December 31, 2008

UPDATE Re- Checkpoint Dreamyourtopia:

Download your immigration form here for the main event, 1/10/09, 5-9pm, at CentralTrak, 800 Exposition Ave., Dallas. You'll need to print, fill out, and bring this form with you; please also bring a 2x2" photo and $4.00 for your application.

Original post w/ more details about this project here; see also the CentralTrak calendar.

December 30, 2008

Banksy Hits the West Bank

More here (at the link, scroll down for the whole thread, which contains additional photos and links to more).

B.t.w., per New Orleans locals, most of the pieces he did there have been painted over by graffiti police.



December 29, 2008

Poor Must Hire a Lawyer to Get Lawful Benefits, While Billions to Bankers Vanish with No Accounting

By Jake T. Snake at Whiskey Fire:

I have had a ringside seat to the economic downturn this year. It is not an abstraction to me. The folks at the bottom are always the first to feel the pinch, when it comes. Clients of the agency I work at come through our doors every day requesting assistance with basic necessities like food, clothing, shelter and medications. As the year has progressed and New York State has chosen to repeatedly victimize its most vulnerable citizens, it has become more difficult to help people meet these needs. I have visited food banks with empty shelves, been told clients were ineligible for help when I knew they were and had to challenge these decisions. I have sat with clients while their applications for public assistance were reviewed by fraud investigators at social services. Our local social services department actually hired fraud investigators at the same time that it was laying off child protective workers demonstrating conclusively where our values lie and how genuinely mean spirited we are as a people. At the federal level Social Security routinely denies people eligible for benefits in the hopes that they will not reapply. Many people who receive benefits must hire a lawyer before social security will concede that they are indeed eligible. As the resources have become more limited, the level of scrutiny and inhumanity has risen accordingly.

I have, of course read about the rising unemployment numbers and the ensuing uptick in applicants for public assistance and food stamps nationwide like everyone else. It seems the chickens of Bill Clinton's (Best moderate Republican president ever) welfare reform are finally coming home to roost. We always knew that the flaw of his plan was an economy without jobs and here we are. The reform has no provision for an unemployment rate like we are experiencing now. Once again, our policy in practice serves to punish most harshly children and the elderly. Perhaps, it is time to repeal the child labor laws and begin allowing them to work 12 hour days again.

For nearly 30 years we have done our best to dismantle the safety net for the poor and struggling among us. I keep praying that we have reached the end of this folly. At 42, these policies are what I have known my entire work life. I dream about social service programs and rules that would treat people like human beings, rather than as an undesirable applicant to be culled out. I want so badly for us as a nation to stop punishing people for being poor, or elderly or a child of poor people. This holiday season was hellish as I watched scores of our clients navigate the realities of a holiday with nothing but further grinding poverty. Some days I am just weary from the strain of witnessing the suffering that goes on around me. It takes a toll that is more than physical, it eats away at the soul to see people ask for so little and receive far less.

As I contemplate how to pry a few dollars from these systems designed to humiliate and degrade my clients, already struggling with being social outcasts, chronic illness, drug addiction and mental illness I sigh audibly. I read of billion dollar bailouts and disappearing pallettes of cash as I ponder how to help a family with $400.00 so they will not be homeless in three days. I am so very tired.

December 28, 2008

Need an Audience, or Something?

You can get a whole crowd of cut-outs at Mr. Flat People, which points out that flat people

• Don't need to be fed
• Don't make noise
• Don't need breaks
• Don't ask for overtime
• Always do what you say
(Thanks, Ben!) The site lists a bunch of movies in which the cut-outs have been used, including U2.

Reminded me of the Flat Daddy program. You can order your own Flat Daddy for $49.50, but he's only the top half of a man.

UPDATE: Ending the Internet as We've Known It

Sorry to keep pounding this but I can't believe how many people still don't get it.

Via Slashdot,

"Microsoft's vision of your computing future is on display in its just-published patent application for the Metered Pay-As-You-Go Computing Experience. The plan, as Microsoft explains it, involves charging students $1.15 an hour to do their homework, making an Office bundle available for $1/hour, and billing gamers $1.25 for each hour of fun. In addition to your PC, Microsoft also discloses plans to bring the chargeback scheme to your cellphone and automobile — GPS, satellite radio, backseat video entertainment system. 'Both users and suppliers benefit from this new business model,' concludes Microsoft, while conceding that 'the supplier can develop a revenue stream business that may actually have higher value than the one-time purchase model currently practiced.' But don't worry kids, that's only if you do more than 52 hours of homework a year!"
This is an important step in the devolution I've outlined in previous posts that's transforming the internets as we've known them into something controlled centrally from the top down by mega-corps and gummints. I realize that that transformation could yield efficiencies in some areas, but I think they'll mainly benefit the controllers (them), not the controllees (us).

My main concerns relate to the power of those who own or control the more centralized system, which power will be enormously enhanced to do any or all of the following:
(1) To charge us whatever they like for their services, including but not limited to forcing us to pay for and use upgrades that we don't want or that are incompatible with older documents or software that we still want to use;

(2) To surveille us without any "probable cause" to suspect us of wrongdoing, in violation of the U.S. Constitution, esp. the Fourth Amendment; and

(3) To alter or delete any information or data, whether accidentally or intentionally, if they consider it a "threat" or simply inconsistent with their own interests.
As I said in my 6/3/07 post, "effective regulation or oversight over those in possession of that ownership and control [of the devolved system] would become impossible, since they would have the power with a few keystrokes to alter every digital record on the planet . . . ."

The following is from my 10/3/07 post on the subject:
Free speech in general and the internet in particular seem to worry control freaks.

