message with Target's media relations office to see if this hometown "non-traditional media outlet" will get a reply.

Update: I contacted Target media relations through the company's main corporate line: 1.800.440.0680. Before you speak, you'll be asked for your name, zip code, phone number and email address. They also have an online comment form.

T-Paw sets Wonkette a-Twitter

Blogging the presidential campaign for TIME, founding (and now former) Wonkette editor Ana Marie Cox wound up in an airport waiting room beside Minnesota's main McCain man, Gov. Tim Pawlenty, on Sunday. She jotted down her thoughts using Twitter, which lets users post text-based "updates" to the web.

Her take on T-Paw?

BuzzMachine's Jeff Jarvis, who "heartily" recommends Cox's tweets, says it's "a medium made for her: the great ad lib, the beautiful bon mot, the sly snark."

Some of Cox's recent tweets:

Detroit, MI: McCain people interested in crowd numbers; plead for me to send intel from the Romnibus. I would but all crowds look alike. about 15 hours ago from txt

Myrtle Beach: Ron Paul has the voice of a sick cat. 09:01 PM January 10, 2008 from web

Who gave Fred Thompson a Red Bull? 08:57 PM January 10, 2008 from web

Charleston: First washing-of-underwear-in-sink of presidential cycle 2008! 07:09 PM January 09, 2008 from txt

Watching Fred Thompson talk about/look like death. 07:35 PM January 06, 2008 from txt

So, anyone know of Minnesota reporters, politicos or campaign-watchers who use Twitter?


The best:

Found here. Reminds me a little of my most optimistic interpretation of this.


Homer performs "Signifier, signed"

Sort of. Reader Daniel writes in that in The Simpson's tenth season (episode 13), Homer gets a taste of fame when a hero in the TV show Police Cops is named Homer Simpson. In a moment not unlike the premise behind my Signifier, Signed project, his coworker Karl asks for his autograph:
KARL: Oh, can I get your autograph, Mr. Simpson, sir?

HOMER: Sure, what's your name?

KARL: Homer, we've worked together for ten years.

HOMER: (silence)

KARL: It's Karl.

HOMER (signs the paper and slides it over)

KARL: Homer, this is MY name... I wanted yours.

HOMER: Take it or leave it... (glances down at the paper) ... Karl.
Apparently this episode -- originally aired in February 1998, several years before I started this project -- captured the attention of media studies scholars. SIMILE (Studies in Media & Information Literacy Education), a University of Toronto Press journal, published the esssay "Homer Simpson explains our postmodern identity crisis, whether we like it or not: Media literacy after 'The Simpsons'" in a 2001 issue.

The autograph sequence is a quick mention in the essay's discussion of Homer's identity crisis: Watching Police Cops, he (a fictional character himself) identifies with the heroics of the television character who shares his name. Brief fame quickly dissolves when the show's creators turn "Homer Simpson" into a dundering oaf and a laughingstock to both cops on the show and members of Homer's "real-life" community. Distressed at the turn of events, and no longer wishing to see himself (or be seen) in the character, he (in a truly meta moment) tells a crowd, "Well, I'm sorry to disappoint you gentleman, but you seem to have me confused with a character in a fictional show."

The connection here? Dan Castellaneta, the real person who voices the fictional Homer Simpson, signed my signature—which is about as valuable as Homer's is to Karl—for this project.


The WAC Ten

The Walker Art Center blogs have released their top 10 lists for 2007. Broken into three installments, it's a pretty fun list.

Part 1: Minnesota architecture/design highlights by design director Andrew Blauvelt; best online videos by Teen Arts Council member Marty Marosi; and best video games, by New Media designer Brent Gustafson.

Part 2: The top ten things assistant visual arts curator Doryun Chong saw, read or heard last year; film/video assistant Joe Beres' top 10 films; designer Emmet Byrne's top nine fonts; and design fellow Vance Wellenstein's top 10 most frequently played mp3s.

Part 3: My entry on the top things I miss about working at the Walker; tech top ten by Walker New Media's Justin Heideman and Robin Dowden; and designer Ryan Nelson's favorite Pantone colors use in 2007.


Human Tetris

By Guillaume Reymond, who re-enacts early video games like Pole Position and Space Invaders, using people in a theater as pixels and the human voice to replace the soundtrack and game beeps.




George McGovern: Bush Must Go

"[T]he case for impeaching Bush and Cheney is far stronger than was the case against Nixon and Vice President Spiro T. Agnew after the 1972 election," writes George McGovern in today's Washington Post. An excerpt:
...Bush and Cheney are clearly guilty of numerous impeachable offenses. They have repeatedly violated the Constitution. They have transgressed national and international law. They have lied to the American people time after time. Their conduct and their barbaric policies have reduced our beloved country to a historic low in the eyes of people around the world. These are truly "high crimes and misdemeanors," to use the constitutional standard.

From the beginning, the Bush-Cheney team's assumption of power was the product of questionable elections that probably should have been officially challenged -- perhaps even by a congressional investigation.

In a more fundamental sense, American democracy has been derailed throughout the Bush-Cheney regime. The dominant commitment of the administration has been a murderous, illegal, nonsensical war against Iraq. That irresponsible venture has killed almost 4,000 Americans, left many times that number mentally or physically crippled, claimed the lives of an estimated 600,000 Iraqis (according to a careful October 2006 study from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health) and laid waste their country. The financial cost to the United States is now $250 million a day and is expected to exceed a total of $1 trillion, most of which we have borrowed from the Chinese and others as our national debt has now climbed above $9 trillion -- by far the highest in our national history.

All of this has been done without the declaration of war from Congress that the Constitution clearly requires, in defiance of the U.N. Charter and in violation of international law. This reckless disregard for life and property, as well as constitutional law, has been accompanied by the abuse of prisoners, including systematic torture, in direct violation of the Geneva Conventions of 1949...


Bush EPA


Interview: Stephanie DeArmond

Speaking of DeArmonds and the Walker, Emmet Byrne just posted an interesting interview with Stephanie DeArmond, who creates words using sculptural ceramic type, often featuring floral decals. Go read it.

Cat Lovers Against the Bomb

This post was supposed to be about The Task Newsletter, the weird and wonderful new project by Walker Art Center designer Emmet Byrne, former Walker designer Alex DeArmond, and Oakland-based designer Jon Sueda. I was going to write about the 3/4-sheets of "editorial byproduct" interspersed throughout the book (clippings from emails, websites and images), the excellent interviews (with typemaker Eric Olson and Amsterdam-based design duo Mevis & van Deuren, plus one conducted via iChat by Emmet, using a Mac at the Mall of America Apple Store, and Prem Krishnamurthy, at the big Manhattan Apple Store), and the issue's catchall theme: "The Eclectic Slide."

Then I got to page 62 and met Cat Lovers Against the Bomb.

An avowed dog person, I'm nonetheless enchanted, as Alex and his wife were:
As with any love affair, I suppose you start by describing the first time you saw someone: It must have been in the winter of 2004. My (now) wife and I were in the line at Seward Co-op in Minneapolis. It stopped us in our tracks, there amongst the new-age wall calendars: Cat Lovers Against the Bomb.
Every year since, the DeArmonds have been buying up these calendars, produced annually since 1984 by a peace group in Nebraska, for themselves and to give as gifts ("always with a fleeting sense of panic: 'Will they get it?'"). Filled with black-and-white, amateur photos of cats, as well as the occasional trivia item about either cats or peace activism, it's both the theme and the look that compels.

"The calendars are virtually indistinguishable from year to year, frozen in an aesthetic that suggests the days of 1980's desktop publishing," Alex writes. The images, shot by amateur photographers, "give you a glimpse into the world of both the cat and the owner. One chilling image showed a cat sleeping in a dish drainer. Sometimes you can't wait for the next month so you can move on."

For me, it's the refreshing dose of earnestness in an irony saturated age. There's an honesty here: the calendars are unabashedly political, aesthetically utilitarian, and ardently hopeful -- without that humorlessness that sometimes afflicts left-of-center causes. OK, the attempts at levity, usually appearing as comments on the lower left side of each photo, sometimes seem to fall short -- "Purr-ceptive Progressives Take the Lead" and "Pet Peeve: Human Ambitions of Power" -- but on second read, they're kinda, somehow, right on.
Click here for more on Task #1.

Cross-posted at Off-Center.

God News

He ain't saying, but Pat Robertson says God has told him who'll win the 2008 U.S. presidential election.

Given his track record on such prognostications, I'm guessing it's Alan Keyes. Last year around this time, Robertson said God told him there would be a terrorist attack on U.S. soil in 2007.

And to be, well, catholic in pointing out religious weirdness, I look to my own faith: the Vatican has backed up a British bishop who told a Catholic school in his diocese to reject educating kids about safe sex because it's "dangerous and immoral." I understand the immoral part, given Catholic doctrine, but since Catholic teens have the same impulses as every other hormone-riddled 17-year-old -- and since humans, especially the 13-to-19 year-old variety, have a tendency to screw up from time to time -- it seems more dangerous to willfully withhold information on condoms, sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy.


Cutting critique of consumerism or hack art?

The puns write themselves for this one: a culture-jammer in London is lopping the heads off of figures in billboards, leaving only raw neck-stumps, spattered blood and exposed spinal nubbins. Even the title character in Jerry Seinfeld's latest animated film isn't spared: Bee-Headed! The unnamed adbuster has a pseudonym -- The Decapitator -- and a Flickr page.

Jesus never married, but...

Of this North Minneapolis church sign, Steve Perry writes, "We think they meant 'boards,' but it’s impossible to be sure."


Best Homegrown Blogs

In honor of the December 17th tenth anniversary of the world's first blog post, Metro magazine ran down its highly subjective list of "best homegrown blogs." There, along with truly deserving sites like Mediation and Pharyngula was Signifier, Signed, my nerdy (but admittedly fun) side-project. Click the image -- thanks Robin! -- to see them all.