April 30, 2009

Fusebox/Forced Entertainment/"Spectacular"

Seen at the Fusebox Festival in Austin, TX. Four people actually walked out of this production by Forced Entertainment, described as one of Britain's greatest and most influential theatrical companies of the last 20 years.

The expectation that there might be walk-outs had already been worked into the script. I'm not sure if those who left would have done so without that suggestion, or if that was the intended result of mentioning the possibility, or if the walk-outs were faked by the company, which would be perfectly consistent with the concerns of the piece. Personally, I think it qualifies at least as a wonderful experiment. I haven't really studied the work, so would rather keep this short; but it's hard to explain without describing the piece a bit more [SPOILER ALERT: stop reading if you haven't seen the show and might have the chance.]

As the piece opens, a man strolls onstage dressed like "Death." The set is completely empty except for some red curtains at the sides, which are gathered and knotted, so they don't reach the floor or hide anything. The man's costume is not very impressive – a faded black sweatsuit with a rather inartfully painted skeleton on the front. He starts chatting lackadaisically (the following is a rough transcription), "[t]here are probably some people out there who don't think about death more than once a month. But I have to think about it every day, well, every day there's a performance, anyway. I have to go into the theater, stand outside my dressing room, knowing what's waiting for me in there, I have to go in, I have to reach up, I have to touch it, uuckh, on the hanger there . . . . And then I have to put it on, and then I have to go out and do the show." Looking around the empty stage set, he remarks, "[i]t's not usually like this. . . .

The man rambles on about the glitzier show that we're not seeing, audiences' reactions, what he likes or dislikes about it, etc. Before long, a woman comes out, interrupts him, and announces she'd like to do her big death scene now. The man says fine, and she proceeds with an incredibly long, histrionic performance that, off and on, continues through most of the rest of the production – throughout most of which the man continues his monologue, interrupting himself only when her agonized screams become too loud to talk over, or to make comments on her performance that sound like he's trying to be helpful but are mostly aimed at getting her to tone it down and stop upstaging him.

There's no suggestion that the woman is involved in the glitzier production the man "usually" performs in, and no other explicit explanation of their relationship is offered.

Meanwhile, the man's talk includes musings such as, why me, why was I chosen to play this role? how long can I keep this up? and theater in general, what's this all about, anyway? and how, although you're sitting right next to someone in the theater, fundamentally, you're alone with your own thoughts; and even when you're talking with someone, you're often not really paying attention to them, really focussing on them; it's very lonely. Among other things, he also mentions something along the lines of how just telling people things doesn't always make much impression on them, it's not "visceral" enough; so he likes to put things across to people by telling stories. But he never directly tells us any stories. His talk touches on some very important topics, but he never digs very deep; one presumes those who left were bored (although the characters and their interactions give rise to a fair amount of understated humor).

His remarks are often framed in terms vague enough to make it unclear what context or level of reality he's referring to, how literally – or not – he means them. In particular, it's not clear whether he realizes how some of them might apply in his own immediate situation, such as the fact that the woman's performance is extremely visceral and is really getting our attention, while his performance is driving some of us from the theater, or the fact of his own lack of attention to the woman "dying" behind him, while his bid for our attention, reinforced by the context of the theater, is ongoing. We don't know if he doesn't recognize his own inattentiveness and boringness, or just accepts them as given.

Schopenhauer wrote, "life swings like a pendulum to and fro between pain and boredom, and these two [feelings] are in fact its ultimate constituents."* Each of the two characters in Spectacular may represent one of those two end-points rather literally; but in my view, the production as a whole offers enough humor and insight to show that, viewed from above or below, the pendulum may in fact swing in a circle.

Spectacular runs through May 2. More info at Fusebox and Forced Entertainment.

* [Sorry, I find numerous instances of this quotation online attributing it to Schopenhauer but no mention of what work it's from.]

Fusebox Artist Jimmy Kuehnle

Yes, that is what you think it is. Kuehnle explains:

"George Zupp had a dream to serve a nacho cheese volcano as gallery munchies at an opening . . . . The concept evolved over time. George had visions of a pineapple village and jalapeño natives and I had visions of high velocity cheese.