As of 2000, just five megacorporations – Time Warner, Disney, Murdoch's News Corporation, Bertelsmann of Germany, and Viacom (formerly CBS) – controlled over 90% of the media industry in the U.S., with General Electric's NBC a close sixth (see here, here, here, and here).

In 2003, despite the largest public outcry in FCC history, the FCC adopted rules loosening restrictions on media ownership (stories here, here, and here) . . . .

Certain people have spent a lot of money to gain all that control, and notwithstanding claims of hard times in the media biz, the investment has in fact proved profitable; but one of the main benefits that might have been hoped for – control over the agenda and messages reaching audiences of any significant size – is threatened by the 'net.

* * * * *

In an earlier post, I discussed conservatives' plans to replace the internet as we know it with something called the "Worldbeam" (a.k.a. the "Cloud"), a system in which, instead of storing all your personal docs, files, and software on your own computer at home, everything would be stored on larger computers elsewhere, and you would just have a box that would be little more than a gateway to the Beam.

Instead of buying your own copies of applications, the most basic might (or might not) be provided on the Beam for free, and you'd pay license fees for anything fancy, so vendors could force you to upgrade whenever they liked. Although access to your own data would theoretically be protected by a password or other security, the gummint or others who controlled the Beam could access, modify, or simply delete any or all of your or others' data much more easily than now.

The internet would have been transformed into a massive, top-down surveillance system while conferring virtually unlimited power on those who controlled it to re-write "reality." [As I said in my 6/3/07 post, "[w]ho controls the Beam will control history, and thus will have the power to botch if not completely control the present and future."]

I was worried, but thought it would be some years before the "Beam" replaced the 'net as we know it.

Duh. It's finally dawned on me, there's no need for those desiring Beam-like control to engineer any single, vast switch-over to a new system. They're simply colonizing the 'net little by little – and many of us are unwittingly helping them.

Think MySpace, Facebook, Flickr, MeetUp, LinkedIn, del.icio.us, Ancestry.com, and yes, Blogspot – you upload or create tons of data about yourself and your activities, opinions, social and other relationships, and personal preferences into online facilities that are maintained and controlled by other people. You may or may not even keep copies on your own computer of everything you put on the 'net. Think online banking and investment, every airplane ticket you've ever bought and hotel you've booked, every comment you've ever posted, and every purchase you've ever made esp. from vendors like amazon that keep track so as to make recommendations. Think on-line spam filter services (I realize AT&T is probably already giving the gummint copies of every e-mail that passes through AT&T's "pipes," in direct violation of our constitutional rights -- see here [and here, here, here, and here] -- but hey, we managed to shut that down, didn't we? Oops, guess not [link supplied].) . . .

* * * * *

At least now, of course, we CAN keep copies of our stuff on our own computers. My computer can of course be infected or hacked; but I can fight that in various ways that at least make it more difficult for my privacy etc. to be massively violated by the gummint, etc. Theoretically, I could even put stuff on a computer that has no wireless port and isn't otherwise connected to the 'net, so someone would have to have actual physical access to it in order to alter or delete it [and if you are an activist who opposes gummint policies, I recommend you do this].
(There's a "Search Blog" function at upper left on this page; you can enter "internet" or other terms to find additional, related posts.)

As I look back at what I've posted before, the only thing that's changed is that the devolution is happening even more quickly than I imagined possible.

As I also said in my 6/3/07 post, "I happen to agree that all information is good information. But what needs to be spelled out in no uncertain terms is that because knowledge is power, a balance of power requires a balance of knowledge." Right now, the powerful know a lot more about us than we know about them; that needs to change.

December 27, 2008

Big Brother Suffers Further Pranks

This, via J-Walk Blog (original story in The Sentinel) is even better:

"[S]tudents from local high schools have been taking advantage of the county's Speed Camera Program in order to exact revenge on people who they believe have wronged them in the past, including other students and even teachers . . .

"Originating from Wootton High School, the parent said, students duplicate the license plates by printing plate numbers on glossy photo paper, using fonts from certain websites that "mimic" those on Maryland license plates. They tape the duplicate plate over the existing plate on the back of their car and purposefully speed through a speed camera, the parent said. The victim then receives a citation in the mail days later."
Funny how much money and effort Big Brother devotes to keeping an eye on the little guys, while arguing it's futile to try to regulate Wall Street . . .

(Thanks, Ben!)

December 24, 2008

Santas Wrap Surveillance Cameras!



It would be even easier to paint the lenses. I think I'd go with black.

December 20, 2008

Aerial Tour of Homes of Bernie Madoff and Bailed-Out Bankers

Slideshow here.

(Thanks to WoW.)

Great Read for Kids and Others: "Little Brother"

You can download it for free here (you can also buy it already printed; per amazon, it's 384 pp.). I'm really enjoying it; and it's gotten lots of awards.

The author, Cory Doctorow, is inviting everyone to download and modify the book any way they like, subject only to a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike license.

More info from Doctorow:

Marcus, a.k.a "w1n5t0n,” is only seventeen years old, but he figures he already knows how the system works–and how to work the system. Smart, fast, and wise to the ways of the networked world, he has no trouble outwitting his high school’s intrusive but clumsy surveillance systems.

But his whole world changes when he and his friends find themselves caught in the aftermath of a major terrorist attack on San Francisco. In the wrong place at the wrong time, Marcus and his crew are apprehended by the Department of Homeland Security and whisked away . . . .

When the DHS finally releases them, Marcus discovers that his city has become a police state where every citizen is treated like a potential terrorist. He knows that no one will believe his story, which leaves him only one option: to take down the DHS himself.

