December 31, 2003
Merry New Years!
Here's to a new year, a new regime (come november), and new 'new economy'. And most importantly here is to lots of pleasant surprises.
love you all, thanks for everything, been a great year
December 30, 2003
Constantin Boym - Missing Monuments and Beyond
Constantin Boym is the man behind the subtly ironic Missing Monuments and Buildings of Disaster architectural models. If you are ever in need of beautifully cast monuments to the OJ car chase or the Unibomber's cabin, Boym is your man.
Boym has a bit of Tibor Kalman's spirit in him. Both men where born in Eastern Europe and but built their careers in America. Perhaps their brand of humorous and clever commentary on Western culture can only be born behind the iron curtain? Who knows? It'd probably be unfair to attribute the unevenness of both men's work to their birthplaces. Neither is a virtuoso designer, but when work is both smart and funny perfect there is wiggle room on the execution.
Boym might also be the missing link between the early 80's Memphis design movement and the rising Brooklyn industrial aesthetic of the now. Works like his Salvation Ceramics and American Plumbing vases, place him slightly ahead of the pack as designers increasing plunder the cheap and overlooked for inspiration, while mixing in a touch of humor to hold it all together.
December 29, 2003
Green Walls, Green Nets and The Beauty of the Desert
WorldChanging: Another World Is Here: The Fall of the Green Wall of China is really interesting, I had no idea about this whole process at all. The people at World Changing are pretty smart, but they do suffer a bit from over focus on the bottom up emergence.
Its not that I have anything against bottom up solutions, we just emerged from a top down century and a healthy dose of bottom up style solutions is in order. But does that mean all top down solutions are bad? Somehow it seems a lot more interesting when top down and bottoms up come together and start working in rhythm together.
And on a different note, they end the piece basically calling for a "green and collaborative war on deserts". Which seems to be an odd choice of words. War is very top down for one. But deserts are also beautiful places, you might even call them natures bottom up solution for overpopulation. Do we really want to wage war upon them, or maybe just put them on a diet to slim them down...
lego skyscrapers, impressive, and in many ways better then the real thing...
Really wanted to include a link to a designer who make small cast metal models of incomplete monuments, but I completely forgot his name. Google completely failed to compensate for my memory. Anyone know what I'm talking about? Please let me know.
[via No Sense of Place]
Troop Rotation, Regime Rotation
So its pretty obvious that the US troops in Iraq have been there far too long. But whose great idea was it switch out nearly every troop all at the same time? The Times harps on the issue of military preparedness if some geopolitical problem arises elsewhere in the world. Quite frankly I'm not too worried about that, if a problem arises that truly requires a military response then there are plenty of other nations around who can pick up a month of slack for the US. What worries me is the problem that the US built all by its lonesome, Iraq.
Am I the only one who sees a massive swapping of nearly all experienced troops for inexperienced as the geopolitical equivalent of tacking an arabic "shoot me" sign on the back of each soldier's uniform? Assuming of course the Army can find enough soldiers with any knowledge of the language. Guess that's what the infinite servitude clause is there for.
It's bad enough that Bush has lead us into this conflict, but is it too much to ask for his team to show the slightest bit of preparedness or foresight in its organization? Of course the conservatives are busy rewriting history to inexplicably make lack of preparedness a positive...
There is only so much history you can rewrite though, its about time the Bush administration take some responsibility for their repeated blunders. Troop rotation? the warnings where in the NYT, we are watching to see how it goes down.
technicolor drops a highly opinionated yet comprehensive overview of the year in music. Don't always agree, and sure as hell don't have it in me to keep up with music like that anymore (as if I ever did...). [via philip sherburne]
December 28, 2003
Beware of Leo Strauss
December 27, 2003
I've always enjoyed being schooled in music by taxi drivers, but damn, Greg Allen truly has the technique down.
Warning Public Redesign In Progress
About to start a major redesign of the site. And since this is a blog I'll be doing it pretty publicly over the course a few (I hope) days. If you are somehow attached to the old pirate broadsheet style, you can keep reading in that format here.
update: well that's half of it, not sure when I'll be able to do the other half. As always comments, critiques, hate mail, gifts, suggestions and manna from heaven are both welcomed and sometimes desired.