"A few months before the exhibit, George and I were discussing the logistics of the plan at a party. A man next to me asked, 'Do you know who I am?' To which I replied, 'No.' 'I'm Rick Liberto of Ricco's Nacho Cheese.' Rick offered to provide all the gooey nacho cheese that we would need . . . ."

More details, pics, and a short video here; and check out some of the other projects shown. Sadly, the volcano was not featured at Fusebox, but two of Kuehnle's other performance projects were, Blue and Big Red (sadly, I had to miss both). Fusebox continues through this Sat., May 2.

UPDATE: Here's video documentation of Kuehnle's Big Red and Walking Fish:

Jimmy Kuehnle's Big Red and Walking Fish from The Prime Eights.

April 29, 2009

More Fusebox: Phantom Orchard

. . . pics and vidis here. This performance was wonderful (these visuals don't do the artists justice.)

For more info, click on Phantom Orchard or Fusebox Festival, or see my prior posts on Fusebox.

April 28, 2009

Some Cool HD Projections

Created by Obscura Digital for an ad. (Thanks, Ben!)

April 27, 2009

No Need to End Online Social Life Just 'Cuz You're Dead

The whole article is one mind-boggling bit after another; but here's a taste:

A wave of new companies are starting to offer services such as virtual cemeteries where guests can visit and e-mail alerts set up by funeral homes to remind relatives near and wide about the anniversary of your death.

Some companies even offer to e-mail your wayward relatives in danger of being left behind when the Rapture whisks you to the threshold of the Pearly Gates.

* * * * *

Los Angeles-based EternalSpace.com launched its Web site in March, offering a variety of virtual scenic locations online for a person's final resting place: A "Zen Garden," a "Lake View," a "Tropical Valley" and other options. Sold directly through funeral homes, the service allows a person or relatives to establish a pastoral grave site and add digital amenities such as the image of a park bench or mausoleum.

Once there, visitors can purchase items to leave behind, such as flowers, religious icons and other trinkets symbolically important to the deceased, such as golf clubs, a horse saddle, a piano or trees that can grow over time. Prices for each range from $5 to $35 apiece.

I actually had the idea for online memorials years ago, but never imagined all the frills for which there's apparently a market.

April 24, 2009

Fusebox Schedule Plus a Few Faves So Far

The Schedule. I made a color-coded schedule designed to help me see as many different works as possible, taking into account some of my own time constraints. It's been suggested it might be helpful to share it; here it is. I'm planning to go to the yellow-highlighted items. (I'd have highlighted more "Maxi Geil!" except I happen to have seen more of Guy Richards Smit's work before than I have most of the other artists, so I opted for work less known to me.)

Some Faves So Far. This is in haste, so I'll mostly just quote the Fusebox website.

GuruGuru (2009) by Rotozaza:

Conceived and created by Ant Hampton, with Joji Koyama and Isambard Khroustalio.

Five participants (each receiving different instructions via their earpieces) talk together with a televised character whose role flicks uncannily between spiritual and marketing guru. Revelling in the absurdities of marketing technique and group therapy, Hampton, Koyama and Khroustaliov reverse the awkward history of consumer research by allowing their audience to create their own animated therapist – by means of a focus group!

Unleashing what Ernest Dichter called 'the secret self of the consumer' and allowing it to run about perhaps a little too freely, GuruGuru also explores the amusing yet complex notion of ‘wearing’ opinions and emotional reactions as one might a choice of clothes: as with 'Etiquette' (Rotozaza's earlier show in the Autoteatro series), audience members find themselves falling into a strange kind of dialogue by simply following pre-recorded instructions as to what to say and do.

GuruGuru (round-and-round in Japanese) is created by Ant Hampton in collaboration with acclaimed film-maker / animation artist Joji Koyama, and longtime collaborator Isambard Khroustaliov (Sam Britton - musician, electronic composer and one half of the group Icarus.)