* * * * *
This book is meant to be something you do, not just something you read. The technology in this book is either real or nearly real. You can build a lot of it. . . . [and y]ou can use the ideas . . . . to defeat censorship and get onto the free Internet, even if your government, employer or school doesn't want you to.

Making stuff: The folks at Instructables have put up some killer HOWTOs for building the technology in this book [, here]. [Also, t]he afterword for this book has lots of resources for increasing your online freedom, blocking the snoops and evading the censorware blocks. . . .
Additional details here.

E.g., early in the book, Marcus shares his hack for connecting to his school's wireless internet without being tracked. Sure sounds like it might work:
I turned to my SchoolBook and hit the keyboard. The web-browser we used was supplied with the machine. It was a locked-down spyware version of Internet Explorer, Microsoft's crashware turd that no one under the age of 40 used voluntarily.

I had a copy of Firefox on the USB drive built into my watch, but that wasn't enough -- the SchoolBook ran Windows Vista4Schools, an antique operating system designed to give school administrators the illusion that they controlled the programs their students could run.

But Vista4Schools is its own worst enemy. There are a lot of programs that Vista4Schools doesn't want you to be able to shut down -- keyloggers, censorware -- and these programs run in a special mode that makes them invisible to the system. You can't quit them because you can't even see they're there.

Any program whose name starts with $SYS$ is invisible to the operating system. it doesn't show up on listings of the hard drive, nor in the process monitor. So my copy of Firefox was called $SYS$Firefox -- and as I launched it, it became invisible to Windows, and so invisible to the network's snoopware.

Now I had an indie browser running, I needed an indie network connection. The school's network logged every click in and out of the system, which was bad news if you were planning on surfing over to the Harajuku Fun Madness site for some extra-curricular fun.

The answer is something ingenious called TOR -- The Onion Router. An onion router is an Internet site that takes requests for web-pages and passes them onto other onion routers, and on to other onion routers, until one of them finally decides to fetch the page and pass it back through the layers of the onion until it reaches you. The traffic to the onion-routers is encrypted, which means that the school can't see what you're asking for, and the layers of the onion don't know who they're working for. There are millions of nodes -- the program was set up by the US Office of Naval Research to help their people get around the censorware in countries like Syria and China, which means that it's perfectly designed for operating in the confines of an average American high school.

TOR works because the school has a finite blacklist of naughty addresses we aren't allowed to visit, and the addresses of the nodes change all the time -- no way could the school keep track of them all. Firefox and TOR together made me into the invisible man, impervious to Board of Ed snooping, free to check out the Harajuku FM site and see what was up.
You can order Little Brother in hardcover here; no paperback available yet.

(Thanks, Ben!)

December 18, 2008

Upcoming at CentralTrak

Charissa T. and Mary B. have been working hard. Here are a few (tho' by no means all of the) upcoming events (selected purely based on my own interests):

Now thru Jan. 20: Vicious Pink, curated by Mary Benedicto. Image left: Kirsten Macy's A Girl Named Ham & the Sportsman Royal (2008; courtesy Barry Whistler Gallery).

1-8-09: Artist's Talk on Dreamyourtopia, by Daniel Rozenberg, at the DMA. See below.

1-10-09, 5-9PM: Checkpoint Dreamyourtopia. As I understand, you'll have to pass through border control to get to the bar and band.

I'm fascinated with immigration.

First, I believe freedom of travel is a fundamental human right, and suspect nationalism and national borders to be feudal figments perpetuated by oligarchs who would prefer that power over the migration of jobs and us serfs be retained by themselves rather than us. Second, it should be obvious to any sane observer that, because of the demographically gigantic population of boomer oldsters and the relatively tiny cohorts coming up behind them, we desperately need immigrant worker/taxpayer/consumers to help keep the U.S. economy afloat during the next several decades. Third, in what must be one of our times' supreme ironies, border control has nonetheless become the subject of intense focus by right-minded xenophobes and security/control freaks in general. Fourth, I think most students of cultural history will confirm that the intermingling of cultures has often resulted in humanity's most notable flourishings in arts, sciences, etc. Fifth, surveillance, border and boundary control, balances of knowledge about who's up to what -- whether among citizens, furriners, or those who purport to serve us in gummint or their private contractors -- the need for moderation between openness and closedness, in order for any organism, species, or other system to survive -- I think these are all incredibly interesting and important issues (I've made work on and written about these here and elsewhere). Sixth, I'm curious about the seeming conflation of brains and guts. If I recall correctly, there's a biological basis: our brains/nervous systems are closely related to our skins, as are our guts: these are the membranes through which we process what's outside us.

I've suggested a related contest, but not sure whether it will/shd happen, but let me know if you want it to: who can get through checkpoint Dreamyourtopia quickest while carrying (or constituting) the most subversive contraband that's not actually illegal. I'd personally offer the winner a prize having no discernible worth, plus equally negligible fanfare, probably on this very blog.

1-24-09, 6-8PM: Midnight Special, a cooperative event with and/or gallery and House of Dang.

1-29-09, 6PM: Artist's Talk by Kevin Bewersdorf. Kevin had a show at and/or and was in the movie LOL shown at the Dallas Video Festival 2007, etc.

video

1-31-09, 6-8PM: Openings of exhibitions, Highest Fidelity: I am a Sound Technician, by Frank Dufour, and Commute Portraits by Florencia Levy.

2-7-09: Open-Forum Discussion: New Music-Electronica Scene, DFW/Denton, with Paul Slocum, CJ Davis, and Robert Howell.