Fields | Weblog came from my referrer reports. It's quite a nice blog.
It leads to the McGurk-effect which is interesting.
And to Pleix films which are sort of the video equivalent of laptop music.
December 26, 2003
A Note to the Dean Campaign
First off let me offer a big congratulations Jim Moore, who is now Director of Internet and Information Services for the Dean campaign!
Now, as an independent I've decided not to offer any recommendations on who the registered Deomocrats pick as their nominee, but damn Dean continues to impress. Can't help but like the relentless energy he brings. He's been doing remarkably well not just in well covered opening up of internet campaigning, but also in the traditional political games of endorsements and handshakes. That's two thirds of new school politics right there.
It's the other third where I'd like to see Dean spend some real energy. The realm of pop culture and mass media. Sometimes I get an impression the campaign just wants to route around the media via the internet, and that seems like the path straight to failure. Compare Dean and Clark's Rock the Vote ads. Dean is better then the also rans for sure, but it's a play to his base, not a play to win. Clark's ad on the other hand is a masterful piece of editing, with a punch line that sticks. That's how the media game gets played. And if Dean can't step up to the Clark level in this arena, then Bush/Rove can cakewalk over a Dean nomination.
With that in mind I highly recommend the Dean team get their hands on Danny Goldberg's Dispatches from the Culture Wars: How the Left Lost Teen Spirit. Hopefully they already have some dogeared copies, but I haven't seen the evidence yet... Goldberg's book is probably only going to be enjoyable by political junkies, but his core argument is damn strong.
Despite the fact that a majority of pop culture players are quite liberal in their politics, the left is alienating itself from the pop culture audience. Schwarzenegger in California being the latest example of how the right wing completely out plays the left in this area. The left has an infinitely larger pool of pop culture stars that could be transformed into winning politicians. But it's the right wing that takes people like Schwarzenegger and Reagan and actually turns them into political players. And all the while the left allows fools like Joe Lieberman alienate masses of Americans. Goldberg tells the long story in his book. Lets hope team Dean is paying attention.
More then anything I'm worried that Dean's people might mistake internet populism with a broader breed of popularity, when in fact it might well be another form of snobbery. The connections formed through blogs and Meet Ups are quite remarkable, but at the same time they also alienate outsiders. Quite honestly the site of someone wearing one of those blue Dean pins (is that really the best design the campaign can muster?), triggers a fight or flight instinct in me similar to being approached by a Moonie or Hare Krishna. No way can that be good for winning the general election...
But the games just picking up, lets hope the Democrats settle on a nominee without beating each other (themselves) too much. The Democrats can win 2004 and they can win it strong. And as I've said before, for just this one election they have the guarantee of my vote.
No Style, No Substance
Virginia Postrel's The Substance of Style is neither substantive nor stylish. In fact the prose is about as bland and drab as a Soviet apartment block. The deeper problem however is that Mrs. Postrel apparently lives in a world where urban legends, trends hyped up by hack journalists and the contents of corporate press releases constitute reality. I highly suspect Mrs. Postrel is the sort of person you could convince gullible is not a word in the dictionary. Needless to say critical thinking is not a part of her vocabulary.
All this is sad because she sets out to right about what should be a fascinating subject to me, the rising popularity of design culture in America. And for a moment or two in chapter 5 "The Boundaries of Design" she actually touches on some interesting issues. Touches, but does not explore.
For the rest of the book Mrs. Postrel is content to do two things:
1 - State the blindingly obvious, that people care about aesthetics.
2 - Completely strip the current trends of design out of any meaningful context in order to construct a bumbling argument that we are entering an "age of aesthetics".
The core absurdity of this woeful excuse for a book is that Postrel somehow thinks people caring about aesthetics is a new thing. Its as if people never took care in selecting their china patterns a hundred years ago, indigo was never a luxury commodity and homes where never filled with decoration.
What Postrel completely misses, that the Henry Ford style "any color as long as its black" anti aesthetic stance that she hates so much, is actually the anomaly. The uniformity of design that is currently disappearing is actually a manifestation of the first stages of industrialization and mass production.