More here, where you can make a reservation, which is recommended. (UPDATE: I've posted a more in-depth discussion of GuruGuru here.)

Keys to Our Heart, 24:18 min. (2008) by Kalup Linzy:
. . . a black-and-white narrative in which the artist stars as a misanthropic grande dame who dispenses advice to a trio of troubled young lovers. Linzy, who performs all of the characters' dialogue, shot and directed Keys To Our Heart in the style of a Hollywood Melodrama, which was created for Prospect.1 New Orleans in 2008.
Let me just add, watch out for aspects of this piece that are odd or incongruous with expectations created by his use of vintage visuals and clichéd cinematic devices. (UPDATE: I've posted a more in-depth discussion of Keys here.)

And I have to mention pink, though by the time you read this, it'll be over in Austin (but I think they tour). I understand the C.E.O. is Jaclyn Pryor.

[pink unplugged] is both a real-life courier service and an interactive, site-specific art installation.

Visitors are invited to visit pink’s temporary love [note] factory set up along Austin's City Hall plaza, where they can type a love note to someone in Austin. Notes are bottled on site by pink’s love factory workers and delivered by bicycle by pink’s love couriers anywhere in the city. pink [unplugged] celebrates not only human connectivity but human power. The factory is powered entirely by human & bicycle-generated energy.
[Click on the images for larger versions.] Among pink's other charming aspects, note-typers could use the hotel-desk-style bell to signal various matters including a request for help with inspiration.

UPDATE: You can see more visuals of pink here. I'd also like to mention a few more faves I've seen since this was first posted: Paul Villinski's Emergency Response Studio (2008), érection by Pierre Rigal and Aurélien Bory, and The Method Gun by Rude Mechs.

Fusebox So Far: Rubber Repertory's "Mr. Z"

Last nite saw Mr. Z Loves Company. Some of the many lascivious acts performed before our eyes I'd only read about; others reassured one that one was not there merely for fleshy fun, such as a declamation paraphrased from King Lear (see MIT's Moby Shakespeare and search "pent-up"), and the possible reference to "Z-Man" from that magnificent Russ Meyer/Roger Ebert collaboration, Beyond the Valley of the Dolls.

Other descriptors or associations (at least some of which may be peculiar to me): doppelgangers (identity; the "other" who is one's double); narcissism; a song with no lyrics other than: "oooooh . . . uh huh uh huh"; relaxation, positive thinking, and "tapping" one's innermost mind (sought by the protagonists but perhaps, wisely, also directed at their audience -- they say colonoscopy only hurts if you can't relax); Phantom of the Opera; Queen for a Day; class war; class war as a variety of S&M; Alouetta; a mask is like a rubber for your face.

The hour went by quickly. Crisco, anyone?

April 21, 2009

Free, City-Wide WiFi, Brought to You by YOU

Another cool Eyebeam project:

"If everyone took the passwords off their wifi, we'd have a free, citywide wireless network. Sound like a good idea? Then help us make it happen!

"Eyebeam's Open Cultures Research Group will be running a two-part workshop in which participants will be trained on how to open up a wifi network so that it is free, accessible, and secure for others to use without losing any bandwidth. Participants will also work together on developing a "script" for spreading the knowledge in order to convert skeptical friends, family, and neighbors into open wireless ambassadors."
The workshop is at Eyebeam on April 18; hopefully they'll put the "script" online for the rest of us soon.

"Little Bits"

This really cool product is created by Ayah Bdeir; it's like Legos, only electronic: a library of tiny, pre-assembled circuit boards that can easily be connected. No programming, no prior knowledge, and no hardware or software set-up required; just snap and play!

(Thanks, Eyebeam!)

School of Perpetual Training . . .

for an exciting career in the computer game industry, here. Follow all instructions literally; it's horribly hilarious. The bottom pic shows my score after my first session in "Global Shipping" (click on images to enlarge). Created by Stephanie Rothenberg.