2-14-09: Plush Crush, a collaborative event with Plush Gallery.

2-25-09: Lecture: "What Time Is It? Episodic Time in the Road Movie" by Charissa Terranova.

3-7-09: Symposium: Woman Body Image: Half Lives of the Cyborg Manifesto 25 Years After, with Kristin Lucas, Juliet MacCannell, Orit Halpern, and Irina Aristarkhova. Lucas had a great show at and/or earlier this year.



3-21-09: Carnivale.

See CentralTrak's Calendar for more details.

December 14, 2008

Shoes, Anyone?

In Baghdad:



MORE shoes here, here, and here.

Per the BBC, meanwhile, the original perpetrator has, since the shoe-shooting, "allegedly suffered a broken arm, broken ribs and internal bleeding" and faces up to two years in jail . . . AND, "offers to buy the shoes he threw are being made around the Arab world," one reportedly for as high as $10 million.

To paraphrase John Donne, "Ask not for whom the shoe-thrower throws; he throws for thee."

[No Title.]

December 13, 2008

Weirdness Compounded

"Do you feel like getting together with a bunch of like-minded people to plot the counterrevolution? . . . You can join me, my wife, Elizabeth, senior staff writer Jerome Corsi, Jerusalem bureau chief Aaron Klein, managing editor David Kupelian and some old friends and new friends Jan. 4-11, 2009, as we conspire to fight back the threats to our freedom posed by incoming President Barack Obama (oh, how I hate to type that name with that title before it!)

"But this won't be a meeting held in some fleabag hotel somewhere. We will be plotting in style – aboard the Holland America line's ms Veendam luxury cruise ship, as we explore Western Caribbean destinations for seven days.

"It will be good to get away for a while. You need it. I need it. It gives you perspective, stimulates the brain, increases creativity.

"And, brother, do we ever need to be at our sharpest now!"

(More here.)

Couldn't Resist.

Used BlackBerrys Sold by McCain-Palin Campaign; Private Data Included

Per engadget, last week Fox 5 associates in Washington, D.C. picked up some Blackberrys for $20 apiece at the campaign's yard sale. When they fired the devices up, one still contained "50 contacts for 'campaign leaders, politicians, lobbyists and journalists' as well as hundreds of emails. A campaign spokesperson commented, 'procedures are being put in place to ensure all information is secure,' [and] followed minutes later [with] a blank email cc'd to his entire address book with the subject line 'We're so screwed.'"

(Thanks, Ben!)

December 12, 2008

Just to Make Sure You Got It:

"It's class warfare, my class is winning, but they shouldn't be." -- Warren Buffet, CNN Interview, May 25 2005, suggesting we need to raise taxes on the rich.

Bleach 9 Opening

My niece is barely teen-aged, an only child, has lived a v. sheltered life in a very rural setting. Here's what she just sent me:

Repubs. Declare War on U.S. Workers

Per MSNBC, "[t]he names of the sender(s) and recipient(s) have been redacted in the copy Countdown obtained. The Los Angeles Times reported that it was circulated among Senate Republicans. The brief memo outlines internal political strategy on the bailout, including the view that defeating the bailout represents a 'first shot against organized labor.' Senate Republicans blocked passage of the bailout late Thursday night, over its insistence on an immediate union pay cut."

[From the text of the memo:] "'This is the democrats first opportunity to pay off organized labor after the election. This is a precursor to card check and other items. Republicans should stand firm and take their first shot against organized labor, instead of taking their first blow from it.'"

Helpful Explanations Re- the Current Economic Crisis

(For an inspirational soundtrack for this post, click on the video in the post two below this one, titled "Human Anthem.")

In a recent Vanity Fair article, Nobel-laureate economist Joseph Stiglitz argues that we can't fix our problems unless we understand the causes. He identifies five crucial wrong turns taken during the last few decades:

1. Removing Walls Between Foxes and Henhouses. In 1999 Congress repealed the Glass-Steagall Act, which had been passed in the wake of the 1929 crash in order to help prevent the same thing from happening again. It worked. The Act separated commercial banks, which were supposed to accept deposits and make loans based on prudent underwriting principles, from investment banks, which engage in organizing sales of riskier investments such as stocks and bonds. Repealing the Act and allowing banks to engage in both kinds of activities at once inevitably meant they would be under greater temptation and pressure to subject ordinary deposits to the much greater risks of equity investments directly or indirectly underwritten by the bank.

2. Installing a Fed Chair Who Favored Deregulation and Liquidity Injections. In 1987 the Reagan administration replaced Paul Volcker with Alan Greenspan. Volcker understood the need for regulation of financial markets and had successfully brought inflation down from more than 11% to under 4%. Greenspan believed markets are self-regulating, turned the money spigot on, and helped set the stage for a series of increasingly catastrophic asset bubbles.

Two other important deregulatory mistakes were the rejection of a call in 1998 by Brooksley Born, head of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, for government regulation of credit derivatives, and the decision in 2004 to allow big investment banks to increase their debt-to-capital ratio (from 12:1 to 30:1, or higher) so that they could buy more mortgage-backed securities, thereby further inflating the housing bubble.

Regarding our current bubble, bear in mind that the big problem isn't the bad mortgages; it's the credit derivatives. Even if derivatives were regulated like stocks or bonds, they are the kind of equity investment that depositary institutions probably should not be investing in. Warren Buffet has described derivatives as “financial weapons of mass destruction.” Greenspan consistently sided with those who argued that any kind of oversight might interfere with “innovation” in the financial system.

3. Injecting Money into the Wrong Bodies. Tax-cuts, touted as an economic cure-all, were repeatedly enacted that mainly benefitted the upper-upper class. When "trickle-down" failed, instead of admonishing Congress, Greenspan pumped the economy up by lowering interest rates and increasing the money supply.

4. Faking the Numbers. After the collapse of Worldcom and Enron revealed serious problems with corporate accounting, Congress enacted the Sarbanes-Oxley Act; but while corporations have complained that the Act is too burdensome, in fact it didn't go far enough. A main deficiency identified by Stiglitz is that it failed to rein in "incentive" options granted to executives, which rather than incentivizing better management performance, as claimed, proved to incentivize further distortions in accounting.

The incentives for the rating agencies such as such as Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s are similarly distorted, since the rating agencies are paid by the companies they're supposed to rate, with the predictable result that their ratings suffer "grade inflation" so long as things are going well, to be downgraded only after the problems become obvious anyway.

I'd add, the government itself has also taken steps to obscure if not "fake" economic realities, by jiggering the ways in which inflation and unemployment statistics are measured, by completely ceasing to publish M3 money supply statistics, and by widely-suspected, increasingly-frequent stock market manipulation by the President's "Plunge Protection Team."

5. The Bush Admin's Response to the Current Crisis. Stiglitz writes, "Valuable time was wasted as Paulson pushed his own plan, 'cash for trash,' buying up the bad assets and putting the risk onto American taxpayers. When he finally abandoned it, providing banks with money they needed, he did it in a way that not only cheated America’s taxpayers but failed to ensure that the banks would use the money to re-start lending. He even allowed the banks to pour out money to their shareholders as taxpayers were pouring money into the banks. . . . If the administration had really wanted to restore confidence in the financial system, it would have begun by addressing the underlying problems—the flawed incentive structures and the inadequate regulatory system."
Quoting Greenspan during Congressional hearings this fall, Stiglitz concludes by observing: "The truth is most of the individual mistakes boil down to just one: a belief that markets are self-adjusting and that the role of government should be minimal. Looking back at that belief during hearings this fall on Capitol Hill, Alan Greenspan said out loud, 'I have found a flaw.' Congressman Henry Waxman pushed him, responding, 'In other words, you found that your view of the world, your ideology, was not right; it was not working.' -- 'Absolutely, precisely,' Greenspan said."

In a recent piece on counterpunch, freelance writer Mike Whitney agrees, and further explores how past policies -- including both deregulation and the creation of excessive monetary and debt liquidity -- have enriched the highest-income citizens at the expense of middle- and lower-income citizens. The entire piece is well-worth the read; but to include just one quote: "The bottom line, is that financialization, which rests on the twin pillars of easy credit and ballooning debt, creates an inherently unstable system which is prone to wild swings and frequent busts. Bernanke is trying to restore this system ignoring the fact that workers -- whose personal balance sheets are already bleeding red -- can no longer support it. . . . There is a historic mismatch between supply and demand that cannot be reconciled by Bernanke's market meddling. Workers need a raise; that's how demand is created."

December 11, 2008

Undermain Theatre's "Eurydice"

Dallas is fortunate to have its v. own world-class, cutting-edge theater company in Undermain Theatre. Tonight I saw their production of Eurydice. It's brilliant, beautiful, accessible, profound, well-executed, and worth seeing more than once. For starters, a Greek chorus of stones -- I wish I had a pic even of them. (Written by Sarah Ruhl, a MacArthur "genius" grantee, etc.)

Go NOW; last show Dec. 13.

Human Anthem.

Per my source, this took place at a Texas Tech basketball game, Feb. 9, 2008. The two girls on the right are six years old; the two in the middle are seven and the one on the left is eight (I think the aspect ratio's f'd). I've listened to this at least ten times.

video

December 10, 2008

Lava Lamp for the Aughties

"The Lamp [that] turns the Internet into lights"; more here.

If this Doesn't Make You Feel Better

-- this video, that is -- nothing will, or you really don't like dogs. (Thanks, Julie!) Bonus: the dog's face looks like a skull.

Beijing Soon to Be Largest Free Wi-Fi City

Now that's infrastructure; scheduled for completion by 2011. Details at Danwei via Gizmodo (thanks, Ben!); previous post re- India's effort to provide free internet nationwide here.

December 6, 2008

Interactive Video

while i was trying to upload a screengrab from neonbible i accidentally also had the audio going from this so far semi-slimy ted-talk going . . . like i'm really excited about virtual reality but half-way into this, not so much. but the combo of the two was excellent.

anyway, pls go to neonbible and roll + click around -- on a tech basis, i don't think i've seen interactive video like this before.

The Death of YouTube as We've Known It?

As reported by ipower, "As of yesterday YouTube has replaced its list of 'Most Viewed' videos on the site's 'Videos' section with a varied selection of sponsor-friendly videos that the site calls 'Most Popular'. Where users normally see videos with high view-counts that have become popular due to viral spreading and community activity, we now see videos like the new MacBook commercial that gets showcased on the 'Most Popular' #1 spot while having very low view-counts and even lower ratings. YouTube will no longer give massive exposure to its community's video productions and instead is now tightly controlling its Videos pages to attract more sponsors and a more mainstream audience." More at the link above.

December 5, 2008

John Waters and George Kuchar

Read mention recently (sorry I can't recall where) that John Waters was inspired by one of Kuchar's early works, Hold Me While I'm Naked. Available on ubuweb and worth seeing (warning: I found the volume LOUD).

Man Killed for "Hogging Karaoke"

Per the BBC, "[a] Malaysian man has been stabbed to death for refusing to stop singing and hand over the microphone at a karaoke bar, police say." (Thanks, Ben!)

December 2, 2008

Why Must I Be a Teenager in Luv?

Last week I and a niece saw Twilight. The vampires were icy-hot. Also thanks to my niece, I'm totally enjoying some anima and manga.

I just want to lose myself in the romance -- the more over-the-top, the better. Maybe reality's been a bit much for me lately.

Meanwhile, finally, despite media consolidation, electronic elections, and other hurdles, we've managed to elect Obama.

He'll inherit one of the most horrific sets of problems faced by any new President in U.S. history. And we can't wait 'til he does: we hang on his every word; we can't stop talking about him -- why have his cabinet picks been so retro, will he in fact be able to direct them toward fixing all the problems, etc.; we're breathless, even gasping with anticipation. And it's still almost two more months before he'll be inaugurated.

December 1, 2008

Bailout $$ as of Nov. 30, 2008

Via Seeking Alpha.

The Beginning of the End of Artificially Good Times

From Bloomberg.

"A push by the richest U.S. universities to unload their stakes in private-equity funds is flooding the market, driving down prices for the world's best-known buyout firms.

"Investors led by Harvard University, which manages the largest U.S. endowment at $36.9 billion, may increase so-called secondary sales of private-equity funds to more than $100 billion during the next year, overwhelming available pools of capital. Interests in funds managed by KKR & Co., Madison Dearborn LLC and Terra Firma Capital Partners Ltd. all are being offered at discounts of at least 50 percent, according to people familiar with the sales.

"Crippled financial firms such as American International Group Inc. and bankrupt Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. are joining strapped endowments such as the ones at Columbia University in New York and Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, in trying to sell private-equity stakes. A deepening global recession that is crimping the value of buyout firms' holdings is forcing further price cuts in a market where buyers already are scarce.

“'There's a huge supply-demand imbalance,' said David De Weese, a general partner at Paul Capital Partners in New York, which manages $6.6 billion. . . .

“'I don't know of any institution that's not looking at its portfolio and saying, "What can we do?”' said Frank Morgan, a partner at Coller Capital Ltd., a London-based firm that invests in buyout and venture capital funds.

"One financial institution recently held discussions about selling more than $100 million in private-equity stakes in a fund run by New York-based KKR at a discount of about 50 percent, a person briefed on the talks said. A sale hasn't yet been completed. . . ."

Much more at Bloomberg.

Obama's Picks So Far

. . . seem to consist mainly of people who helped create the messes we now face.

(As noted by Jonathan Weil on Bloomberg, "Not only was [Robert Rubin] chairman of Citigroup Inc.'s executive committee when the bank pushed bogus analyst research, helped Enron Corp. cook its books, and got caught baking its own. He was a director from 2000 to 2006 at Ford Motor Co., which also committed accounting fouls and now is begging Uncle Sam for Citigroup- style bailout cash." Much more at the Bloomberg link; see also The New York Times.)

Obama got elected in part 'cause he was the only candidate the media were willing to take seriously who did not vote to authorize the invasion of Iraq . . . suggesting that maybe we the people think, ok, hey, there were lots of pros who may have been well-intentioned but who turned out to be wrong . . . so, for a change, let's just experiment and pick someone who turned out to be right.

Can't help but wonder what it might be like to have more than one person like that in the gummint.

November 29, 2008

Update on "Second Life Dumpster"

here.

Here's a pic of another virtual-virtual incarnation; objects curated by Marcin Ramocki, Lovid, Olaf Breuning, Makiko Aoki, Caspar Stracke, Gabriela Monroy, Ijan Hilaire, Kirin Schwindt, Jason Dean, Arnold von Wedemeyer, Annette Gödde, Penelope Umbrico, Jim Supanick + more.


Background here and here. eteam comprises Franziska Lamprecht + Hajoe Moderegger.

November 27, 2008

Love Train

I totally call this for my next party perf. (don't forget to rate it up on YouTube).

White House Apologizes for Hanukkah Cards

WASHINGTON, Nov. 27 (UPI) -- "A Bush administration spokeswoman said the invitations to this year's White House Hanukkah reception bore images of Christmas trees due to a 'staff mistake.'"

* * * * *

"The cards, which were sent to U.S. Jewish leaders, are emblazoned with an image of the White House Christmas tree being pulled by a horse-drawn cart with a Christmas wreath tacked on to the White House in the background."

More here.

November 22, 2008

Obama's Annoying Speaking Style

"Millions of Americans who watched Mr. Obama's recent appearance on CBS' Sixty Minutes witnessed the President-Elect's unorthodox verbal tick, which had Mr. Obama employing grammatically correct sentences virtually every time he opened his mouth. . . .

"According to presidential historian Davis Logsdon of the University of Minnesota, . . . . 'If he keeps it up, he is running the risk of sounding like an elitist.'

"The historian said that if Mr. Obama insists on using complete sentences in his speeches, the public may find itself saying, 'Okay, subject, predicate, subject predicate - we get it, stop showing off.'''

(Thanks Richard D!)

November 21, 2008

Think Trickle-Downers:



Except, the Beatles left you wanting more. More here.

I am totally learning that dance routine for my next gig.

Iraqis Topple Effigy of Bush



This was in response to a proposed agreement to allow the U.S. to continue occupying Iraq for three more years. Per The NYT, Bush said we'd leave when they asked us to. I think this counts as an ask.

Somali Pirates in Discussions to Acquire Citigroup

More here.

Coupons: Buy a Toaster . . .

November 20, 2008

Bosses:

(Thanks apricotX; via thanks snarky!).

Young Repubs'

reaction to Obama win:



Makes me want to comfort 'em, too.

November 19, 2008

South Park Creators Plan Ripost to Mormons

Trey Parker and Matt Stone are working on a Broadway musical based on the lives and (many) loves of typical members of the Church of Latter Day Saints.

Mormons contributed heavily to the Proposition 8 campaign that reversed California law permitting gay marriage.

Cheyenne Jackson, an openly gay Broadway star, has agreed to play the lead in the musical, as a Mormon missionary.

The show is scheduled to open in 2009. More here.

Crash Course on the Economy, Etc.: Where We Are, How We Got Here, & Where We're Going

Do yourself a favor and watch all chapters starting here. Many of the pieces won't be new to you; but the way Chris Martenson puts them together is impressive and illuminating.

November 18, 2008

Continuous Partial Awareness

Cory Arcangel's trailer for his performance at the New Museum 11/14/08:



Arcangel explains (quoting an unnamed other), "'you know, like, when you have 3 IM windows open, 2 email inboxs dinging away, are txting 5 different people, and also have 5 tabs open on your browser, each with updated content.' . . . It is different from multitasking, because with multitasking, one actually is expected to concentrate on tasks at some point, even if in small doses.

". . . . I still dont know how this performance will take shape, . . . but what I do know is that the feeling of 'non-concentration' that has seeped into today's life through our flat screen displays and wifi will be its starting point."

He opened a new solo show the same nite at Team Gallery.

November 15, 2008

November 14, 2008

ScHmamlet

The initial credits are a li'l long; but they had me with, "[t]here's a ghost mowing the lawn!"

November 13, 2008

November 11, 2008

Guess It'll Be a While Before We Take a Decent Prez for Granted Again?

You can now buy "Ojamas" to help you "[s]leep soundly and awake to a brand new day for America!"

November 10, 2008

Report on Prospect.1 New Orleans (the U.S.'s New International Art Biennial)

Prospect.1 is directed and curated by Dan Cameron, former Sr. Curator of the New Museum in New York, artistic director of the Istanbul Biennial in 2003, and current Visual Arts Director at the New Orleans Contemporary Arts Center (CAC). He's been visiting New Orleans for years and conceived of the new biennial as a way to help bring visitors back to the city, which is still struggling to recover from Katrina.

Cameron points out that until now, the biggest biennial in the the U.S. has been the Whitney, which isn't international.

I concur that New Orleans is an ideal location for this event, because of its cosmopolitan heritage and culture, its location, and above all its indomitable and disproportionately elegant and beauty-and-fun-loving population.

The Prospect.1 exhibitions include some 80 artists, most well-known within the art world. A possibly unusually large percentage of the works were created specifically for Prospect.1; e.g., there's a wonderful installation by Cao Fei which incorporates a virtual, New Orleans-related space within Second Life, called NO LAB (to see the video online, go here, scroll to 081 - 04|11|08, and click on SEE VIDEO).

The official Prospect.1 exhibitions are located at over two dozen venues throughout New Orleans. This initially seemed inconvenient, but I think it was the right decision; as intended, it helped me get to know the city, which proved to be a pleasure. New Orleans is easy to navigate by car; there's also a shuttle running every 20 min.

Also showing are a number of independently-organized exhibitions; e.g., by KK Projects, which has transformed four small houses in St. Roch, one into a gallery and three more into home-sized artworks. For The NYT on KK Projects and its founder, Kirsha Kaechele, go here.

As far as I can tell, the city parties constantly. So, I recommend allowing at least four days, if you can. And go soon: the weather's great (no irony intended).

Below are links to more pics and vidis.

Some of the works I liked best include:

  • Takashi Horisaki's piece at the Hefler Center (starting here; and when I say starting, I mean you might want to click on "next" 'til you're sure it's over) was made by actually slathering a semi-destroyed house with latex, inside and out; I understand it took the artist two years of effort to create it.
  • Candice Breitz's A Portrait of Bob Marley (here). What might not be obvious from my li'l vidi is that each individual is hearing the song through headphones and singing along, or not, without hearing the others.
  • The "Batman on Poppers" (here) at the CAC was part of a pretty wonderful installation about a gay bar in N.O. destroyed by a fire in which many died. The story is provided as part of the installation and is worth the read.
  • Pedro Reyes' Leverage (starting here), which I can't resist calling, "Teeter-Totter for Ten."
  • Fiona Tan's Island (starting here) looked terrific in its space at the CAC, though I had trouble deciphering the audio.
  • Allora y Calzadilla's brilliant piece, A Man Screaming Its Not a Dancing (starting here) -- I'm so sorry my four brief vidis don't begin to do it justice -- at the CAC. (I could have captured this piece better; but I think I unconsciously balked on the grounds that it was too stunning to steal.)
  • The Cao Fei (starting here), I'm already a huge fan and she totally lived up to it, at the CAC.
  • Sunset Refinery by David Sullivan (here), in the Universal Furniture space in the St. Roch area -- again, my vidi doesn't do it justice.
  • The KK Projects house starting here. (I have to mention, the nite I saw these houses, little kids from the neighborhood were giving guided tours. They stood at the doors and hawked in high voices, "Come see the lovely art!"; and if you got anywhere near, they'd capture your hand and draw you into the house. Once inside, they carefully pointed out various features of the installations, recited the names of the artists involved, and offered interpretive tips.)
  • Stephen G. Rhodes' installation at the U.S. Mint (starting here), though I didn't expect to. It captures certain aspects of life under B*shCo (e.g., the shock+awe), among other things, perfectly.
  • The Kalup Linzy piece at the New Orleans Museum of Art is wonderful (clip here); also Pulse Tank (here) by Rafael Lozano-Hemmer.
And there were plenty of other great pieces.

Before I lose any more of you, looking again at the visuals of this work, I'm pretty slapped up the head with how much of it seems concerned in part with the sweeping away, containment, erasure, or veiling of individuals -- and with efforts, at least partly successful, toward individual expression nonetheless.

Overall, the works included are perhaps not the most difficult -- many are downright charismatic. Conclude from that what you will; still, there's quality, breadth, and depth, and what I think will prove a fruitful sensitivity both to New Orleans' (decreasingly) peculiar plight and to the potential benefit to us all of having a truly great, international biennial based in the U.S.

Credit for this sensitivity is due both to Cameron and to the artists he selected (many of whom, of course, are furriners).

From a purely personal point of view, I was happy to find a decent amount of video, sorry not to find more new "new media."

Prospect.1 runs through January 17, 2009. The official P.1 homepage is here. Roberta Smith/NYT reviews the event (with more pics) here; artkrush has an article (with more pics) here.

Go here for my own pics and vidis (totally unadjusted, unedited, etc.; deepest apologies for all deficiencies and also for my failure to snap the artist/title cards for some works. Those I did snap generally appear AFTER the visual(s) of the work to which they relate. Also, I include some party pics and the like for those who were there, etc., though the emphasis is on the art. Finally, there were some great works I didn't snap, too many I missed seeing altogether, and others I snapped even though I'm not sure how much I like them; so no judgment should be inferred.)

If your interests are more selective . . .
For work at the Hefler Welcome Center, start here.
For work at the Contemporary Art Center, start here.
For the block party/gallery walk on Julia St., including 527 Gallery, start here.
For work at Louisiana ArtWorks, start here.
For Halloween nite, start here (including my costume).
For work etc. in and around St. Roch, start here.
For the dinner and work at KK Projects (including party pics of Kirsha, her mom, and other new friends), start here.
For the after-party and work at the Brickyard, start here.
For work etc. in and around the Lower Ninth Ward, start here.
For work at the U.S. Mint, start here.
For work in and around the New Orleans Museum of Art, start here.
On the way home, we caught a swamp tour from Cajun Man, also rec'd. Caveat: don't assume you can plug the address into your GPS and get there; call him for directions.

Below's a l'il Brickyard after-party for ya. Somewhat bigger-better version here; continued here; and I'm trying to get the band name, so if you like it, check back.

video

How Much Damage Can B*shCo Do Bef. They Leave?

Read this (Naomi Klein on how "[t]he Wall Street bailout looks a lot like Iraq -- a 'free-fraud' zone where private contractors cash in on the mess they helped create"), just re- financial aspects.

November 7, 2008

UPDATE on the 21st Annual DVF

I managed to catch most of everything I rec'd here, and loved it.

See you there next year!

November 5, 2008

US Army to Use World of Warcraft to Test Sci-Fi Tech

The U.S. Army wants to use the massively multi-player online game, World of Warcraft, to see if they can fool human players using "self-aware virtual photorealistic soldiers that can be deployed in the battlefield through 'quantum ghost imaging'" -- sorta like a robot, only it's a hologram?

Other scary projects include technologies to translate one person's thoughts into electrical signals that can be beamed to others and to selectively erase memories. I'm not kidding.

Via Gizmodo (thanks, Ben!)

November 4, 2008

Weight Watchers Recipe Cards 1974

. . . starting with Cabbage Casserole Czarina. (i'm no cook; but is that coleslaw with toast points?)

(thanks, lofqui!)

Sorry i've been uncommunicative this last week; been at Prospect.1, New Orleans. Had a great time, will blog it soon.

October 28, 2008

SO Reassuring Re- Electronic Machines

My Halloween Costume

Sec. of Treas. Henry Paulson, cum Lurch.

(Mask, etc., by moi; photo by Ben.)

October 27, 2008

Quotes of the Week

or maybe just the day, since things are moving so quickly; but they'd last at least a week during less "interesting" times . . .

From honest posters at a forum I frequent:

"We've seen this throughout history. Those Masters of the Universe are merely pirates and bullies, and they must be firmly dealt with. As in dealt out of the game . . . .

"the people must act. They can't sit around whining, killing themselves, their families, or strangers. They have to get up in the morning, feed everybody, maintain the infrastructure, and stop giving power away to the far-off corporations. We're going to do a Venezuela, eventually. The sooner we start, the sooner things get better." (Thanks, Demeter!)

and

"Last week I was accused by my some readers of being a socialist. First of all, let me say that 'socialist' is not an insult. Most Scandinavian societies with much better standards of living and far higher life expectancies than ours are democratic socialist. E.g., Canada, Ontario . . . has been named the best place on earth to live by a United Nations survey that weighed such variables as wealth, health, and social justice. So maybe we should all have a more open mind to the idea of social democracy.

"The irony however, is that I myself come from Soviet Russia. No one knows the horrors of collectivist thought and the ineptitude of the communist system better than I. I am actually a big believer in free markets, which through competition produce creative wonderful products and services we all enjoy. What I despise, are rigged markets. I hate Vegas for that very reason, because it provides the illusion of success while creating the reality of theft. Unfortunately, over the past decade Wall Street has adopted the Las Vegas model of business, and we have all been grifted on a scale far greater than any con job ever done. Rigged markets in my opinion are just as evil as collectivist governments because they concentrate the power in the hands of small group of elite leaders that do not reward merit but promote corruption and graft.
(Thanks, UpInArms!)

Our gov't is a long, long way from doing what NEEDS to be done.