Postrel appears to want to believe that an "Age of Aestetics" is rising out of a new popular demand. And in order to make the argument she completely ignores the context of what is actually driving the events that she's read the press releases for. What she wants to see as a demand driven focus on "design" is actually a manifestation of various technological, economic and sociocultural changes in society. The demand for customization is not new at all, but in early state mass production it just wasn't possible.
Postrel however has no interest in exploring the real dynamics that are driving transformation, despite the ironic fact that her blog is titled "Dynamist". Instead she spends her whole time attempting to isolate "aesthetics" from any context, in order to manufacture her little "age". Of course the truth is that aesthetics, which are of course important to people, can not be so easily stripped from surroundings.
The 20 toilet brushes of Target exist, not just because there is demand, but because the technology exists to make them cheaply. The twelve year old dying his hair purple is not just doing because he love the color, he's doing it because of the cultural meaning associated with the action. The gold lettering on Postrel's book jacket is not there purely because she likes shiny things, its there because gold conveys a story, one that has evolved through geology, war and commerce.
The fact is there is probably a whole slew of books ready to emerge from the territory Postrel bumbles through so cluelessly. Good books. The Substance of Style is not one of them.
December 23, 2003
Wink, Wink, Abstract Goes Mobile
Probably just going to mirror this content, but you never know. Adam's got a touch of a moblog going, on the down low but there.
As for the force behind it all, Winksite is remarkably easy to use. Better yet, the core people seem to live and breathe the company, sent them a suggestion at 11:15 last night, a touch after midnight I had a nice reply back from a founder. That's dedication and I'd like to think it leads to a good business.
The Gucci Gucci and More Advertising Hits of 2003
That's from ADd Age's Top 10 Lists which also features a bit of honesty from the Philippines FHM and a bunch of other crap. Bit hard to take seriously any set of lists that includes the god awful Electric Moyo campaign for Nissan as a hit. Still worth a visit for those interested in advertising.
[via Adrants who should focus more on the rant aspect of their name...]
Structures of Advertising Power
December 22, 2003
Fog Of War
Fog of War is quite simply devastating. Devastating in a you really need to see this movie sort of way. Don't expect to walk out in anyway uplifted though. Quite frankly its painful.
It's about Robert McNamara, btw, the man in a large part responsible for the Vietnam War. Mostly its voice over but, from time to time we see him awkwardly framed in camera, and its his eyes that bring the pain back home. This man is still living with the mistakes he and a tiny group of men (and yes I believe they were all male) unleashed upon the people of both Vietnam and America. It's a painful lesson he has quite come to grips with, but its one we all probably should be learning, as individuals, a nation and a world.
The villain of the film is quite a Deleuzian one, statistics. A man (and the camera) pours over sheets upon sheet of data. The math speak... Bombs drop. Soldiers die. Civilians die. Nearly 40 years later, McNamara's descendent Donald Rumsfeld calls out for more metrics in the "war" on terror.
Time perhaps to reread War in the Age of Intelligent Machines.
State of the Brand
Oregon, We Love Dreamers and the branding of a State.
[via LucJam - Breaking News]
December 21, 2003
Designs on Democracy
Designs on Democracy is conference this coming March. The always excellent Social Design Notes reports that its being organized by Design Action Collective, the Ruckus Society, and Change the Game. Design plus activism, expect to see me there.
December 19, 2003
The Year in Music
Sasha Frere-Jones, Keith Harris, and Rob Sheffield do a far better job wrapping things up in music then I ever could.
What got left out was that 2003 was the year that the music cd finally died. In fact if it weren't for the extreme generosity of the forementioned Mr Frere-Jones, I don't think I would have touched a proper CD all year. A couple DJ mixes on CD-R and that's it. Ce la vie that's the end friend, my wallet is glad to see you go. Course the final nail got driven by the iTunes Music Store, which isn't too kindest on the bank balances either...
In any case its top songs as albums are pretty much meaningless. More on the death of the long player soon btw.
Bit of a lopsided list. 2003 year also market the year I stopped being able to get obsessive over the tunes.