April 19, 2009

Police Tweets


Name Unofficially Denton
Location Denton, TX
Web [Police Mugshots (working title)|Spring 2009]
Bio The unofficial Denton Mugshot twitter for Denton, Texas. Programmed by a UNT art photography student, drawing attention to how much public info we put online.
The artist explains further,

"When I stumbled upon the Denton Police Department City Jail Custody Report page, I was surprised to find that the name, age, charge(s), and mugshot of everyone currently in custody was available to the public. I got to thinking, what if someone I know gets arrested? I wonder if I could be notified of that somehow.

"At the same time, we had been learning about New Media in my photography classes. Projects like We Feel Fine and Listening Post especially caught my attention. The live nature of the work was especially interesting to me.

"So, when I found Twitter and TwitPic, I saw how they could be a good medium to connect to the Custody Report. Once operational, things started to change due to the increasing importance and power of social media (SM) platforms today, such as Twitter. Half a dozen friends following the twitter feed turned into nearly a thousand followers, and tens of thousands of page views.

"The project had changed from its original intentions to an illustration of the power and importance of SM today. It's clear viral marketing techniques and SM are giving the public an easy and powerful way of reading and creating news, in one centralized place for the first time."

April 16, 2009

YouTube Hilarity

David Lynch's Positivistic Relativism

Thinking about Mulholland Drive and Inland Empire . . . .

To oversimplify somewhat, it seems clear that each of those movies is a collection of versions of "reality," some of which are more "real" than others.

The main give-away to me was that some scenes are grossly clichéd in content or style, or over- or badly acted, while others aren't -- there seems to be a range. Also, some scenes clearly seem like fantasies in which certain elements from more "real" scenes are transformed and glamorized.

I want to say each of these movies is structured like a torus, although that's more hunch than something I've confirmed. But near the centers of both movies, we encounter one scene that seems perhaps more "real," at least in some respects, than the others: the center of the donut.

In Mulholland Drive, there's a scene near the center of the movie when the young blond actress auditions and meets The Director, an unprepossessing fellow who as I dimly recall (it's been year(s) since I've seen these movies and I saw each only once) was pretty much run over by his producer and investor(s). The Director and everything else in that scene seemed not at all glamorous but almost disappointingly pedestrian. It also seemed likely that the figure of The Director was meant to connect somehow to Lynch himself, or at least to his position in some version of reality. So I figured the info in that scene re- the other characters might be more "real." And that led me to suppose that the young blond actress really is struggling, and perhaps many of the more glamorized, melodramatic, or clichéd scenes were her fantasies.

There were also several versions of a blue something-or-other -- in one or more scenes, it was a very ordinary key, or a glamorized version of a key, or a box. And this "key" was itself a key to understanding that in someone's imagination (probably the blond's), an object in some fairly pedestrian, possibly more real scenario was being transformed into a similar object in some less real scenario (possibly serving metaphorically similar functions there?).

I found Inland Empire considerably more Byzantine, although maybe I was just more tired when I saw it -- but I saw similar patterns. Again, clearly, some scenes seemed more glamorized, melodramatic, clichéd (take that, Hollywood!) And again, somewhere near the center of the movie, there's a scene that seems closer to "reality." Jeremy Irons as The Director has a conversation with the guy doing the lighting. I'd never heard Lynch's voice at the time, but my sig. other said he thought the lighting guy's sounded like Lynch's. Irons was asking the lighting guy to change something, and the lighting guy kept getting it totally backward. (I hope I don't have to point out how hilarious and significant that concept is.)

In Inland Empire, the "key" object(s) is(are) red rather than blue: someone is stabbed (I think? or wounded -- again, it's been a few years) in the stomach; while in a more pedestrian, possibly more "real" version, someone accidentally shoots himself in the stomach with ketchup; also there's a red lamp, etc. (Sorry, didn't find any stills of these red "keys" online.)

So, the point.

I am a relativist. I don't believe there is any such thing as absolute truth. There can be no description of reality that perfectly represents it, at least not without perfectly and entirely replicating it.

But that doesn't mean some descriptions can't be more accurate, or at least more useful for certain purposes, than others.

