September 30, 2003
Why? Why is a "Senior Administration Official" going ballistic in leaking the Plame affair to the press? I first wondered about the motive a couple days ago. Billmon is wondering in some other directions now.
Motives. I'm not wondering so much anymore. Sure it might not be Tenet leaking. There are other motives, stories untold and such. But there is one glaring, obvious, screaming in your face motive and it points straight to Tenet.
If the White House leaked Plame's identity as a undercover CIA agent, and they can get away with it, they will have set a precedent. They will have set precedent that they can leak any CIA agents identity on a whim, for a blatantly political motive no less. And that means they can do it again.
Now imagine you run the CIA, and you don't like the White House guys much, but you try and work with them. And they come over and say, "you know that we can blow your cover and take your jobwhenever we want?" Is that something you take lightly? Especially when having an operatives cover blown might mean they die, and could very easily mean their sources get imprisoned, tortured or killed? Not to mention that intelligence networks cultivated over years can disintegrate in days?
If the White House can get away with a leak like this then every CIA agent needs to wake up every morning wondering if Karl Rove and Dick Cheney have let them live another day. Now I just can't imagine that being pleasant or productive.
If this leak went down the way it seems to have, then the White House just stabbed the CIA in the gut and they want to twist the blade. Is it any wonder that the CIA is fighting back with a vicious vigour? Motives? They are all in the open now my friends. The CIA is fighting for its life here, I don't expect them to pull many punches.
Ancient Earthworks of Eastern North America
Opens Friday, reception 6-8pm
134 Bayard St
Brooklyn NY 11222
"Truman initially rose to prominence as a fierce crusader against war profiteering, which he considered treason."
Yep, Krugman is back at the NYT and he's got another gem of a column: Who's Sordid Now?
Is ripping off the US government for the sake of profit an act of treason? The thought has been on my mind for a few weeks now. Honestly I'd be all for the US rebuilding Iraq if I had any faith is would be done properly. But it seems to be getting done in order to fill the pockets of a very select few friends of Dick and Bush. Illness. Yes I think there are executives committing acts of treason against our country, and they are doing it from high places. How long will we let this stand?
September 29, 2003
Ishkur's Guide to Electronic Music
Oh shit, this is both hilarious and actually useful. No idea who this Ishkur is but he's knowledgeable enough link up nearly every micro genre of electronic music pretty good accuracy and provide several examples of each. At the same time he's one funny mofo and is clearly taking the piss half the time. Check out "buttrock goa" (it exists!) and then finally hear some rio funk. No comment on the way the site looks though...
[via Move the Crowd]
The Plame Affair Continues
The Plame Affair continues to evolve, straight into some Agatha Christie territory. Here is a bit of the White House spokesperson talking to reporters today:
QUESTION: But is the President getting his information from you? Or did the President and Karl Rove talk, and were there assurances given that Rove was not involved?
McCLELLAN: I've already provided those assurances to you publicly.
QUESTION: Yes, but I'm just wondering if there was a conversation between Karl Rove and the President, or if he just talked to you, and you're here at this --
McCLELLAN: He wasn't involved. The President knows he wasn't involved.
QUESTION: How does he know that?
McCLELLAN: The President knows.
QUESTION: What, is he clairvoyant? How does he know?
September 28, 2003
Visuals of Conflict - Posters from Beirut
- AUB Jafet Library - Political Posters
Play. State. Law
The State of Play
Law, Games, and Virtual Worlds
November 13-15, 2003
go read it.
a welcome break from a slew of articles on the world of politics where compassion is a talking point to be discarded at will...
Is Powell Leaking?
Josh Marshall is keeping up on this White House CIA leak scandal. He's of the opinion that the person leaking the scandal details to the press is CIA director George Tenet. Makes sense on a lot of levels, but something is missing, a motive. Well Tenet has a few, but they are a bit nasty, revenge and power. The Washington Post article cites "a senior administration official" as fingering "two top White House officials" in releasing the agents name to the press. Which opens up a question:
Which senior administration officials have a vested interest in pushing this story to the public?
Tenet does as head of the CIA, but he started the inquiry, does he need to push it further?
Lets also look at this quote:
It is rare for one Bush administration official to turn on another. Asked about the motive for describing the leaks, the senior official said the leaks were "wrong and a huge miscalculation, because they were irrelevant and did nothing to diminish Wilson's credibility."
Now Tenet is right to be furious about the leaking of a CIA agents identity, but would he really be saying he's talking because the actions "were irrelevant and did nothing to diminish Wilson's credibility"? Maybe, not going to rule it out, but it sounds like some other sort of political operation going on...
So who else has motives? Allow me to suggest Colin Powell. Earlier this week a video surfaced of him in 2001 talking about how the sanctions on Iraq had worked and there was no WMD threat in Iraq. And they were edging into the mainstream media. His credibility was potentially about to take a hit. On top of that he's a bit a of a victim of the Bush administration. Its pretty clear he was against the Iraq war and only joined up in the media campaign due to political pressure. The neocons got him to support a cause he didn't believe in and his political credibility is shot because of it. If the WMD videos became a big time story he'd be close to his political deathbed. Its not exactly hard to see how he might be angry at the likes of the head political strategist Karl Rove.
By pushing this story Powell could get some real revenge. More importantly there is a good chance that the scandal around the WMD statements might fade away. The CIA leek is juicier then the WMD video, way juicier. It buys Powell some time, makes him look better, and if he's lucky his blatant lies will be forgotten.
Its just a theory of course, the good money is still on Tenet leaking. But lets not rule out Powell. Could be someone else too, perhaps there is another angle?
High drama in DC, life is stranger then fiction, no?
There maybe even more to this. This story has been circulating in slightly less credible journalistic circles for a while now. I first saw it written up by someone named Al Martin, just reread his article from September 2. Please note I have no idea how credible this guy is, but he's got lots of info that indicates that Powell would have access to all the necessary info know what went down:
When Ambassador Wilson was asked how he knew it was Rove, he had documents in his possession identifying Rove as the leaker from a secret investigation of the State Department’s Internal Security Unit. It was from a small clique, four Clinton holdovers in that department of the State Department that were sympathetic to what had happened to Wilson.
These investigations could not have possibly been made without at least the tacit acquiescence of Secretary of State Colin Powell.
An Introduction to the Dataflow
My attitude towards this site (and life in general) is highly experimental. I like to play around, push boundaries and see what happens. Hence the current 'pirate broadsheet' theme to the site, which I suspect is not universally loved. Now this is my site and I the design will keep evolving, breaking, reemerging and all sorts of other random things. But I realize that might not be to everyone's taste.
With that in mind, I've built dataflow an alternative interface to this site. As the name implies its the site stripped down to the raw data. No sidebars, no links, no ornaments, no design. Ok there is a little design, I can't help myself. More importantly though, you get the core of each and every post, on a pure white background in crisp easy to read, resizable text. If that's your thing then http://www.abstractdynamics.org/dataflow.php is your url.
Once again: dataflow
And of course any and all design critique (or even praise) is always explicitly welcome.
So lets say, hypothetically of course, that Bush for some reason does not run for a second term. Who do the Republicans put up? Schwarzenegger?
Seriously though, they haven't built any alternatives at all have they? Schwarzenegger is the only person they seem to be pushing right now and as an immigrant (illegal?) he's not qualified. Who steps up, Giuliani? DeLay? Jeb Bush? McCain? Its not exactly a star studded field...