Beyonce - In The Club (bootleg remix)
Jaheim - Put that Woman First
David Banner - Cadillacs on 22s
R. Kelly - Ignition + Remix
Jay Z - My First Song
Ginuwine - In Those Jeans
Outkast - Bowtie
David Banner - Like a Pimp
Missy - Let Me Fix My Weave
The Rapture - Sister Saviour
Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Pin
!!! - Me and Guiliani Down By the School Yard
50 Cent - In the Club
Beyonce - Naughty Girl
Beyonce - Dangerously in Love
Beyonce - Work it Out
Bone Crusher - Never Scared
David Banner - It's Christmas Time
Dizzee Rascal - Fix Up Look Sharp
Golden Boy & Miss Kitten - Rippin Kitten
Ginuwine - Hell Yeah Remix
Jaheim - Diamond in Da Ruff
Jay Z - Dirt of Your Sholders
Jay Z - 99 Problems
Jay Z - La, La, La
Jean Grae - Hater's Anthem
Kelis - Milkshake
Lil Jon - Get Low (remix)
Lil Kim & 50 Cent - Magic Stick
Lil Kim - The Jump Off
Lil Kim - Doing it Way Big
MOP - We Run NY
Nas and Pharell - Nas' Angel... The Flyest
Outkast - Behold a Lady
Outkast - Pink and Blue
Outkast - A Life in the Day of Andre Benjamin
Outkast - Ghetto Music
Outkast - Last Call
Playgroup - Party Mix
The Rapture - House of Jealous Lovers
The Rapture - Olio
The Rapture - I Need Your Love
The Rapture -The Coming of Spring
The Rapture - Killing
T.Raumschmiere - I'm Not Deaf I'm Ignoring You
T.Raumschmiere - Monstertruckdriver
White Stipes - There's No Home For You Here
White Stipes - Seven Nation Army
Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Date With A Night
Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Man
Yeah Yeah Yeahs - No No No
Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Maps
GOAT - A Tribute to Muhammad Ali, damn, the book's a bit on the cheap side at $3,000, but hey the website is free. And its got the rarest of the rare, an intro that doesn't need skipping.
Course Ali is the greatest, if not as a boxer, then as a poet / political force / media figure. If anyone deserves a $3,000 book... Leave it to Benedikt Taschen to figure out how to sell books at art world prices. And at 75lbs that books sure has the heft of a heavyweight champion.
by Alex Wilkie
Vote Number 1
Have to admit when MoveOn announced their Bush in 30 Seconds campaign for distributed ad creation I was skeptical. And when I headed over I expected to watch maybe one or two. Ended up hitting the daily limit (designed to keep the site from crashing) of 20 videos voted on. There are over a 1,000 total. Some are damn good. Some actually would help Bush more then hurt him. None of the 20 were as savvy as say Clark's Outkast ad, but I'm still pretty impressed.
Go vote. It's good practice for November 2004...
December 18, 2003
Daily Candy = $3.5-4 Million
The Pilot Group, an investment firm founded by former AOL chief Pittman, quietly bought privately held DailyCandy a few weeks ago for roughly $3.5 million to $4 million. Holla! The blog game is changing quick, no? Well Daily Candy isn't a blog, but damn its similar...
The Animal-human Chimeras
December 17, 2003
Screwed and Swisha'd + Crunk Christmas
Looks like the music blogsphere is waking up to the Texas screwed sound. tufluv has a good article on Screw himself (scroll down, the permalink isn't working). Course the best place to get new screwed and chopped sounds is the Swisha House.
Meanwhile on the other side of the south, Crunk and Disorderly is easily the best Christmas album ever (if 4 Xmas songs counts as a Xmas album). Can't wait till they play this shit in Starbucks... I give them maybe 60 years. Wonder how long before the press wakes up to the fact that southern artists like David Banner and Trick Daddy are making some of the most potent political music since Public Enemy?
5 Aesthetics (Linkage: D17)
December 16, 2003
Creative Commons now has a Sampling license. Finally. Musicians take note.
transmediale.04 - Fly Utopia! is high on surface and high on pretension, while low on actual details and functionality. None the less it might well be quite an interesting event.
[via No Sense of Place]
Who Baits the Baitmen?