If we throw up our hands and cry, it's all lies! we may be correct, but we're giving up on life.

Our task is to distinguish as best we can which fictions are more "real" than others, at least for our purposes; or more accurately, which work better, and for which purposes. (That is, as in science, which hypotheses provide greater predictive power.)

I'm thinking this is part of what Lynch is trying to shed light on (reference intended).

Another Good Article on Causes of the Economic Crisis

– which must be understood in order to fix it – by Michael Collins, who's boiled the history down to its essentials while identifying the key players. A few excerpts:

Our financial system looks ruined beyond repair. The credit default swaps crisis is 40 or so times bigger than the real estate meltdown over subprime derivatives. The top 25 banks in the United States are loaded down with $13 trillion in credit default swaps and the deal is coming unraveled. If we accept the highly dubious assumption that the debt from the financial meltdown needs to be repaid by us [i.e., us working stiffs, rather than just letting the players who made these risky bets absorb the losses], we're looking at $43,000 [per] citizen right now. And we're just starting.

It didn't get that way by accident. There was special legislation that enabled the current crisis.

This was classic Money Party strategy and tactics.

* * * * *

The baseline requirement for the era of greed was satisfied in 1999 when Congress repealed key provisions of the Glass-Steagall act. That law was established during the first Great Depression. It tightly restricted the opportunities for reckless speculation by banks.

* * * * *

Credit default swaps and other derivatives had been illegal for decades. In 1981, specific rules were set up to tighten restrictions against these schemes. But all that changed on Dec. 21, 2000 when the lame duck Congress passed the "Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000'" making these products legal. The legislation also barred the gathering of information that would serve as early warning on the legalized gambling on credit worthiness.
More here.

Nouriel Roubini, an NYU professor who predicted the current crisis, mentioned in a recent talk that throughout history, there's been a more or less regular cycle of economic bubble-and-bust every ten years, with only one exception during which we managed to prevent such crises from arising for a solid fifty years: the fifty years while Glass-Steagall was in effect.

Meanwhile, banks are still buying and selling credit derivatives and swaps.

April 13, 2009

Geekfarms of Yesteryear

Eric Eberhardt's 5th grade writing assignment (click on the image for a larger, more legible pic), via Dork Yearbook, which mostly contains pretty hilarious photos of child geeks. Eberhardt adds, "[r]ecently I purchased the entire 1994-1997 run of WIRED magazine from a variety of sources on eBay. I know the articles are free online, but without all the ads for 56K modems and The Sierra Network, what’s the point?"

I guess artifical intelligence capability could be handy in 5th grade.

Mars Dunes

It's worth clicking on the image for a close-up; more info here (thanks, Ben!)

Fusebox Festival in Austin, TX

I've begun my usual obsessive analysis to figure how I can see as much of the stuff I think I'm most interested in as possible, and it's a challenge because it looks like there'll be lots (Festival schedule here).

I've already come across at least a couple of participatory works that you might want to take action on more or less now (in addition to procuring Festival tix).

One is GuruGuru, the description of which reads, "Five participants (each receiving different instructions via their earpieces) talk together with a televised character whose role flicks uncannily between spiritual and marketing guru. Revelling in the absurdities of marketing technique and group therapy, [the artists] Hampton, Koyama and Khroustaliov reverse the awkward history of consumer research by allowing their audience to create their own animated therapist – by means of a focus group!" (If you've been reading this blog, you know this would sound interesting to me; see, e.g., this.) The installation will be ongoing for the duration of the Festival, but since only five people can participate at a time, reservations are recommended.

The other is 12:19 Library, which you can participate in remotely at any time (until they close it, as I assume they will at some point?) "The 12:19 Library invites people from all over the world to chronicle a single minute of their lives, 12:19 to 12:20 PM, on any day of their choosing . . . . Make some sort of image . . . a photo, a video, an audio file, a text file, a map, whatever you like." The lead artist is Ron Berry, who I understand to be the driving force behind this Fest.