When You Fsck With the CIA...
Something is breaking in Washington DC. This tastes like big time my friends. The massive hubris of the Bushco administration has them back peddling like a mofo and they might just trip and break their backs.
Early this summer some White House officials thought they could pin the blame for some lies on the CIA, which is headed by a Clinton appointee George Tenet. Dumb move. You don't fuck with the CIA. Poppy Bush used to be the head of the CIA, his son should have known better. Tenet fought back, basically taking the blame for a minor issue and in the process letting it be known that he was untouchable from here on in. As todays Washington Post says: "Bush's aides said they believed in retrospect it had been a political mistake to blame Tenet."
So that's the start, it gets nastier. During that whole summer mess, a "senior White House official" leaked the name of a CIA operative, basically as an act of political revenge. When the Washington Post says "senior White House official" they mean someone major, its journalistic code and its taken seriously. All indications are the person is Karl Rove, Bush's campaign strategist, the dude in charge of getting him reelected.
Now the delicious irony here is that leaking the identity of a CIA operative is a very specific felony, and it carries a mandatory prison sentence. Why? because the law was a pet project of the first president Bush, father to the bumbler now in the White House. Papa Bush was CIA director when a high profile operative was killed after his name was leaked. Bush then spent 6 years fighting to get this law passed, finally succeeding while he was Reagan's VP. Perhaps he was fighting to plant the seeds of his son's downfall?
We'll learn more soon. The CIA is asking for an investigation. More to the point they are very publicly asking for an investigation. The Justice Department is run by Bush people so they can try and avoid investigating, but they will be doing so in the public eye. And that my friends would raise even nastier questions. It looks like the White House has lost its ability to feed the press faster then the press can investigate. And the press smells blood in the Bushco administration, will Bush feed them someone or will the press hunt their own victim?
Something is about to break. Lets hope its in the right direction. Lets not forget that Bushco is going to fight back, and try and lead the press elsewhere. Lets hope they don't use big bombs to do that. Stakes are high, drama is ramping up, the stories have just started. Stay tuned.
September 26, 2003
Welcome to the 3rd World
Every once in a while I'll find myself in a conversations with someone who is of the opinion that the Bushco Republicans are the "party for big business". Its usually meant as criticism, but ironically it doesn't really go the distance. Truth is the Bush Republicans are not for big business at all, have you seen the stock market over the past 3 years? Reality is they have no interest in promoting business, big or small and in fact they seem to have almost no knowledge of economics at all. What Bush and friends are out to do is turn America into a 3rd world country. One where ironically enough the government is a prime redistributor of wealth. From the hands of everyone into the hands of a select few.
Its got nothing to do with business at all really, except in that you need a front, preferably a corporation that could have existed in the 19th century (guns, construction, metals, railroads, more weapons, oil, etc). Once you have the front business, then you get to work, its all about who you know and who slips you the cash. Free Iraqi money is the way to go nowadays. The government borrows the cash in the name of the American people, then slips it to your firm for consulting on rebuilding the country we just tore apart. Nice work if you can get it. All you need to do is be part of the inner circle. Pay $2,000 at the door in the form of a fundraiser and see how far you can go...
Talking Points Memo's Josh Marshall shows a bit of how it works. Here's the kicker to an article showing the connection between a new "company" devoted to helping other companies find opportunities in Iraq and a big time republican lobbyist's office:
For one thing, the Vice President and Director of New Bridge is Ed Rogers --- the same Ed Rogers who is Barbour's partner in Barbour Griffith and Rogers.
Then there's the third partner, Lanny Griffith. He's Director at New Bridge and Chief Operating Officer at Barbour Griffith & Rogers.
Then there's former Ambassador Richard Burt. He's 'Director' at New Bridge and 'International Director' at Barbour Griffith & Rogers.
Needless to say, Allbaugh's wife Diane is 'of counsel' at Barbour Griffith & Rogers.
Isn't it weird how that happens when you apply for a second job and all the dudes from your first job work at the new place too? Anyway ...
Actually, you can see why it's so convenient to work at both of these two places since they both happen to be located on the 10th floor of 1275 Pennsylvania Avenue.
Shit, when you have a good hand, why not double down? Especially if the dealer happens to be a good friend...
September 25, 2003
When Wesley Clark entered the race for Democratic nominee for president Joshua Marshall ran some words by an unnamed but highly regard source:
I don't think fundraising is that important now. I'd look for how [Clark] deals with the press. Is he comfortable? Is he brittle?... If he wins over the national press, everything else will fall into line.
So now its barely a week later and Clark is very close to being the front runner. Wonder why? Here is a taste, the NYT, online front page blurb for their debate article:
The newest entrant to the race, Gen. Wesley K. Clark, stood on the sidelines and was largely ignored for much of the debate.
Hmmm, stand on the sidelines and get ignored, is that how he got to be the only one of 10 candidates mentioned on the front? Interesting.
Rest In Peace Edward Said
[sad news via stevenberlinjohnson.com: Remembering Edward Said]
Not Even About Oil
Riverbend is the girl blogger supposedly from Bagdad, very well written, obviously from the wealthier side of the Iraqi spectrum. Hadn't read it in a while and what a shame, its chock full of interesting stories:
My father has a friend with a wife and 3 children who is currently working for an Italian internet company. He communicates online with his ‘boss’ who sits thousands of kilometers away, in Rome, safe and sure that there are people who need to feed their families doing the work in Baghdad. This friend, and a crew of male techies, work 10 hours a day, 6 days a week. They travel all over Baghdad, setting up networks. They travel in a beat-up SUV armed with cables, wires, pliers, network cards, installation CDs, and a Klashnikov for… you know… technical emergencies.
Each of the 20 guys who work with this company get $100/month. A hundred dollars for 260 hours a month comes to… $0.38/hour. My 16-year-old babysitter used to get more. The Italian company, like many other foreign companies, seems to think that $100 is appropriate for the present situation. One wonders the price of the original contract the Italian company got… how many countless millions are being spent so 20 guys can make $100/month to set up networks?
Plenty more stuff like this, including the infamous $50 million bridge story (in reality I believe a $5million bridge which is still far more then it would cost to get an Iraqi company to repair it). This is the story of how American taxpayer dollars are getting skimmed off by the Bushco. More like getting bulldozed off actually. Shit, this war wasn't even about oil it was just about stealing tax dollars for a few military contractors...
Here's another story, isn't this great?
The whole neighborhood knows about S. who lives exactly two streets away. He’s what is called a ‘merchant’ or ‘tajir’. He likes to call himself a ‘businessman’. For the last six years, S. has worked with the Ministry of Oil, importing spare parts for oil tankers under the surveillance and guidelines of the “Food for Oil Program”. In early March, all contracts were put ‘on hold’ in expectation of the war. Thousands of contracts with international companies were either cancelled or postponed.
S. was in a frenzy: he had a shipment of engines coming in from a certain country and they were ‘waiting on the border’. Everywhere he went, he chain-smoked one cigarette after another and talked of ‘letters of credit’, ‘comm. numbers’, and nasty truck drivers who were getting impatient.
After the war, the CPA decided that certain contracts would be approved. The contracts that had priority over the rest were the contracts that were going to get the oil pumping again. S. was lucky- his engines were going to find their way through… hopefully.