[via As Above]
You Down With OPC, Yeah You Know Me
The back cover of Steven Shaviro's Connected calls him a DJ theorist, and for once the cover blurb is spot on. Like a DJ in the mix, Shaviro never pauses the flow of information, there are no chapters. Instead he cuts back and forth between what we'll call, in homage to Naughty by Nature and D&G, "Other People's Concepts" or OPC for short. Of course like many a good DJ me makes sure to mix in a good amount of his own creations in the proceedings. But make no mistake about it this is a mix, and its pretty seamless.
So we have the DJ, but what about the party? Connected plays like the dark afterhours club we stumbled into after the bright eyed euphoria of the dot com party got harshly shutdown. The venture capitalists and marketing bunnies have all gone home to nurse their stock option hangovers, but many of the interesting people are still around. Or maybe finally gotten out of the house. The vibe is dark, hard sci fi cyberpunks, mixing it up with west coast, Whole Earth/Wired school thinkers and euro cultural theorists.
There are A list stars in the mix, Baudrillard is cut together with William Gibson for instance. But Shaviro brings in a lot of gems that well known only to the trainspotters, KW Jeter serves as something of villain/antihero, while Warren Ellis, Ken MacLeod and Georges Bataille's concepts are prominent in the mix. In fact the bibliography serves as a damn good guide to turn of the century cybertheory.
Like many a good afterhours Connected makes plenty of sense while your in the midst of it. Whether you will take anything away is another question, and one that might take time to answer. From Jazz through Electroclash, many a music form has been born in the dark spaces of illicit entertainment. Shaviro would have us believe that he dark spaces of hard science fiction and radical theory are equally as fertile, and he may well be right.
You Are Under Surveillance
[via Soul In Code]
December 15, 2003
December 14, 2003
So does anyone still have a photo of the once infamous now deleted Friendster profile for God Almighty?
Curious cause he sure looked a lot like Saddam with his beard...
And yeah if you haven't heard they got the fucker. Alive. Time for a very public trial.
One tyrant down, Bush is next, you hear?
December 13, 2003
Coase, Information and Dean
Everett Ehrlich has a very interesting article applying some of Roland Coase's (economist du jour) ideas to the Howard Dean campaign. Fascinating, but somewhat misguided, almost science fiction in the way it focuses on a couple ideas and stretches them out. It's a fun ride, raising good questions, but his fundamental premise is fundamentally flawed:
But the Internet has changed all that in one crucial respect that wouldn't surprise Coase one bit. To an economist, the "trick" of the Internet is that it drives the cost of information down to virtually zero. So according to Coase's theory, smaller information-gathering costs mean smaller organizations. And that's why the Internet has made it easier for small folks, whether small firms or dark-horse candidates such as Howard Dean, to take on the big ones.
Now this ignores a few potent issues. While the internet might make it easier to get information from halfway around the world, it also makes it dramatically easier to create information. The problem shifts from gathering information, to filtering information. The internet opens up new methodologies for organization building, but does it make it fundamentally easier? You are reading this on the internet, can you build Howard Dean's organization?
Not all information is equal. Knowing the direct line to the oval office is worth more then knowing my cell phone number. And information is not the end all be all. Just cause you've learned the number to the oval office doesn't mean the president will listen to you. In short information isn't quite as simple as Ehrlich would make it out to be. And Dean isn't quite as revolutionary either. There is more value in the traditional party structure then Ehrlich realizes when he predicts Dean would form a third party if he loses this election. Dean on the other hand is well aware that the dems organization is still worth something. The internet is a component, not the whole machine.
[via Many to Many]
December 12, 2003
Cleaning up Paris photoshop contest. Includes the beautiful media recombinant of Paris as Jessica Lynch...
Flyers from an era just begging for photoshop...
December 11, 2003
Busting the Busters
In case you are wondering what is going on here this is a small bit of electronic tactical maneuvering, also known as google bombing. Not going to change to the world, but at least its nice to see what happens when you type "miserable failure" into google.
Hektor is currently our favorite robot. He spray paints. He is good.
[via IN-duce: DE-duce]
To the East, Propaganda
December 10, 2003
Low Points in American History
Winning their hearts and minds. Warning, not for the weak.