"Obama and Habeas Corpus -- Then and Now"

Excellent article by Glenn Greenwald at Salon.

Habeas corpus was one of many Constitutional rights shredded by W. It's the right to a summons commanding a governmental authority that's detaining an individual to bring her or him before the court in order for the court to determine whether there is any lawful basis for imprisoning the individual, and if not, to order her or his release.

It is NOT a get-out-of-jail-free card; it just says, you can't kidnap and imprison someone without ever even having to explain, to anyone, why. Habeas corpus has long been considered one of the most fundamental of rights and historically has been crucial in defending individuals against incompetent or tyrannical governmental action (see Wikipedia).

The Obama administration has now fully embraced W's shredding of habeas corpus, notwithstanding that that position has been emphatically rejected by U.S. courts.

Greenwald writes that the ACLU's Jonathan Hafetz explained in a recent interview,

'What happened was, these people were picked up in this global war on terror, were brought to Guantanamo in 2004, and once Guantanamo became subject to habeas corpus review [because of a U.S. Supreme Court decision], . . . the Bush administration stopped bringing people there, and started bringing them to Bagram [a prison in Afghanistan], and Bagram's population has shot up, and it's become in some sense the new Guantanamo. . . . And so what you have is you have a situation where the Bush administration, was free to, and the Obama administration will continue to be free to, create a prison outside the law.'

"The Obama DOJ is now squarely to the right of an extremely conservative, pro-executive-power, Bush '43-appointed judge on issues of executive power and due-process-less detentions. Leave aside for the moment the issue of whether you believe that the U.S. Government should have the right to abduct people anywhere in the world, ship them to faraway prisons and hold them there indefinitely without charges or any rights at all. The Bush DOJ -- and now the Obama DOJ -- maintain the President does and should have that right . . . ."

Much more at Salon, including anaylsis of the absurdity of those who now claim, as W supporters claimed before, that we should trust the Prez with unlimited power.

April 11, 2009

More from NYC

Again, these pics and vidis could use tweaking or editing but didn't get it. Even so, I thought they came out pretty well considering they were shot with a new camera; all credit due to it, a Panasonic LX3, and my dear, sweet sig. other who gave it to me.

This is for the Jacksons (from Coney Island).

I love the seal + reflections footage from the Aquarium in the vidi here – I'm thinking about calling it art even without doing anything more to it.

Also happy with the vidis starting here (trains manipulating light).

This was at the "Sayonara Serenissima" party at Market Hotel (someone remarked, "What's the word for this place!"; as usual, I blurted the obvious: "Condemned."), organized as a send-off for SWOON and her art-boats. It was a great party for everything except dancing; this guy tried desperately nonetheless (kudos from moi). (After I got home, I discovered Texas's Tony Bones is on Swoon's team.)

Visuals starting here are from an event at Galapagos Art Space. (As you'll see, there's an abundance of aerialists in NYC.)

Visuals starting here are from a charming, semi-pro production by The Sky Box at House of Yes featuring 25 aerialists, a space ship, and a giant octopus in a lesbian Romeo + Juliet involving feuding aliens and robots. Probably the best aerialist performance I saw in NY was here; I also really liked the music (by SK5); and also the costumes and props, all made by the performers.

Another evening I enjoyed took place at HiChristina, self-described as "your home for avant garde art, performance, and uncommon expression"; I'd add, and total, sweet-natured wackiness. The event I attended was called "Shake (Hands)(Booty)(Milk)," and the main things that title leaves out are, it was highly participatory and I got to make some cool new friends. I got no visuals, but Fritz was shooting as if our very existence depended on it, so maybe visuals will come, so (tree in the forest) to speak (sorry, couldn't resist).

(UPDATE: The Village Voice is featuring HiChristina as one of their picks for "Best Wacky Gatherings of 2010.")

The Kippenberger exhibition at MoMA was fabulous; another fave exhibition was Horowitz at P.S. 1 (pics unfortunately not allowed at either).