Unfortunately, every time he tried to get the go-ahead to bring in the engines, he was sent from person to person until he found himself, and his engines, tangled up in a bureaucratic mess in-between the CPA, the Ministry of Oil and the UNOPS. By the time things were somewhat sorted out, and he was communicating directly with the Ministry of Oil, he was given a ‘tip’. He was told that he shouldn’t bother doing anything if he wasn’t known to KBR. If KBR didn’t approve of him, or recommend him, he needn’t bother with anything.
For a week, the whole neighborhood was discussing the KBR. Who were they? What did they do? We all had our own speculations… E. said it was probably some sort of committee like the CPA, but in charge of the contracts or reconstruction of the oil infrastructure. I expected it was probably another company- but where was it from? Was it Russian? Was it French? It didn’t matter so long as it wasn’t Halliburton or Bechtel. It was a fresh new name or, at least, a fresh new set of initials. Well, it was ‘fresh’ for a whole half-hour until curiosity got the better of me and I looked it up on the internet.
KBR stands for Kellogg, Brown and Root, a subsidiary of…
Flash Driven Blog
Polarfront is a hot little flash powered with a highly experimental interface. Usability is a bit circumspect, but they get major respect for building it and playing around. Faster processors and playing with stuff like this will bring us to the future someday...
More Flash blog stuff at actionScriptHero
Bush League Bets
So anyone want to give me some nice odds on a bet that Bush becomes the first president to commit suicide in the White House?
Serious though, odds are nothing of the sort will happen, but mofo has been so sheltered from the truth and it will probably pretzel him in the face sometime... Something strange will go down, lets hope its not another war.
And while we are on the gambling subject, anyone have odds on the fact that Bush will somehow find a way not to have to debate the Democratic nominee at all?
[inspired by Daily Kos: NBC/WSJ poll has Bush at 49]
September 24, 2003
Abstract Experiment + k-Punk
Abstract Dynamics is now proud web host to an excellent music weblog: k-punk, go read it.
This is the hopefully the beginning of a larger experiment in getting music bloggers the fuck off of blogspot and onto a software that supports RSS feeds and proper comments. Hypothesis is that the community will grow and quality of posts improve. And if not at least I'll be better able to follow what's up in music world.
Many thanks to Mark from k-punk for being a willing first participant in this experiment, and big bonus points for maintaining the story that I'm actually the one being generous...
So far so good on the experiment, I expect I'll be able free Movable Type blogs on my server to more music bloggers in the next few days. Write me if you want some. Don't think I'll be able to host as many as I'd like, but anyone currently writing intelligent stuff about good music on blogspot is eminently eligible.
WTC Redux x ?
Felix Salmoncontinues his excellent coverage of the WTC rebuilding. One point in particular is resonating with me. When the original WTC was built several city streets where wiped off the map, resulting in a serious disconnect between Tribeca, Battery Park City and the Financial District. I actually liked the old Towers, which I used to work in, but in terms of connecting the surrounding neighborhoods they were a tragedy. A huge wall faced Tribeca, while BPC was cut off by a highway. The new plan apparently restores the old streets to foot traffic, and covers over the highway. The result should be a real street level vitality and a real flow between previously isolated hoods.
Currency for Sex
apparently this ad for a Russian financial magazine has just been banned...
Linkage: Ticketmaster, Quicksilver Metaweb
September 23, 2003
The Emperor has a New Suit
Bush said he insulates himself from the "opinions" that seep into news coverage by getting his news from his own aides. He said he scans headlines, but rarely reads news stories.
"I appreciate people's opinions, but I'm more interested in news," the president said. "And the best way to get the news is from objective sources, and the most objective sources I have are people on my staff who tell me what's happening in the world."
note that I added the italics, but AP put the quotes around "opinions"...
September 22, 2003
On October 4, 2003 from 3-10pm, DJs and bands will participate in a groundbreaking use of renewable energy, performing in an arena powered by off-set wind power.
Renewable Brooklyn looks interesting, they are promoting what looks to be a good event in every aspect except the $24 ticket price...
2 Many DJ¹s (Soulwax)
Handsome Boy Modeling School
(Dan the Automator and Prince Paul)
Richard Fearless (Death In Vegas)
(Glassjaw members and Dan the Automator)
Jonny Cragg- Host
All sort of renewable resources being promoted, looks like a pretty impressive combination of environmental activism, community development and creativity. If its a benefit then yeah its worth the dollars.
15 Second Holla
Discovered a new hidden pleasure of the internet, getting quoted without even knowing it.
So let me return the favor and tell you to read Wired News: Uncovering the Napster Kitty Ads, which has Mark Schiller of Wooster saying much smarter things then me about the new Napster ad campaign. I'd agree its one of the better street art attempts by corporate America, although I still am partial to the IBM peace, love and Linux stencil run. About as close to subversive that the fortune 500 is ever like to get.
The one question the article didn't answer though was whether those Napster paste ups are done in the printing press or on the wall. I'm thinking they are pasted by the printer, before going up. Don't think it matters, no millions of ad dollars are going to get kids paying for music in large numbers. Lets face it Mp3s are free and the artists will get rich off concerts, merchandising and by selling their services to the ad agencies...
Welcome to the International Atomic Energy Agency, wtf? Its not the site the befuddles me its the fact that I've been getting a steady stream of refers showing up in my log from iaea.org. At first I thought it was some odd anomaly of the network, but its been a few months now. It doesn't seem to be coming from their search function, and there aren't and apparent links on their site to mine. So...
The paranoid in me says it must be a cover for TIA or something. But then I get occasional hits from .arpanet anyway, something I didn't even realize still existed and probably is run by the NSA. And the IAEA is a UN org anyhow, not a US government one.
So before I go into tinfoil hat territory, there has to be a real explanation for all this, perhaps the IAEA is really a spam operation ;) No really, anyone have any ideas?
Caribbean Dance from Abakua to Zouk: How Movement Shapes Identity
"This groundbreaking work is an intriguing read for anyone who's ever spun out on a dancefloor, or wanted to." - Village Voice, January 2003
plus its my mom's book and I've been lax in promoting it, get stepping and go buy it...
Here's the details:
Caribbean Dance from Abakua to Zouk is an unprecedented overview of the dances from each of this region's major islands and the complex, fused, and layered cultures that have given birth to them. The authors in this collection, from distinguished cultural leaders to highly innovative choreographers, reveal how dance shapes personal, communal, and national identity. Their essays also show how Caribbean rhythms, dances, fragments of movements, and even attitudes toward movement reach beyond the islands and through the extensive West Indian diaspora communities in North America, Latin America, and Europe to be embraced by the world at large.
A range of approaches, from the anthropological to the literary and from the practical to the creative, allows for a thorough exploration of these dances in the distinct yet interrelated contexts of social history, tradition/ritual, and performance. Connections are made among a fascinating array of dances, both familiar and little known, from culturally based to newly created performance pieces. Particular emphasis is placed on the African contribution in making Caribbean dance distinctive. An extensive glossary of terms and more than 30 illustrations round out the book to make it the most complete resource on Caribbean dance to date.
Linkage; S22 2003
Test: Media Studies Exam Paper, 2018, because futurism is always better when it asks questions instead of pretending to have the answers.
September 20, 2003
RiniArt.org has loads of activist clip art from the late activist illustrator Rini Templeton. Free for non commercial use, but feel free to support them.
[via the always excellent Social Design Notes]
Intensive Gene Theory
What I’d like to see is a way that these considerations might hook up with the thinking of process and becoming that one finds in Bergson, Whitehead, and Deleuze; in opposition both to scientific reductionism and New Age holism. But of course I have little idea of whether such a thing is actually possible.
Which makes me wonder whether Shaviro has read Intensive Science and Virtual Philosophy, which may or may not address the exactly what he's interested in...
September 19, 2003
Victorian Hip Hop
Peeped out the Nike Laser on a quick run through Nolita, 255 Elizabeth is the unmarked "gallery" space being used by Nike. The shoes really are beautiful and I really want a pair. Of course they promise to be some of the most expensive sneakers ever. $250 -500 is what I've heard, which puts them in the range of a extremely nice top of the line dress shoe. F'in Ouch.
Yeah, so that's the gushing bit, getting over it quick. Now for the critical and the meta. First off Nike has truly mastered this exclusivity marketing game, its getting absurd. Worst bit is I have to assume its working on me, since I want a pair of the shoes (although I'd like to imagine its just the beautiful craft of the laser etching). The private club, secret address bit is going over the top though, on might say things are getting positively Victorian in this post hip hop space.
Part of it is just the invitable fusion of hip hop culture with the mainstream power structure, the new generation is building its base. But this old English gentlemens club thing that is infecting the culture is quite odd. Could it be that hip hop is becoming bourgeois? Private clubs and ornately crafted status symbols, there are real echoes.
Perhaps hip hop is following the Bushco lead. We've got a old boys club of politicians linked to 19th century industries, trying to build empires in back rooms. Perhaps Nike, Alife, Mo' Wax and Bape crowd are just unconsciously emulating Empire politics in a pop culture context. Is a post hip hop/skate/graf cultural imperialism about to crystalize, centered on the Tokyo-NY-London axis? Or perhaps in this accelerated age, its already about to collapse?
One thing is for sure, the populist in me is hearing warning sirens loud and clear, duck and cover y'all or maybe just hide out in your private club.
Caught Sleeping, the Nike Laser
Damn, I got caught sleeping on the Nike build up for their new Nike Laser shoes. Hot shit, people were buzzing about the party as I got back to NY, but no one was talking about the shoes! And damn they are hot, this is the problem with the anti-Nike crowd, they can talk all the shit they want, but in the end true innovation is going to trump sweatshops everytime. The best way to move toward 100% ethical sneakers is to make them yourself, blackspot is half way there, hope they are down to innovate not just preach...
Anyway look at the shoes, engraved by laser into the leather, absolutely beautiful.
Crooked Tongues (free registration)
Respect to the Tats Cru
A couple of heads over on Wooster Collective have been showing there ignorance of the Bronx's Tats Cru, so here is a quick schooling.
Tats are a graf crew based out of the South Bronx that have made a successful business out of it. The mural kings. They make a real living out of painting, whether its an auto body shop door, a hip hop mural or a J.Lo. They also give a ton back to the community, from memorial walls to teaching art at the Point. They might not get the art world respect of a Skwirm or Twist, or the design world respect of a Futura 2000 or Kaws, but when you're actually in NY you'll probably see more of their work then anyone. Respect is due.
September 18, 2003
fucking brilliant, best net art I've seen in quite a while. Can't believe I haven't seen it before... Seems to play better with IE unfortunately.
Linkage: WTC, Ghosts vs Cell Phones, Schelling Focal Points
felixsalmon.com: The refined WTC site plan
^ an excellent look at the evolving WTC plan. Adam do you and Muschamp still hate this plan?
^ are cell phones scaring away ghosts?
^ focal points where people meet.
September 17, 2003
Referenced for Future Reference: Neil Spiller
From the comments Beverly Tang (whose phlog is both beautiful and fascinating) sends me to Neil Spiller who teaches at The Bartlett School of Architecture, Building, Environmental Design and Planning in London. His work looks exciting and his book Digital Dreams: Architecture and the New Alchemical Technologies is now on my wish list.
Now back to work.
Idiot Savant or Mad Genius?
Steward Butterfield has a great guest post on Many to Many about yesterday's Social Networking: Is there Really a Business Model? event. Especially interesting to me was this bit about Friendster CEO Johnathan Abrams:
After a few flashes of what appears to have been a trademark grimace, Abrams took the strongest position of the evening, declaring that Friendster is not a social networking business and observing that "When I started Friendster, I never imagined that it would part of a 'space'".
In fact, Abrams deried the idea that there was any sort of space here at all, perhaps astutely adding that this buzz seemed to him like 'push' or 'web servives' — not just in being areas which ended up overinvested, but in that they were not real 'areas' to begin with, just loosely associated businesses (or pseudo-businesses) grouped around a hot topic. Abrams came away with the nice line "When I hear entrepreneurs and VCs talking about a space, it means there is trouble ahead."
Damn, that's brilliant, this man just went up in front of an audience of venture capitalists and stabbed them where it hurts. That's like telling a runway model she's gained 5 pounds and her tits are sagging. I'm sure the VC ate it the fuck up too, no one talks to them like that, they are the ones with the big bags of money after all. Is this more idiocy from Abrams or is he really a brilliant psychological game player? I mean imagine the VC talking about the investment: "sure he wants 10 million, but imagine how much it will save us in our BDSM bills..."
Unfortunately for Abrams, Occam's Razor takes hold here, and there really is no evidence that Abrams is a genius psychological manipulator. I mean if he's that good, why the hell can he not get a date? Absent a harem he's been keeping secret to keep up this bumbling image, I'd have to say Abrams really is a fool. A damn lucky one who happened to stumble into a 'space' that he doesn't even realize exists.
Saddest bit is most of the time Abrams would be right, 'space' is an early warning sign of VC bullshit. But enhancing social networks with tech is a real business space, and yes there is actual money to be made there.
Has anyone taken the world of cellular autonoma and cross bred it with architecture? Imagine a building as a set of competing priorities and preferences growing to fit the environment of its lot. The outside twisting to provide maximum sun exposure to the critical rooms, which are shifted in the virtual (pre-actualization) process to maximize air circulation.
The architect becomes an economist, controlling the dataset. What are the preferences of the target market? And the preferences of the rooms themselves. The master bedroom reaches out calling for more bathroom space, his and hers in its ideal building. But the plumbing arches back, the pipes must flow this way it says, while the living room makes its own case, "a bathroom near me will make the social life of this home that much better." Over in the corner the laundry room speaks softly, 30 square feet and I can increase the sale price by 10%. The architect softly curses, the fucking laundry room always seems to win, the developer controls those key monetary algorithms and weighs them far too high.
Each room has its goals, to exist for one, and then to pull towards the light. Southern exposure for that living room. Some bedrooms pull east, to rise with the sun, others run north, away from direct light. The bathrooms don't much care, although a few are inflicted with an obsession towards the natural light. The kitchens? What a temperamental bunch. Screaming and yelling for huge Subzero fridges and floating counter-tops. Sometimes they win, but when they lose they break hard, shuttered into spaces that closets wouldn't even fight for and the oven doomed for repurposing as a storage shelf.
This is true bottom up architecture, genetic codes for homestyles competing with the raw cost of materials and construction to form a very concrete equilibrium as the building gets actualized. Quite possibly it might make buildings dramatically more livable then the average ones we have today...
September 16, 2003
The Idiot Savant (Friendster Triumphant)
There is a bit of a murmur in the social software going on about Friendster declining or being replaced. "We can literally watch the erosion of these centralized services - in front of our eyes" says Marc Canter, while danah boyd motions "One year from now, i suspect that the current incarnation of Friendster will have faded from people's memories, a fad that was fun to play with and to find people." Meanwhile on the streets I hear a small buzz, people are thinking of leaving Friendster, it eats up too much time... Has Friendster peaked, a few months of real popularity and then goodbye, on to the next breed of online hula hoop? My gut says no, for all the foolishness of its management, I think Friendster is unfortunately going to be dominating the social network scene for at least a few years. Perhaps its even a social software Microsoft in the making, although its doubtful it can dominate with a Bill Gates brutality. The reason? To break it down to two words, Metcalfe's Law.
Now Metcalfe's Law actually isn't much of a law, its a conjecture that, at the moment, is pretty reasonably supported by empirical evidence. What it says is that the value of a network increases exponentially with the number of members in the network. Now Friendster's network is shockingly large. Close to 2 million accounts at the moment, and still growing fast (exponentially?). If Metcalfe's law is even close to true, the value of the Friendster network is increasing tremendously each day. And quite honestly I just don't see how any competitor is going to be able to build up a comparable network. People don't seem to realize what a feat Friendster accomplished in bringing together such a wide array of social groups. I've never even bothered to invite people into Friendster and yet I'm networked in to a dozen or so scenes I've graced at various times in my life. High school, college, various types of music, graphic design, social software, cities I've visited, etc, etc. Its a huge range of people and its going to the be damn hard to get them all together anywhere else in the near future.
There must be a dozen companies gunning to be the next Friendster. I managed to bother with one, Tribe.net. Quite honestly the only reason I put any time into it was that I participated in a focus group with them and liked what they were trying to do. But without that connection I never would have taken the effort, and that's a big issue. Friendster somehow got people take the time to sign up and build profiles, something that's not nearly as easy as it sounds. With Tribe I actually invited a bunch of people, and a few actually set up accounts. But none stayed around. My network is dead. Now I don't think Tribe is going to fail per se, it has its own sort of scene going on. But I just don't see it reaching close to Friendster levels, its just another community site, and god knows how many of those now exist online. Its just not worth the effort for enough people to join up.
Its worth taking a little time and looking at what might have made Friendster so successful. How did this company go from nothing to the hottest thing on the internet, with millions users, in a matter of a year? Its not the first mover advantage, Six Degrees predates it by a few years. And its not the brilliant management, Friendster CEO Jonathan Abrams has made some seemingly retarded business decisions. So much so that I think he qualifies as an idiot savant, blindly building a wild success without the remotest understanding of what is actually driving that success.
Lets start with the design, which is quite unintentionally brilliant. By any traditional graphic design standard Friendster rates pretty poor, a three minute logo, and a few boxes on screen populated by data. But its all pale gray and white while a lot of those boxes happen to be filled with colorful pictures. The result is a user experience focused almost solely around pictures of your friends. And as my friend Adam Greenfield has pointed out, these pictures are Friendster's real strength. Legal scholar/open source activist Eben Moglin once dismissed all graphical user interfaces as being "point and grunt". Now I disagree with him on that particular issue, but its quite a choice phrase for Friendster. It truly has created a point and grunt interface, see a friend or pretty face, point, grunt, click, see another shiny face, grunt... You can practically be illiterate and navigate the site, airport sign designers take note.
Well the truth is the "point and grunt interface" is a bit of hyperbole, in order to make friends and send messages you need to read. In fact other then clicking on the faces, all the navigation is text based. This is not a site designed by someone deliberately trying to make an non textual navigation system. Its a site built by someone who has unknowing stumbled into a great design. Perhaps the best indicator of it all? The logo. Its up there with an Ed Wood movie in the so bad its good category. Three minutes in Illustrator to make a smiley face and type treatment. If I where to hazard a guess, I'd say this is, or at least was once considered, a temporary logo. A logo that perhaps the designer was embarrassed of. One that was made very discreet, as to not call attention to itself. And that's where the brilliance kicks in.
Pay any actual attention to the Friendster logo and you might think its a joke, its hands down bad. Its also light gray and tucked in the corner, where it gets ignored by the conscious mind. But its there and the unconscious might notice. When the unconscious sees it, a message gets transmitted, this is a goofy place the smiley face says: "Be happy, smile, feel free to toss up any silly thing you've created."
And the members have. Friendster profiles are a space of creative flow. People have signed up en mass and have fun with the system. It feels good, connect with friends and act foolish. Jonathan Abrams may hate the creative output of "fakesters" the imaginary characters populating Friendster, but the site design is subtly encouraging the silliest of behavior. And that gives it a huge advantage over the rest of the social software mob, people feel at home in Friendster.
The idiot savantness doesn't stop though. Jonathan Abrams must have been uncomfortable with the directions his creation was moving, the creativity of fakesters triggered something negative in the man. This summer Friendster declared war on its users, fake characters were deleted by the gigabyte, trucked off to a digital gas chamber without as much as a good bye. Despite the smiley face logo the site was supposed to be about "serious" dating, and the fake characters made a mockery of that. In effect the CEO of Friendster declared war on his most fanatical users. Not exactly a move from a business school textbook. In fact one might call it retarded, the people who use your product the most should be listened to and given respect, they are valued customers.
But no, this is social software, the usual rules don't apply. I'm beginning to suspect that the fakester war, was yet another unwittingly brilliant move on Abrams part. Why? Because it made things exciting, it stirred up the pot and added drama to the mix. It made it more then software, something more like a game, something to be passionate about. Making something illegal makes it more desirable, and people are drawn toward passion. Friendster is buzzing with this energy and the "war" just upped the supply. Without the war the fakesters would gradually have become background noise, and they still will. But for a crucial period of time the war provided publicity and sparked passion, and that's good business.
The mildly sleazy sign up page for the service works in a similar manner. Internet dating is going mainstream but is still has a stigma attached. Friendster walks the middle perfectly, its a touch elicit and perhaps a little embarrassing at first. But not enough to turn away major amounts of people, instead it charges up the atmosphere a bit.
Now of course all this would be irrelevant if the product wasn't good. Computer enhanced social networking is a valuable space and Friendster is an acceptable piece of software. But the key is in Metcalfe's law. The more people are in the network the dramatically more valuable it is. Friendster has done a brilliant job building a huge network, its a social software diamond mine. Attracting users is a hard task, and Friendster has done it in spades. Further more each time a user commits energy into Friendster the odds of them replicating that effort elsewhere go down. Can a competitor build a network so rich and interwoven? Sure someday, but I suspect it will be quite a while before the Friendster domination subsides.
September 15, 2003
MoveOn Moves Again (updated)
looking good, looking good. Could it be that Dubya Bush's biggest legacy will be getting the "left" to remember how to organize again?
One of the interesting things about this campaign is that Move On is clearly taken a logic driven approach to this particular propaganda effort. Its all about the facts, making it a fact that Bush is a liar. There is a real problem with this tactic though, it utterly fails on those who trust* or *believe in Bush. You can yell liar all you want, and its irrelevent to those with the trust in the man.
Now thankfully for Move On there is a sizable group of logical Republicans, ones open to the facts argument. Fiscal conservatives and libertarian leaners mainly. They already show signs of doubting Bush, so they are good targets. But I still think this is the wrong way to really go after Bush. Rather then making a hard accusation it be better to just raise doubts.
Instead of saying "Bush is a liar", ask "is Bush a liar?" Instead of stating "Bush can't be trusted", wonder "can Bush be trusted?" Be inclusive, bring in everyone to the discussion and let them decide on their own. The first pair of statements attack, they cause Bush fans to go on the defensive, and once they are there its going to be damn hard to convert them. But if they let their guard down and start to think, to ask questions, then they can decide on their own whether he can be trusted. And the seeds of doubt will be planted. Even if they still like Bush they'll be second guessing the choice. Worried perhaps they are wrong.
The facts will speak for themselves in the right circumstances. But challenging Bush fans with them in a head to head manner is not much of a winning tactic. It just puts people at odds, ready to defend and dying for some cognative dissonence, a denial of reality in order to maintain a belief system. So yeah, I'm here to take the other tact. To ask the questions and open up the doors. Meanwhile I wish Move On the best in their campaign.
A Few Hours in the LES
Spent a few hours blasting through some of the finest that the Lower East Side has to offer, here is the quickness:
Schiller's Liquor Bar:
Rolled up at 1pm on a Sunday and got a table for two with no delay, full but no wait for Sunday brunch only two weeks in to a McNally restaurant. Not the greatest sign, but they'll make bank anyway. The fabled McNally attention for detail was on full display. Unfortunately this time the focus was on making a restaurant look exactly like by elementary school bathrooms. Then again I went to elementary school in New York City and the out of towners will probably be impressed by the McNally effort. Service was excellent, food was good and only overpriced by a few dollars. Go to Pastis instead.
Alife Rivington Club:
Finally made it to this over hyped marketing ploy. Everything I had heard made it seem like the selling sneakers in a English private club environment was a brilliant bit of irony. No its far scarier, its part a larger movement to turn hip hop into an aristocratic space. Scary. Sneaker hunting used to be about exploration, digging through shoe stores that time forgot for the gems. Now its about who you know, getting on the good side of the clerics at the snotty sneaker stores and kissing the right marketing droids ass. Wack. They had a couple nice shoes for sure, but this custom Dunks and Air Force's shit has got to go. Past its half life already, snake print or no, these are still out of date shoes. Fashion is rapidly approaching a point of no return, where trends are over before they start. Who want to bet on the life cycle of those mini fedoras replacing mesh on the hipsterati heads?
Still number one, the Pickle Guy is good, but Guss' is the best hand's down, legs spread.
il laboratorio del gelato:
God damn, this was unexpected. Pickles and ice cream, must be knocked up... No seriously this is the most subtle ice cream I've ever encountered in a store front. Slamming.
created by the razor sharp Billmon of the Whiskey Bar. Give him the credit he is due, I've been given more credit then I deserve on a few things lately.
September 14, 2003
The new Outkast, Speakerboxxx: Love Below is now playing. Hot. Buy it or something. Making me rethink my opinion of the Big Boi / Andre 3000 relation. Always looked at Big Boi as a talented but not brilliant MC of a pretty traditional mode who happened to pair up with an other freak in Dre. But clothing lies it seems. The Big Boi CD is fucking off the rigging, while the Dre one is just weird, at least on the first run. If anything The Big Boi is actually more out there then previous Outkast albums, but in direct lineage. Dre's seems to have more to do with the black post-rock styles of Cody Chestnutt. A hell of a lot better though, Chestnutt album is unlistenable in my book, while Dre's shit will be listened to further for sure.
Then there is Ghostface's Summertime remix, oh lord. Got me fiending big time. The Def Jam debut was due last spring, where the hell is it.... Odd bit is the song doesn't seem to be commercially available anywhere, wtf? Heard Beyonce was mad about the Ghost remix, but ever her version isn't on Amazon...
Any Illustrator Experts Out There?
Any master of the minutia of Adobe Illustrator out there who can help me?
Here is the issue. Filters and effects are technically supposed to produce the same visual results. But when I run Skribble & Tweak with the same settings in each one I get very different results. I like the effects one, but I have two problems.
1 - the result is something so complex that my 1.9GHz machine slows to a crawl.
2 - I can't edit the visible curves only the original, very different looking ones.
So what I'd like to do is either render the effects out as regular bezier curves, or be able to recreate the effect using filters. So far I've struck out on both counts, am I missing something?
September 13, 2003
Bush Killing Questions
There are couple Bush killing questions out there I'd like to see propagated more. One is for the people of the United States, and its just "can we trust this man?" The answer honestly doesn't matter, if enough people ask it the damage will be done. Just having people wonder if he's trustable will plant seeds of doubt that will sharply undermine his no turning back style of politics.
The second question could use an answer, but again its more important to ask. Its for the man himself, but should be broadcast to the public too. "Who will pay for this war and deficit?" Who indeed. I want to see him waffle those answers every time he faces the camera. More to read about it at: Prometheus 6: Oh, what to do, what to do.
September 12, 2003
So somewhere in my comments is a little thread about whether there is a problem with racism against Muslims and Arabs in the United States. Well I still find it hard to believe people can think its not an issue, and unfortunately I had to get my thoughts proven this morning by reading this:
I remember the day I took out the Koran from my bag in order to read it on the way to work. It was, I am ashamed to admit, my first and last day. It took only a couple of stops for someone to make a comment. "You’re making people uncomfortable". I turned to find a man scowling and a couple of people staring blankly at me. I asked the owner of the voice what exactly I was doing that was making people uncomfortable and he told me straight out that it was the Arabic "shit" I was reading and that I should put it away. Anything written in Arabic has to be a threat of course. I did not quite know how to respond to him. I looked around and saw the clutter of newspapers declaring war on innocent Iraqis (is there even such a thing?) I saw women reading their bibles in English, Spanish, Cantonese, Polish. Were the other commuters going to put away the newspapers that make me as an Arab uncomfortable? Were the women around me going to put away their bibles, symbols of the Christian fundamentalist thought that only a holy crusade would save America from the evil of the Arabs?
I was told by friends and family not to read the Koran in public anymore. "No sense in provoking people," they said. And as I mentioned before, I am very ashamed to admit that I have not read it in the subway since that day. I have developed a certain kind of self-censorship that I am not proud of and try to fight daily. My war zone scares me because I do not know what I am fighting against. I do not having anything tangible to battle and do not even have allies. How can I protect myself against something I cannot grasp? How can I reclaim my space?
I am scared. I will not deny it... What one considers a simple subway ride I have begun to consider a daily struggle. I struggle to maintain my identity, struggle to find the strength to stop hiding. I do not want to live in a war zone. I do not want to feel terror. Every moment I spend on the subway I spend FIGHTING for my existence. I have not taken out my Koran; I have not been able to be quite that defiant yet.
The author is Sherien Sultan and you can read the whole essay here.
Let me also add that this is New York City we are talking about, the second most liberal city in the US, and world renown as a cultural melting pot.
The neocons can call it Terrorism all they want, but the truth is its nothing more then a neat remixing of the red scare and racism tactics that have done the right wing so well in this country over the last hundred plus years.
[via Prometheus 6]
September 11, 2003
September 10, 2003
A Bathing Ape Makes Its Own Clothes
So my friend Adam Greenfield recently called attention to an older article of his The bathing ape has no clothes. All sorts of discussion follows. And in the midst of it all I realized I didn't really know to much about Bape (as the brand is often called) and its star designer Nigo.
Well the web doesn't offer much, but it offers some. The best perhaps is this site which rocks the old geocities style flawlessly and just might be the official site. Note that its not 100% predictable what you might actually wind up seeing there... As for text and real info, one slim interview turns up, and thankfully its pretty good.
As I had suspected all along Nigo appears to work extremely hard with a strong devotion to detail and quality.
He describes himself as 'a bit of a loner' who works all the time, though 'my work doesn't feel like work to me. I feel like I have a lot of free time because I love what I do.'
To watch Nigo hovering over a conveyor belt of sneakers and shoes in one of his outlets, carefully positioning and repositioning the goods so that they gleam pristinely beneath soft-glow lamps, is to understand Nigo's admixture of lordly control and personal, hands-on engagement. Willy Wonka and the clothing factory.
One final irony: Nigo's obsessive, detail-oriented solemnity results in clothes that are most notable for being…fun. BAPE wear features surprises to delight a childlike curiosity—untuck a pocket in a pair of jeans and voila!, there's the tiny ape-head on the inner lining. Hold a short-sleeve button-down shirt sideways and stare into the camouflage for a few minutes: “BAPE” is spelled out, embedded in the pattern like a Rorschach inkblot.
I could just smell this sort of thing beneath the Bapa hype. There are a million and a half companies wanting to be where Bape is now, or even where it was 2 years ago. But only one really made it. Dismissing Nigo as a "stylist" as Adam did seemed a bit too off the cuff. Success doesn't just emerge from nowhere...
Yes! Finally, this is something that's needed to happen for a long time. Activists love to go after Nike like the company is sitting on a mountain of cocaine and the activists need a fix. I agree strongly with these activists on some issues and disagree with them just as strongly on others. Regardless I as so damn down with what they are doing with blackSpot.
This is protest as it should be done. There is a space for criticism, especially of the constructive sort. But bitching and moaning will only get you so far. And boycotts and protests will only get you another inch or two farther. If you have a problem with a product or company then the constructive path is to build a better product.
Now I have certain doubts and issues with their approach, and similar issue with their parents at Adbusters, but that is for another post. Right now I am here to praise them. I once spent an entire day researching alternatives to Nike. The short version? There are Nike's on my feet right now.
The Longer? Well, most sneakers are built in sweatshops and even if they aren't the products they are made of probably are. Even if they aren't its almost impossible to prove it given the messy chain of suppliers involved, information that is often not publicly available anyway.
The only really sweatshop free sneakers are made in the US or Europe, and personally I like my money going all over the world, even if it risks funding a sweatshop or two. Plus the two US made sneaker brands are Sausony and New Balance. Now Sausony makes great shoes, but every pair I've owned has warn out at the rear inside corner of the sole within a few months. They just aren't made for my feet. As for New Balance, lets just say you couldn't make an uglier sneaker if you wrapped an insole in plaster then ran over it with a tractor while a dog humps it. I'll take my Nike's instead please, size 11 thank you.
But now we have an alternative in the mix. More importantly it sets the stage for a whole new breed of protest and transformation of the world. Finally activists might start waking up and realize that capital is a tool not the enemy. I'll be writing a lot more about this in the near future.
its a data visualizing art project. Couldn't figure out what was cool about it on a quick surf, but Casey Reas is involved so I'm bookmarking it for reference. For the now though it just seems like an unimpressive data visualization program, but I assume there is more.
September 09, 2003
So how many music artists have websites that read "coming soon"? Pretty much all I think. Well here are 3 from some rising superstars I ran into over the weekend:
Crack We Are Rock (aka Crack W.A.R.) have the best name and design sense of any young band around.
Mathematics are still blowing up what little remains of the world of drum n bass. Look for main man Roy Dank to start rocking a disco punk style behind the decks though...
Ghettotech legend Disco D is about to start dropping the straight hip hop, keep the late night mix shows pumping loud.
September 08, 2003
September 07, 2003
Creativity Yesterday (and..)
Spent the better part of yesterday at Tokion Magazine's Creativity Now Conference. The short? Well I'm writing this rather then attending today... No it's not really that bad, just not feeling today's line up much yesterday was actually pretty good.
Highlight was definitely "Branding America to the Muslim World" with Abderrahim Foukara of Al-Jazeera and Robert Tappan of the US Office of Public Affairs and Public Diplomacy. First off I have to respect Tappan for walking straight into enemy territory, he didn't have to do this panel. And part of him seems to actually have some good ideas, he genuinely is aware of the need for dialogue between the muslim and western worlds. And then? Utter failure. Be showed about 10 minutes of the propaganda our country is trying to push into Muslim countries, and god it was awful. No one's buying this product...
What really made Tappan the fool was his defensiveness. He could have just admitted the product was crap and obviously propaganda, but instead he tried to justify, does he truly think that this shit is authentic? The bulk of the videos were real footage, shot of Muslims in America, none of who will be movie stars anytime soon. But really who cares is a dozen Muslims like living in America, we know there is a serious discrimination issue in this country, and our actions in the Middle East speak for themselves...
Abderrahim Foukara on the other hand, was quite a treat. A rare bridge between the west and the "Arab street". He spoke of the schizophrenic nature of people's relation to America, the simultaneous embracing and rejection of culture and technology. Not to mention Israel, and tone deaf actions of the American government has lead so many in the Arab world as seeing it as pro-Israel, and more importantly anti-Arab. As for solutions as a journalist he offered none, not a happy answer.
Perhaps most interesting of all was talking to him about the disjunction between the Al-Jazeera reporters in America and the Al-Jazeera broadcast image. Obviously there was a lot he couldn't say as an employee, but the implications were clear. Al-Jazeera as a network shades anti-American as a selling point. It brings in the viewers. But it also seemed clear that he and the other Al-Jazeera reporters in the west took a much more moderated view of America. Is this the same tension we see in US newsrooms, or a larger cultural issue?
Highlight 2 was on a different tip. Can't say I had high expectations of Peter Saville's talk, he's got a cavalier rep and apparently was awful last time round NY. But he shined this time, not nearly as much as a prick as he's made out to be, although there is some rock star their. But he came with stories from the frontlines and they were worth listening too. Sure sounds like he caught a couple lucky breaks, but what successful person hasn't?
The most interesting of his observations was that design has over taken British culture, its replacing advertising as a way to sell product. Ads are now humorous entertainment, while design is what moves the products off the shelf. Didn't go into the ramifications, but I can think of both good and bad from this.
The other interesting point was on the difference in corporate vs street design in the US and UK. His take on the UK has design being mainly consumer driven, the people want it and get it (in both senses of the phrase). Big business on the other hand is somewhat behind the curve (although that insidious BP logo indicates otherwise to me.)
In the US Saville argues (or maybe just muses), it is the corporations that understand the power of design, while on the street we just put up and put up with any old crap. Case to point perhaps is that the BP logo was actually designed by the SF office of Landor Associates. But we digress, the main point of Saville's talk was that being a rock start designer sounds pretty damn fun. Someday...
Speaking of fun, highlight 3 was the hip hop history lession with Kool Herc, Melle Mel and Phase 2. Nothing new here kids, but its always good to here the legends speak, even if they were the token minorities in a otherwise white day...
And on the white side of things, who the fuck decided to put 5 white men on stage for a panel entitled "The Commodification of Street Art"? Not that it was a bad panel, its certainly had its moments. But damn it could have been a lot better. For one, a real moderator would have helped, future conference organizers please take note, its best to have a separate moderator for each panel, one who really knows their shit preferably.
The big issue with this panel though was that there was no dissenting voice, Ryan McGinness tried for a second, but he was on the wrong panel (he really should have been switched with ESPO who is on a pop icon panel today). McGinness does get props for shouting out Wooster Collective on stage, holla! Jeffrey Deitch and Wieden + Kennedy's John Jay both are seriously sharp men, with a lot to say. But they where kicking pitches, not exploring the issue.
Deitch got the deepest, talking about how artists in the 70's where able to subvert the museum system with the work they placed into it, and called on artists today to subvert the advertising system with the work they inject into it. A nice sentiment... but seriously I want to hear about tactics.
Jay being an ad man, and very successful one, had the fullest pitch. He came across as genuinely committed to building strong working relationships with artists in an ad context. And the Skwerm/Nike video he showed was indeed some sick shit. I tend to agree with him up to a point, there certainly are situations where corporate cash handled by the right people, can help out the art world and their are certainly worse places that cash can go. But its situational not sustainable. It reminds me a bit of music biz. The right relation between A&R, marketing and the artist can be amazing for all involved. But 9 times out of 10 it doesn't happen. With results a bit like say Electric Moyo...
Which brings us to the tragedy of the day, Shepard "Obey Giant" Fairey. Let me start out by saying I've met Shep a few times, and even had the good fortune to go out on a pasting run with him, and can easily say he's one of the more genuine people I've ever encountered. But the sense I'm getting is that he's in over his head, and watching him tread water on stage was not a pleasant experience. More then anything Shep seemed to be trying to justify his actions to himself. Bottom line when he needs the cash he does the work. And honestly Shep seems to have more issues with it then me and I think most of the audience. But by blurring the lines between his work for money, and personally work he's created a giant trap for himself. And make no mistake of it odds are Shep was almost certainly out on the streets last night risking life, limb and arrest to put up more Obey posters. Believe me I've seen him climb, he's truly putting his life on the line to do this. There is no questioning his devotion (obsession?) to his art work. If the issue is authenticity then no amount of bad ads will diminish the authenticity of what Shep does.
When you dance with the devil its best to learn some of his moves. And unfortunately when Shep is making money he's dancing with some real devils. Marketing to minors, it ain't pretty shit. And when Shep admitted on stage to being a consultant on Nissan's awful Electric Moyo campaign I was pretty shocked. The campaign is so bad I refuse to link to it, and I certainly never would have pictured Shep being involved in such crap. His honesty is admirable for sure, but if he's going to keep dealing with corporations, be better learn to play the game. I didn't need to hear that info...
Thank god for Shep the conference organizers weren't smart enough to get a real counterpoint voice on the stage. Would have been great for the audience though. This was a discussion just crying out for a critical dialogue. I'm no fan of Naomi Klein, but damn it would have been nice to have her perspective in the mix...
As for the rest of the conference, only thing of note was Vice's Suroosh Alvi description of his business model: "punk rock capitalism". Lets think about that one a bit...
September 06, 2003
[via beverly tang | (un)plug]
An Africa Perspective
Back In NYC
Back in NY and too busy to find a pretty picture to go with this post. But you know where I am...
Going to throw up a few quick links and then get hustling. Couple biggies (vaporposts?) in the works though, Friendster as Idiot Savant and Automatic Architecture, hold tight...
September 04, 2003
The big question with Mike Davis is always "just how much is he exaggerating?" There is no question in my mind that the world as not quite as dark as Davis' neo-Marxist visions, but that doesn't mean he's not right sometimes...
[via Hit & Run]
September 03, 2003
Envy for a Playa Hatah
collision detection: "Confessions Of A Playah Hatah" -- the politics of envy is excellent, go read it. And yes I'm envious of the fact that that blog has more technorati referrals then mine...
Aggregate Traffic Animals
There is a secret zoo that runs encaged along the roads.
They are liquid, semi-visible goliaths that rage through the streams and chunks of ordinary traffic, with the effervescent tendrils of mile-long tails whipping behind them like Chinese dragons. Though composed of hundreds of pounds of steel, glass and plastic, they are able to pass through solid objects. They are bound by the laws of the highway, but not by any conventional notion of time or space.
They are Aggregate Traffic Animals: a menagerie of emergent beasts drawn from the interacting behaviours of many individual human beings driving many individual cars with many individual goals, their collective activity giving rise to something with greater presence, power and purpose than the sum of its constituents. They take on a host of different forms, each to serve a different end.
They are real, and they drive among us.
from CheeseburgerBrown's Traffic Zoology, highly recommended.
September 02, 2003
Never been a huge Mos Def fan, way to inconsistent with too many wack beats. And I'll never forgive him for thinking he could do a show with his Jack Johnson band without ever practicing together. A musical lowpoint of my life...
But when the mofo clicks he hits hard, and that new single "Beef" is straight daaaaammmn. Too hot. Heard an a cappella on the radio, shit, gots to get a hold of that.
September 01, 2003
The Postmodern President
That has created a strong incentive to delegitimize the experts--a task that comes particularly easy to the revisionists who drive Bush administration policy. They tend to see experts as guardians of the status quo, who seek to block any and all change, no matter how necessary, and whose views are influenced and corrupted by the agendas and mindsets of their agencies. Like orthodox Marxists who pick apart mainstream economics and anthropology as the creations of 'bourgeois ideology' or Frenchified academic post-modernists who 'deconstruct' knowledge in a similar fashion, revisionist ideologues seek to expose "the facts" as nothing more than the spin of experts blinded by their own unacknowledged biases. The Bush administration's betes noir aren't patriarchy, racism, and homophobia, but establishmentarianism, big-government liberalism, and what they see as pervasive foreign policy namby-pambyism. For them, ignoring the experts and their 'facts' is not only necessary to advance their agenda, but a virtuous effort in the service of a higher cause.
Of course Marshall's intellectual bias is self evident there, but you've got to love the skilled put down. Personally I've got no problem with revisionists as long as they are on my side...
Organizing a TAZ?
Trouble in Counterculture Utopia highlights the strange dynamic of Burning Man (LLC). A for profit corporation organized with the purpose of creating something close to a TAZ. A carefully maintain tension that some far has worked extremely well, but is in constant danger of shifting out of control...
Check the numbers for a second. $10 million pumped into the local economy, $40 million lawsuit, population 30,000 centered around a 77 foot statue. "Festival organizers say they are bringing their fire preparedness up to code, installing fire breaks around the property and keeping 40,000 gallons of water on hand. They also say they have removed 30 truckloads of debris and 20 abandoned cars... Mr. Roger gazed at his art car, a 1986 Chevy Sprint converted to resemble a giant carp and customized with 30-foot flame throwers."
But their is a deft transformation at the entrance of the festival, "This is a matter of perspective," he said. "What our opposition calls rubbish, I call art materials. What they call a salvage yard, I call a recycling center." Not to mention the fact that after giving Black Rock City LLC your $250 you enter into a space where money is prohibited...
"In the vicinity of the bifurcation the capacity to transmit information is maximized". - Manuel DeLanda, Intensive Science & Virtual Philosophy.
Back in the Teletext Day
Relics from some parallel preinterweb in Europe...
[via Marc's Voice]
Noney is a new currency. Each Noney note is a hand drawn, hand printed and hand signed piece of art. Each note can also be traded for things. Like all money, Noney is for people to circulate. The result is a combination of public art, performance art and printmaking.
Each Noney note has the same denomination: zero. This doesn't mean each note has no value... just relative value. There's no fixed exchange rate or area of operation. Noney's worth as both art and currency is something to negotiate through each individual transaction - anywhere.