If the video doesn't play for you here is the sequence:
Iraqi lying wounded on the ground. Marines 50 feet away taking sniper shots at him. One hits. Everyone cheers like they just made a crucial first down. Cut to interview with soldier. "those guys are dead now. But it was a good feeling, afterwards you're like, hell yeah! lets do it again".
Repulsed and at loss for words. Is this what my country represents now?
[via American Samizdat where I now will be posting some of my more political stuff]
This is one example among many at danwei of Chinese firms appropriating Western brands and imagery. I absolutely (no pun intended) love this stuff. Its sampling in my book and its often beautiful. Of course sometimes it will be unimaginative and poorly done, but its not exactly like all design is done well at the moment....
Jeremy Goldkorn of Danwei clearly disagrees, it seems he's on the side of hard intellectual monopoly. Still his reports from China fascinate me. This is where the battles over the territorialization of ideas really start to heat up. From what I can tell the Chinese must see the West's current position on intellectual property as absurd, and perhaps uncomprehensible. So do I of course, but China as a country, culture and economic force is in a position to radically transform the game...
danwei is about media and advertising in China, brilliant. Loads of interesting things in the marketing and advertising category. Love all the ads that blatantly ripoff / brilliantly sample international brands and celebrities. [via thingsmagazine]
December 09, 2003
grid::ritual - J15
Gore v. Clinton
So Al Gore endorses Dean for president. Shrug.
Wait, hold up. Gore endorsed Dean at a campaign even in Harlem. At a campaign event practically around the corner from Bill Clinton's offices. There is some nasty politics here and I'm not feeling it.
The endorsement has advantages and disadvantages for Gore, sources close to the former vice president told NBC News Andrea Mitchell.
The sources described the endorsement as a way for Gore to maneuver himself to challenge former President Bill Clinton and his wife, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, for supremacy within the Democratic Party. Sources close to the Clintons said Monday that they would not make endorsements in the primary race.
Of course everyone knows that Clinton is behind Clark. This race is close to Dean vs. Clark, which now means its close to Gore vs. Clinton. Squash it please, this doesn't help anyone defeat Bush.
I'm implementing a 100% positive policy on the Democratic nomination race. Not going say anything negative about any of the candidates from here on in. Feel free to call me on it, cause its hell of tempting...
In any case Democrat voters, please pick a winner, ok? I'll support whatever you throw up. Good for one election only.
[quote via Mark A. R. Kleiman]
To All the Beautiful Voters of San Francisco
Today is the day that you go vote for Matt Gonzalez for Mayor. Many thanks and love to you all. Might be out there in a few.
December 08, 2003
LES Pickle Show Down
Hit up the Lower East Side's two last pickle joints (up from just one a couple years ago). Both The Pickle Guys on Essex and Guss' Pickles on Orchard have their roots in the old Essex Street Guss'. Probably use almost the same recipe. Both blow away any other pickle I've ever encountered in the US. These are the real deal old school NY Jew pickles, you won't go wrong with either.
But this is a show down and in the end it wasn't that close, The Pickle Guys win hands down. The pickle is simple flawless. Toss in the lower prices, better attitude, indoor buying area (it was damn cold this weekend), and a solid website that is dramatically cheaper for shipping then Guss' it's over, no contest.
Guss' of course are still great, but they've got a bit of dirty grit that hits on the first bite. Maybe it's from the moth floating in the brine... There is a moment of pure pickle bliss though, the peak of a Guss' pickle might be touch better then the Pickle Guys' but it just can't sustain itself throughout. Factor in the fact that they make their employees sell outdoors in winter, and the tourist trap positioning outside the Tenement Museum and its cleat that the new Guss' doesn't quite life up the old reputation. So get your ass over to the old the location and get with the Pickle Guys.
December 07, 2003
Meanwhile In Less Known Corners of the World
December 06, 2003
Silence Still Equals Death
When Political Art Mattered is article no. 2 linked today from the NYT mag. The first couple pages are especially potent, touching on the power to the Silence = Death pink triangle and then skirting towards issues of privilege:
AIDS made its debut among a very cultured group of people. Many were artists who, devastated and enraged, turned their professional skills to protest. The design collective Gran Fury was founded in 1988 after the New Museum offered Act Up a window to do with as it pleased; soon other museums nationwide were draping their paintings and scheduling protests on Dec. 1, which became the annual Day Without Art. But even those gay men who were not culture mavens by trade were knowledgeable amateurs; hiding, encoding and image management were a fundamental part of every homosexual's sentimental education. In short, the dying, and their friends, knew how to convey a message in the language of their times.
For Larry Kramer, it was that ''art'' -- the street theater, the protest graphics -- that mattered. ''It was the only thing we had, the only way we could get any attention,'' he says. The image-starved television news shows could not be bothered to cover claims that a drug company was overcharging for medications, but let a bunch of black-clad young protesters chain themselves to that drug company's headquarters, and the cameras were there en masse. How to get across the idea of governmental guilt in promoting a blood-borne disease? Bloody hands, of course, stenciled everywhere. Some of the street actions I saw in the late 80's were better produced than Off Broadway shows, complete with smartly edited scripts, disciplined chorus numbers and gorgeous accouterments. Act Up's greatest artwork -- furtively covering Jesse Helms's Virginia home in a giant custom-made condom -- made the crucial point that prejudice is as insidious a danger to society as H.I.V. But, formally speaking, it was pure Christo.
''We were a bunch of gay people; this is what we knew how to do,'' Kramer says. ''We knew how to pretend. We knew how to make things pretty.''
One of the most informative hours of life was spent in a meeting room of what is now the Drug Policy Alliance (support em) listening to a formerly prominent ACT UP member* describing the evolution of their protest.
Like the Black Bloc and Critical Mass, Act Up has no formal leaders and no acknowledged hierarchy. Whoever showed up was a member, and decisions where made as a group. The people who showed up were predominantly gay, urban and upper middle class. They were also in the midst of a crisis, with AIDS cutting a broad swathe of death through the community. Ronald Reagan and much of the political establishment was content to ignore the deaths that where sweeping through what was then a marginalized community.
The result was what history might see as the first full fledged guerilla media warfare campaign. The NYT mag highlights a lot of the more art /visual elements of it. From a tactile standpoint however the one that stands out clearest is ACT UP's first Washington DC action. In preparing for this action, the emerging local factions from around the country met in San Francisco to create a plan. The group from ACT UP's founding city, New York, stayed quiet as everyone debated the various cliche locations, Supreme Court, White House, etc. Finally the NY group stood up and announced that they planned to protest outside the Department of Health and Human Services offices in suburban Maryland.
Protests in the center of DC are merely part of backdrop. ACT UP only brought a thousand or two protesters to suburban Maryland, but the result was clearly, pure drama, not background scenery. ACT UP was news, and with the news came increased attention the AIDS crisis. Following quickly behind was a rapid opening up towards gay culture in American life.
Of course AIDS is still a huge unsolved issue, and homophobia still a problem, but there is also a hell a lot to be learned from the media techniques that have gotten things this far. Gay activists were probably the first repressed group to have access to major amounts of media technology and knowledge of their inner workings. Since then desktop publishing, the internet and digital video have changed the game dramatically. The weapons of media warfare are reaching the communities that need them most. Keep watch.
My friend Samantha Shapiro has an article on the charged people behind Howard Dean's campaign in this weeks NYT Magazine.
Fix Up Correct Sharp
Still not feeling the hype, but "Fix Up Look Sharp" sounds absolutely devastating when played out. Killing me that I can't remember what (obvious?) old school hip hop beat they are redoing on it though.
Attention Single Ladies
It is a little known fact that the best place in urban America to find young bachelors is at graffiti art openings. Here you will find that approximately 90% of the attendees are male and eligible. Now you might be a touch concerned that you might actually have some understanding of the art in order to converse with people. Fortunately it couldn't be further from the truth, the room will inevitably be so crowded that no one can actually look at the art anyway. This provides additional benefits to wallflowers who do not like to dance, as any movement to the beat beyond minor head nodding is physically impossible. In fact that only obstacle you will encounter during the event will be enormous lines for the free beverages provided by a large corporation vigorously attempting to improve its underappreciated brand. Enjoy.
December 05, 2003
crashage ate a longer post jumping off from that link, but for now if your into proto-Deleuzian thought you'll probably just enjoy reading the link itself.
December 04, 2003
Not 100% sure what dodgeball is about, but it seems to be a way to broadcast and recieve the location of friends via mobile phone. Could be interesting, could fall on its face...
Unlike say Friendster, I think granularity is really key here. Looks like you can have multiple "circles" of friends. But are you really going to make the effort to broadcast your location to them? Taking the wait and see on this one, something like this is going to blow up, but its going to need a touch of magic to be that one.
Been recieving Trend Central's email newsletter for a couple weeks now. Not enough info to really judge how accurate they are, yet. But I did find today's mail interesting:
At a school in Brooklyn where the students are required to wear uniforms, 7th grade boys are using black markers and Wite-Out to pen the names of their favorite skateboard and snowboard brands on their book bags... Girls in the same class are writing popular fashion styles like “velour” on their book bags so as to indicate that if they had the choice, they would be looking cool in velour.
Interestingly, brand names like Element, Blind, Venture, and Zero are more prevalent on bookbags than favorite bands such as Sum 41 and Blink-182...
no indication of sample size or methodology, treat as suspect, but its interesting none the less...
December 03, 2003
Pop Your Funk
Tomorrow night (thursday) my old friend Roy Dank of Mathematics fame gets busy on the disco punk side of the rhythms.
APT // free // 10pm on
party's called Pop Your Funk, and "the music's gonna be the kinda shit you wish you heard more of out these
days, namely weird disco, punk funk, italo, dub reggae, deep house, and some detroit bits as well"
rumors of a secret meat packing district tunnel that leads to the Matthew Dear party are as of yet unconfirmed, but you can always brave the early winter chill and walk around the corner.
Next installment is in Febuary with the one and only Andrew Weatherall dropping a rare punk funk set, holla.
Peter Merholz has an excellent run down of the current SF mayors election. For those of you in SF who are not yet aware of it Gavin Newsom is a scumbag, please make sure you get out and vote for Matt Gonzalez next week. Many Thanks -A
Social Design Notes has a great post on graffiti in post Saddam Iraq. Not much art yet it seems, pure content but also pure ugliness.
‘I discovered the draw-back of democracy, it dirties the walls!’
December 02, 2003
Two unverified stories about what's going on in Iraq, make what you will of them:
"LaHood replied that the US is on the verge of capturing Saddam and once that happens the resistance will collapse. When a member of the paper's editorial board asked LaHood if he knew something they didn't, the five-term congressman -- who sits on the House Intel Committee -- said 'Yes I do.'"
Psychogeography is a concept that's been buzzing in the periphery of my information flows for a while now, but I've never quite explored it. But glowlab, -: nicolas nova and socialfiction.org seem like the places to start.
Coincidentally I just got a copy of Joseph Turow's Breaking Up America: Advertisers and the New Media World in the mail today.
The very first quote leading off the first chapter:
"Advertisers will have their choice of horizontal demographic groups and vertical psychogeographic program types"
Which appeared in Advertising Age back in 1981. Wonder if this is the same psychogeography? More perhaps to come.
What Brand of Church?
The [grid::brand] leads to some neighborhoods I've never seen before:
December 01, 2003
Brand v. Branding [grid::blog]
Was planning a longer post on brand versus branding, but Anne Galloway has gone and written a lot of up better then I:
it seems to me that discussions of BRANDING too often ignore use-value or the active participation of users in creating meaning and value around commodities and BRANDS. In other words, just as designers cannot predict every way their products will be used, we cannot make easy arguments for how BRANDS are used. A BRAND-in-use is different than a BRAND-as-representation, its meaning separate from its actual use; what a BRAND represents is different from how it acts.
The BRAND is never stable, and arguably only becomes (contextually) meaningful in use. To speak of BRANDS as invasive and oppressive neglects people's everyday strategies and tactics of resistance and reappropriation. In more religious or mythological contexts, syncretism refers to the practice of merging different beliefs and practices. We do the same with material culture.
BRANDS comprise shifting assemblages of people, ideas, objects and practices - and my belief that we need to ask how BRANDS act, and not (just) what or who they represent.
perhaps I'll have a bit more to add later on...