The City Reliquary (visuals start here) is purportedly the museum of the City of New York, a small, all-volunteer place in Brooklyn that happened to have a fascinating and only-too-timely exhibit on milk cooperatives (along with a charming, general collection of artifacts). During the last Great Depression, a handful of milk distribution companies, abetted by the governmental representatives whose campaigns they financed, were underpaying farmers for milk and overcharging consumers. Farmers were literally losing their farms to mortgage banks, while mothers couldn't afford milk for their children. Finally farmers and consumers in New York State formed a cooperative to by-pass the distributors. After just one year, the coop was already successful enough to distribute profits to coop members. Such coops also introduced innovations such as the milk carton, much more efficient than the old glass bottles. I learned all that there, and more.

Visuals start here of the Boiler, a cool new space opened by Pierogi to accommodate works too large for their existing gallery.

Someone asked last nite whether I went to any shows, and I mentioned Big Art Group's production, SOS, which was probably my fave show; but I did also see two other laudable productions: one, M4M, a timely and intelligent re-working of Shakespeare's "problematic" Measure for Measure as a commercial transaction; and the other a highly entertaining comedic/musical re-working of Beowulf (I bought the CD).

Ok there's one more thing I have to mention before proceeding to the tap-dancing finale. I went to a reading by two humorists at the powerHouse Arena, with Benjamin Nugent, who writes for The New Yorker, and Simon Rich, who writes for Sat. Nite Live; and someone asked why they don't blog, and they both said it was because they have to revise everything they write a million times. So I took that as supportive of one of the policies/caveats stated in my sidebar at left.

You thought I was kidding; but no: here's some pretty kick-a**, subway tap-dancing (tho' the automated subway audio now loudly announces it's illegal to solicit money in the subway, the main effect of which seems to have been to reduce the number of competitors thereby reducing the overall quality -- there's "capitalism" for ya').

My posts on the March art fairs are here: Armory (more pics and vidis starting here), Pulse (more pics and vidis starting here), Scope (more pics and vidis starting here), Volta (more pics and vidis starting here); plus my succinct take on the trends here.


While still wet, the graffiti paint's lit, adding "burned accents" to the tag.

I understand some people are tagging with lighter fluid, with less permanent results, making graffiti more of a performance.

Don't try this at home, or at my home.

Via Gizmodo.

Calling Channel 10

Too good not to reblog:

Via boingboing (thanks, Ben!).

April 9, 2009

Ten Principles for a Black Swan-Proof World, by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

B.t.w., one of my take-aways from this economic implosion is, we all need to work harder to understand what's being done to us. "Trust but verify": another Reaganism that never made sense to me (how is trust different from distrust, if you have to verify either way?). Instead, I'd say, trust where you have nothing to lose; but don't where you do, esp. where someone else has something to gain.

Here (emphasis supplied):

1. What is fragile should break early while it is still small. Nothing should ever become too big to fail. Evolution in economic life helps those with the maximum amount of hidden risks – and hence the most fragile – become the biggest.

2. No socialisation of losses and privatisation of gains. Whatever may need to be bailed out should be nationalised; whatever does not need a bail-out should be free, small and risk-bearing. We have managed to combine the worst of capitalism and socialism. In France in the 1980s, the socialists took over the banks. In the US in the 2000s, the banks took over the government. This is surreal.

3. People who were driving a school bus blindfolded (and crashed it) should never be given a new bus. The economics establishment (universities, regulators, central bankers, government officials, various organisations staffed with economists) lost its legitimacy with the failure of the system. It is irresponsible and foolish to put our trust in the ability of such experts to get us out of this mess. Instead, find the smart people whose hands are clean.

4. Do not let someone making an “incentive” bonus manage a nuclear plant – or your financial risks. Odds are he would cut every corner on safety to show “profits” while claiming to be “conservative.” Bonuses do not accommodate the hidden risks of blow-ups. It is the asymmetry of the bonus system that got us here. No incentives without disincentives: capitalism is about rewards and punishments, not just rewards.

5. Counter-balance complexity with simplicity. Complexity from globalisation and highly networked economic life needs to be countered by simplicity in financial products. The complex economy is already a form of leverage: the leverage of efficiency. Such systems survive thanks to slack and redundancy; adding debt produces wild and dangerous gyrations and leaves no room for error. Capitalism cannot avoid fads and bubbles: equity bubbles (as in 2000) have proved to be mild; debt bubbles are vicious.

6. Do not give children sticks of dynamite, even if they come with a warning . Complex derivatives need to be banned because nobody understands them and few are rational enough to know it. Citizens must be protected from themselves, from bankers selling them “hedging” products, and from gullible regulators who listen to economic theorists.

7. Only Ponzi schemes should depend on confidence. Governments should never need to “restore confidence”. Cascading rumours are a product of complex systems. Governments cannot stop the rumours. Simply, we need to be in a position to shrug off rumours, be robust in the face of them.

8. Do not give an addict more drugs if he has withdrawal pains. Using leverage to cure the problems of too much leverage is not homeopathy, it is denial. The debt crisis is not a temporary problem, it is a structural one. We need rehab.

9. Citizens should not depend on financial assets or fallible “expert” advice for their retirement. Economic life should be definancialised. We should learn not to use markets as storehouses of value: they do not harbour the certainties that normal citizens require. Citizens should experience anxiety about their own businesses (which they control), not their investments (which they do not control).

10. Make an omelette with the broken eggs. Finally, this crisis cannot be fixed with makeshift repairs, no more than a boat with a rotten hull can be fixed with ad-hoc patches. We need to rebuild the hull with new (stronger) materials; we will have to remake the system before it does so itself. Let us move voluntarily into Capitalism 2.0 by helping what needs to be broken break on its own, converting debt into equity, marginalising the economics and business school establishments, shutting down the “Nobel” in economics, banning leveraged buyouts, putting bankers where they belong, clawing back the bonuses of those who got us here, and teaching people to navigate a world with fewer certainties.

Then we will see an economic life closer to our biological environment: smaller companies, richer ecology, no leverage. A world in which entrepreneurs, not bankers, take the risks and companies are born and die every day without making the news.

In other words, a place more resistant to black swans.

The writer is a veteran trader, a distinguished professor at New York University’s Polytechnic Institute and the author of The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable.

Heads Up, Obamaniacs:

Long experience has established:

Knowledge is power. -- Francis Bacon (http://testserver.semantic-mediawiki.org/wiki/Knowledge... )

"Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely." -- John Emerich Edward Dalberg-Acton (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Dalberg-Acton,_1st_Ba... )

Don't leave the foxes to guard the hen house -- (http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Hebraic_proverbs )

"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized." -- (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Probable_cause ). As Wikipedia further explains, "{The Fourth Amendment} was ratified as a response to the abuse of the writ of assistance, which is a type of general search warrant, in the American Revolution. The amendment specifically requires search and arrest warrants be judicially sanctioned and supported by probable cause. Search and arrest should be limited in scope according to specific information supplied to the issuing court, usually by a law enforcement officer, who has sworn by it."

Since our nation was founded, these principles have been violated many times, only to be abused. Please provide a list, anyone (sources/authority appreicated)??? of instances in which such abuse turned out to have been worth it? Because I am not aware of one single instance.

On the other hand, I am aware of many instances in which the violation of these principles was abused, to all our detriment and shame.

As Franklin said, "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety." (http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Benjamin_Franklin )

I don't care who's violating my fundamental rights; it's unacceptable and I will do all I can to fight it. We were meant to be a government "of laws, not of men." (http://www.bartleby.com/73/991.html )

I want my f'ing rights back.

The enemy is not Republicans, or terrorists, or etc. As Pogo said, "We have met the enemy, and he is US." (http://www.igopogo.com/we_have_met.htm )

April 5, 2009

Miss USA Visits Gitmo

. . . together with Ms. Universe, who wrote in her blog that the water in the bay was "sooo beautiful" and the camp was "very interesting." Details at UPI.

April 2, 2009

The Yes Men

. . . publish their own New York Times: