Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Georgia Prison Strike

It's being called the biggest prison strike in history! Here is the story from Democracy Now (interview with longtime prison activist Elaine Brown of the newly formed group Concerned Coalition to Respect Prisoners’ Rights which is representing the prisoners).

And, articles from the Black Agenda Report here and from the NY Times here and here.
And, below, a copy of the GA Prison Inmates Strike Day Two Press Release


Thousands of Georgia Prisoners Continue Peaceful Protest

Georgia Department of Corrections Responds with Violence

December 10, 2010…Atlanta, Georgia

Contacts: Elaine Brown, 404-542-1211, sistaelaine@gmail.com;Valerie Porter, 229-931-5348, lashan123@att.net.

Yesterday morning, December 9, 2010, thousands of Georgia prisoners refused to work, stopped all other activities and locked down in their cells in a peaceful protest for their human rights. The December 9 Strike was the biggest prisoner protest in the history of the United States.

Thousands of men, from Augusta, Baldwin, Hancock, Hays, Macon, Smith and Telfair State Prisons, among others, went on strike to press the Georgia Department of Corrections (“DOC”) to stop treating them like animals and slaves and institute programs that address their basic human rights. They have set forth the following demands:










Despite that the prisoners’ protest was non-violent, the DOC violently attempted to force the men back to work—claiming it was “lawful” to order prisoners to work without pay, in defiance of the 13th Amendment’s abolition of slavery. In Augusta State Prison, six or seven inmates were brutally ripped from their cells by CERT Team guards and beaten, resulting in broken ribs for several men, one man beaten beyond recognition. At Telfair, the Tactical Squad trashed all the property in inmate cells. At Macon State, the Tactical Squad menaced the men all day, removing some to the “hole,” and the warden ordered the heat turned off, and today, the hot water. Still, men at Macon, Smith, Augusta, Hays and Telfair State Prisons say they are committed to continuing the strike, one inmate stating, “We’re going to ride it until the wheel falls off. We want our human rights.”

When the strike began, prisoner leaders issued the following call: “No more slavery. Injustice in one place is injustice to all. Inform your family to support our cause. Lock down for liberty!”

Monday, November 22, 2010

Friday, November 12, 2010

Cassandra Smith

Milwaukee-based artist Cassandra Smith makes beautiful, grotesque, and intoxicating sculptures using lots of sequins, patterning, and animal parts. There is something ironic in all this, but the pieces are also quite haunting and the love of design quite sincere. The work feels more meaningful than just the simple shock of looking at an ornately decorated dead animal (real or fake). There is something playful, something serious, and a ton of attention to detail, ridiculous and rich.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


A magazine and an art project... Uppercase.

Their latest 'assignment' is to engage with the art, design, and history of matchbox art - a personal favorite. I collected as many different matchboxes as I could when I traveled abroad, but sadly, most of the artwork for these little wonders is quickly being replaced with standardized, generic, and uninspired corporate designs. And, no, I don't think these designs will find their moment to shine in 50 years - the patina of Time will add curiosity, but I don't think it will transform these new designs into nostalgic, poignant, strange objects of beauty (although, obviously, who knows! Did the consumers - or makers - of the pragmatic ephemera of yore know that they would have such a devout and strange fan club in the future?!). Snobbery, aesthetic differences, and Cassandra posturing aside, I would just like more diversity as well as care, attention, and plain old playfulness in the art and design of everyday objects... (not to mention the amazing possibilities of thinking "cradle to grave"...). Alright, make some great designs or enjoy the examples that Uppercase has gathered.

Monday, November 08, 2010

The environmental impact of sunscreen (i.e. sit under a tree, instead, please!)

Re-posted from here.


Scientific studies ascertained a relationship between the approximately 4,000 to 6,000 tons of sunscreen melting off swimmers’ skins and the quickly increasing decline in corals. It turns out that four common sunscreen ingredients (octinoxate, oxybenzone 4-methylbenzylidene camphor, and the preservative butylparaben) activate dormant viruses in corals, which go on to destroy algae—what corals feed on, and without which corals turn white and die.

About 60% of reefs around the world are currently in danger of dying due to global warming, excess UV radiation, and human activity—whether because anchors and boats tear through them, we pollute them with our garbage, or we drown them in our skincare products.

According to the European Commission, the chemicals in sunscreen and other skincare products are so harmful that areas such as marine eco-parks in Mexico straight-out ban them. These chemicals “can accumulate in aquatic animals, have an estrogen-like effect and biodegrade into toxic by-products.”

When they added low quantities of sunscreen to water around coral reefs, they found that “large amounts of coral mucous … was (sic) released within 18-48 hours. Within 96 hours, complete bleaching of corals had occurred.” Previously dormant viruses residing within the corals came alive and triggered widespread infections, effects also caused by pesticides and other pollutants.It only takes 20 minutes in the water for 25% of the harmful ingredients in your sunscreen to be released into the water.


All the way back in 2006, the University of Applied Sciences in Basil, Switzerland, found endocrine disruptors (UV filters) in fish—male fish with not only sperm, but also female eggs. Read more here.


The Environmental Working Group (EWG) conducted research on 1,031 common brands of sunscreen last year. They found that:

  • 4 out of 5 do not offer adequate protection from the sun’s harmful rays
  • many include ingredients that may be unsafe
  • best-selling sunscreens (e.g. Coppertone, Banana Boat, and Neutrogena) proved to be the worst offenders. Here is the best and worst list: Find your sunscreen.
  • many sunscreens only protect against UVB radiations (which cause sunburns), and not UVA radiations (which cause skin damage, aging, immune system problems, and skin cancer)
  • 46% of sunscreens contain ingredients that break down under UV rays within minutes or hours, letting UV rays damage your skin
  • sunscreens in the form of powder and spray make it easier for toxic nano-scale ingredients to get into your body than lotion sunscreens containing the same ingredients
  • some sunscreens—and their toxic ingredients (namely, oxybenzone and other UV filters)—enter the bloodstream. These ingredients may exude free radicals in the sunlight, disrupt the endocrine system, cause allergies, and build up in the body
  • the FDA is not currently taking care of these issues, so you must do so for yourself

Read more here.


Stay indoors during the hottest/brightest parts of the day.
If you go outside, work in the shade when possible or wear white, light cotton clothing and a hat.
If you choose to use sunscreen, wear biodegradable sunscreens without questionable ingredients.
(There is also something called UV-resistant clothing - e.g. Solartex and No Zone - which I have not researched yet, but may be a good solution as well).

Friday, October 29, 2010

A Word For That... (Petrichor)

Petrichor is name of the scent of rain on dry earth. It comes from the Greek word petros (meaning "stone") and ichor (which is the mysterious fluid that flows in the veins of the gods in Greek mythology).
The term was coined in 1964 by two Australian researchers, Bear and Thomas, for an article in the journal Nature. In the article, the authors describe how the smell derives from an oil exuded by certain plants during dry periods, whereupon it is absorbed by clay-based soils and rocks. During rain, the oil is released into the air along with another compound, geosmin, producing the distinctive scent. Amazing.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The wonders and discomforts of "femme-y" imagery...

Visual essay by Shana Moulton:
Squiggles, Trees, Ribbons and Spirals: My Collection of Women’s Health, Beauty and Support Group Logos as the Stages of Life in Semi-Particular Order

Why is this the visual language that has stuck like the only stubborn burr to the butts of us ladies? Let the richness of our experience, the diversity of our aesthetics, and the complexity of our lives guide us towards a more exciting and expansive graphic design for the female experience and womanly psyche!

Thoughts on wolves and wildnerness

This morning, I was struck by this almost one hundred year old news story. It is a horrific story that brings together our worst anxieties about wilderness, animals, and our human frailty and vulnerability. Yet, I think the story's horror is only matched by it's strangeness and extraordinariness in that wolves rarely attack humans and when they do, it is most often because of the intensive stress on their communities due to human activity. Exceptio probat regulam in casibus non exceptis? (i.e. "the exception confirms the rule in cases not excepted"?).

WOLVES KILL BRIDAL PARTY: Only Two Escape Out of 120 in Asiatic Russia (The New York Times, March 19, 1911)
ST. PETERSBURG, March 8. -- Tragic details of the fate of a wedding party attacked by wolves in Asiatic Russia while driving on sledges to the bride's house, where a banquet was to have taken place, are now at hand, and in their ghastly reality surpass almost anything ever imagined by a fiction writer. (Full article can be downloaded here or click on image).

Interestingly, a similar story as that described in the article above, makes an appearance in several works of fiction (just two examples are Willa Cather's My Ántonia and Gene Wolfe's Tracking Song).

As I wrote this, I kept reminding myself that wolves used to roam free over much of the land that humans now consider 'their own'; the privatization of land and the exploitation of its resources being alien to these ancient animals. Conservationists and writers like Farley Mowat have been able to fight the demonizing of wolves (Never Cry Wolf (1963) remains a favorite book of mine) and wolves are finally being reintroduced to their former homelands.

European contact and colonization brought an aggressive and antagonistic relationship with American wildlife (not to mention the gruesome atrocities committed against indigenous peoples). Settlers began a long and harrowing battle to get rid of all the deer, elk, bison, turkeys, pigeons, etc - all in the name of Progress, Manifest Destiny, and to serve the gods of Agriculture, Settlement (i.e. Real Estate development), and Industry - in other words, modern industrial globalized capitalism. In such a climate, wild animals were left less and less land on which to live, eat, and survive, and often full-fledged extermination followed suit. So, the bears, wolves, and coyotes found themselves as 'trespassers' on land that was previously common, wild, and open. Populations of wolves were pushed into more and more marginal areas. With nothing else left to eat, the animals attacked livestock, and sometimes people. Settlers targeted these predatory animals and the federal government even employed trappers who spent years hunting down the last wolf and killing it. The last wolves were actually killed by the U.S. Biological Survey, which is the agency that transformed itself into the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that is now responsible for wolf restoration!

So for years, wolves were poisoned, shot, and beaten. When dens were found, the wolf pups were beaten to death and then the adults who returned to the den were shot. But it was poison that probably killed the greatest number of wild animals, wolves included. The poisoning campaign continued on up until the '70s, when poison baits were still being used throughout the western United State, even on public lands by federal agencies.

It is amazing to think that while the wolf population was systematically extinguished, the number of domesticated dogs continued to rise ever steeply in the US. According to the Human Society, there are approximately 77.5 million owned dogs in the US alone, with 39% of U.S. households own at least one dog. (This number does not include the large number of homeless or feral dogs). The DNA of a wolf and any domesticated dog are practically indistinguishable, yet their fates have been so wildly different. I think of the forests that have been destroyed, while houseplants, pesticide-ridden flower farms, and floral prints on tablecloths, bedspreads, and summer dresses continues to rise. Thoughtless destruction, lust for power and control, pathetic substitution, and short-sightedness seem to be a pattern that is hard for our species to avoid.

More on captive wolf reintroduction and captive breeding programs here. And a brief fact sheet on the wolf population in the USA, here.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

The Wonderful, Horrible Life of Ernst Haeckel (another complicated and talented German)

Ernst Haeckel (1834 – 1919) was an eminent German biologist, naturalist, philosopher, physician, professor and artist who discovered, described and named thousands of new species, mapped a genealogical tree relating all life forms, and coined many terms in biology, including anthropogeny, ecology, phylum, phylogeny, and the kingdom Protista. Too bad he was also a total racist and apologist for ethnic discrimination. (His portrait appears third from the left on the top row and his illustration throughout in this quilt of images provided by the tentacles of Google and avid digitizers worldwide. Two more - out of thousands - of his amazing illustrations are below).

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The 2010 Nobel Peace Prize sits in jail in China

Excerpts from Gal Beckerman's article, The Peace Prize's Subversive Potential:

Since the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded last week to Liu Xiaobo, a man jailed in China for advocating democracy and human rights, the Chinese government has reacted with disdain and denial. Mr. Liu is a "criminal" whose award is "a blasphemy against the peace prize," said one government spokesman. "Every Chinese can sense a deliberate maliciousness" in the prize, declared an editorial in a state-run newspaper.

This response recalls the 1975 Peace Prize, which went to Andrei Sakharov, the nuclear physicist who had helped develop the Soviet hydrogen bomb before becoming the Soviet regime's most vociferous critic. Like Mr. Liu today, Sakharov professed democratic values that his Communist rulers dismissed as Western mores being forced on the rest of the world. One of Sakharov's most famous writings was the 1968 essay "Progress, Coexistence, and Intellectual Freedom," which circulated widely in samizdat form and was considered an existential threat by Soviet leaders. Mr. Liu, for his part, is currently imprisoned for signing Charter 08, a manifesto demanding political reform and civil liberties.

Chinese authorities have blocked Chinese Internet users from being able to search Mr. Liu's name. In its frenzy to maintain control over what ideas their citizens can access, the government in Beijing has exposed its own vulnerability.

There is another parallel between the two Peace Prizes. Sakharov was given the award during a period of détente between the United States and the Soviet Union. By 1975 the U.S.-Soviet relationship had for a few years been characterized by a realpolitik focus on arms control and trade, while moral issues—like intellectual freedom and the right to emigrate—were downplayed. The Peace Prize forced those issues onto center stage. Mr. Liu's award offers hope that, after years of a U.S.-Chinese relationship that has concentrated on economic partnership and overlooked issues of human rights, China might now have to recognize that universal values can't be so easily ignored.

And the call to action from Amnesty International (follow the link to learn more, sign a petition, donate money, and get involved in AI):

hina expressed outrage last week over the Nobel committee’s decision to award its prestigious Peace Prize to incarcerated Chinese human rights activist Liu Xiaobo. But the real outrage is China’s treatment of those who dare to speak truth to power.

We couldn’t be more thrilled for Liu and the spotlight the award places on his unrelenting fight for fundamental freedoms and human rights in China. But Liu won’t be able to celebrate his win with the rest of the world from the confines of his prison cell.

Adding insult to injury, Chinese authorities have placed Liu’s wife Liu Xia under house arrest, likely preventing her from receiving the award in Norway on Liu’s behalf. They’ve also cracked down on activists celebrating Liu’s achievement. Liu Xiaobo needs your help.

Liu, a 54-year old author and scholar, is a prominent government critic who has repeatedly called for human rights protections, political accountability and democratization in China. In 2009 Liu was charged with "inciting subversion of state power" and given an 11-year prison sentence after an unfair trial for co-authoring a proposal for political and legal reform in China.

Amnesty International has long called for Liu’s release. We need your help now more than ever to send a loud and clear plea for Liu’s release. This award can only make a real difference if it prompts more international pressure on China to release Liu, along with the numerous other prisoners of conscience languishing in Chinese jails for exercising their right to freedom of expression. Now is the time to act.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The beauty of slang...

"Pregnant Rollerskate" is CB radio slang for a Volkswagen Beetle!
More CB slang here.
And, did you know, CB stands for "citizens' band". My favorite band. Maybe.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Pennies for thoughts, thoughts for peanuts.

I was cleaning out a big bowl, the kind that has collected in its belly a dusty mix of rocks, buttons, marbles, and coins. Since I am trying to quiet my mind and do one thing at a time, finish that thing, and not get frustrated that I am not doing other things in the meantime, I deliberately fished out each item and sorted them into new soon-to-be dusty, but seemingly organized collections. As I plunked the coins, mostly pennies, into a new jar, I wondered how many other little piles of coins are sitting in jugs, jars, bowls, pockets, and forgotten boxes all over the world. How much money is lying dormant, out of circulation, in drips and drabs of copper-plated zinc in each of our homes?
I have yet to find the answer, but in the meantime, I did discover the surprisingly large fluctuations in US coin production (minting) each year.
Here is a complete list, year by year, denomination by denomination
Amazingly, the number of coins produced in 2008 (10,141,580,000) was three times greater than in 2009 (3,548,000,000). Yes, putting more/less money into circulation is how inflation/deflation is adjusted, but I failed to remember that coins would play such a large part in the balancing act.
Should you discover more information, please send it our way!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Dekochari: UFO Bicycles

Rolling through the night like visions from 1980's outer space, these beautiful and mysterious contraptions are handmade pimped-out bicycles from Japan. For decades, dekotara fans (especially those too young to drive) have been making all manner of dekochari. Modeled after Japan's celebrated art trucks, dekochari (deko means "decoration" and chari is slang for "bicycle") typically feature large front bumpers, ornate luggage racks, rear-mounted boxes that resemble truck trailers, colorful paint jobs, lots of chrome, and sophisticated electric light displays.

The video below pieces together random night scenes from Dekochari Yarou, a documentary that profiles a few dekochari enthusiasts and their custom rides. The soundtrack is "Ichiban-boshi Blues" (sung by Bunta Sugawara and Kinya Aikawa), the theme song from the Torakku Yarou movie series that sparked Japan's dekotora craze in the '70s.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Scraper Bikes!

They've been around for awhile, but it seems that scraper bikes have recently had a great moment in the sun (they're even on NPR!). The image below is a peek at what Google serves up for "scraper bike"...

Friday, August 13, 2010

Lumninescent Defense

The smooth nylon shrimp (Heterocarpus laevigatus), which inhabits the dark depths of the Pacific Ocean, employs a brilliant method of defense: when threatened, the creature spits out a cloud of bioluminescent blue fluid from its mouth, temporarily blinding its predator and allowing it escape. The video below also includes a great melodramatic soundtrack and features the perfectly timed reactions of Japanese viewers, hovering in a little frame-within-a-frame, in some voyeuristic anonymous space decidedly not in the depths of the Pacific or under any water.

And more biolumninescence... Giant comb squid:

Thursday, August 05, 2010

When We Have Time

We're going to build an orchestra of theremins... Below is a little solar-powered one (a heliophone).

Sunday, July 25, 2010


The guy who built this - The Mindfield - just rolled into town on his elaborately decorated motorcycle (see below) with tribute to many people including, Least Heat-Moon, who happens to live around these parts. It was a great end to a day, the last part of which was spent riding out to our friend's apple orchard and machine shop to get advice about our hand-cranked ice shaver (for snowcones, of course!).

Friday, July 23, 2010


There is no real etymological evidence it seems, but I have read in several places that "sincere" derives from the Latin words "sine" (without) and "cera" (wax). Unscrupulous Roman stoneworkers, the story goes, would sometimes cut corners by applying a thick coating of shiny wax to marble rather than taking the time to polish or sculpt the stone properly. So widespread was this practice, that honest sculptors had to advertise their wares as being "sine cera" (without wax) to reassure their customers. "Sincere" eventually came to be used more generally to mean "honest" and "straightforward."

Monday, July 19, 2010

You already know that sitting is death...

Watch little children who sit for no more than 15 minutes at a time... and then consider how much time adults sit - in cars, in front of computers, and watching TV's.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Frozen Spree

What is this beautiful monster?
Why it is a small part of the glorious, abandoned, and ill-fated Spreepark in Berlin...
Tell you more?
Well, the infamous Spreepark (or Kulturpark Plänterwald) was an entertainment park in the north of the Plänterwald in the Berlin district of Treptow-Köpenick (formerly East Berlin). The park opened in 1969 on a gigantic stretch of land covering an area of over 70 acres next to the river Spree. It was the only permanent entertainment park in the East Germany, and the only such park in all of Berlin - East or West - attracting millions of visitors per year. In the late 90's, the park faced large debts and shrinking numbers of visitors. Finally, in 2001, the directors declared the park insolvent. The park was declared bankrupt and has been closed since 2002.
The director of the park, Norbert Witte, together with his family and closest coworkers moved to Peru. Witte left taking with them six large attractions (Fliegender Teppich, Butterfly, Spider, Baby-Flug, Wild River and Jet Star) having convinced German authorities that they were being sent for repair. In Lima, Norbert Witte failed in his attempt to run a "Lunapark" and in 2004, he was sentenced to seven years in jail for attempting to smuggle 180 kg of cocaine (valued at about $22 million from Peru to Germany in the masts of - ironically - the "Flying Carpet Ride"). In October 2006, a Peruvian court sentenced Wittes' son, Marcel Witte, to 20 years for drug smuggling.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Little City Food Coast to Coast

Friends of friends on both coasts are growing food on small patches of city land with great results...
Little City Growers Coop in Providence, RI and Little City Gardens in San Francisco, CA.
We are re-inspired to make good use of the precious (though poor) land in our backyard!
Serious tilling, planning, shoveling, composting, and planting might have to wait for the next season though. For now, we are happy with our glorious sunflowers, midget tomato plants, mint, nasturtiums, and rosemary.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Huge Mirrors

To whom do we tell what happened on the
Earth, for whom do we place everywhere huge
Mirrors in the hope that they will be filled up
And will stay so?

- excerpt from "Annalena" by Czeslaw Milosz

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

What is really dangerous...?

While we may fret over dirt or fallen food that young children put in their mouth, it seems that the real dangers are the human-made things that most of us are exposed to on a daily basis: plastics, radiation, and batteries. See this latest article about the dangers of lithium cell batteries.

While we might notice the trash on the sidewalk and tisk about littering, the real pollution is happening on a grander scale all around us.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

My Head Is Bursting With Ideas...

A common occurrence: Too many (seemingly) good ideas and not enough time, energy, human power, or money to do them all. Perhaps writing them out will either make them magically happen, give them life and allow others to expand/improve/rebuff them, and most immediately, make me feel less crazy!
Here is the list from this week, geared towards Columbia, Missouri (where we are currently based):

Supporting Local Farming...
Restaurant-Supported Agriculture: Create a hub that coordinates the ordering and transport (and education about) fresh, local, and preferably organic/pesticide-free produce for local restaurants and businesses.
Locally-made corn and flour tortillas & chips: People got so excited about artisanal, local, fresh bread. Maybe they can get excited about this instead of buying plastic bags of half-filled air and GMO corn shipped from all over the country.
Fresh, local food in the schools!

Tool Library


Printmaking workshop, studio, educational center, and artist residency

Public art everywhere...
Murals on all the blank, depressing walls downtown

Gardening better...
Education, subsidies, and support for rain gardens, native plants, and turning lawns into sustainable green spaces
City-wide an on toxic and environmentally-damaging chemicals for gardening
Edible plants all over
Free soil testing and help with remediation
City-wide composting or private composting business

Friday, May 28, 2010

Homemade Rooting Compound

We're trying to grow some bamboo from cuttings, so here is our latest research on rooting compounds.

Although store bought rooting compound isn't too expensive, it can exact a heavy price on the environment and can be toxic due to the fungicide included to protect plant cuttings from disease.
Rooting compounds use plant hormones to stimulate growth - the first such hormone to be discovered is auxin. The synthetic version of auxin is what is in commercially sold compounds today. The willow tree is a natural source of auxin and can be used to make your very own all-natural, homemade rooting compound whenever you need to plant some new cuttings.

Willow Tree Tea:
Gather a handful of willow branch tips and chop or mash them into smaller pieces
Put the willow tree pieces into a small container (e.g. a mason jar) and fill it with enough water to submerge all the pieces
Let it sit 24 hours (or at least overnight)
Remove the willow pieces and dip your cuttings into the water
Put your cutting into your potting mix
(You might want to cover your cutting with a plastic bag to retain moisture)
After the roots form, transplant (into the garden or a larger pot)

Don't spill out the remaining willow water when you're done with your cuttings. Save it to water your plants or store it in the fridge/freezer for the future.

I have also read that if you don't have access to willow, you can dissolve a few aspirins in a jar of water. Aspirin is made from willow bark, so it can have the same effect as the willow water. Crazy!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Yes! Celebrating Idle Parenting!

The Manifesto of the Idle Parent

We reject the idea that parenting requires hard work
We pledge to leave our children alone
We reject the rampant consumerism that invades children from the moment they are born
We read them poetry and fantastic stories without morals
We drink alcohol without guilt
We reject the inner Puritan
We don’t waste money on family days out and holidays
An idle parent is a thrifty parent
An idle parent is a creative parent
We lie in bed for as long as possible
We try not to interfere
We play in the fields and forests
We push them into the garden and shut the door so we can clean the house
We both work as little as possible, particularly when the kids are small
Time is more important than money
Happy mess is better than miserable tidiness
Down with school
We fill the house with music and merriment
We reject health and safety guidelines
We embrace responsibility
There are many paths
More play, less work

Monday, May 24, 2010

Your fears confirmed...

THE PLASTIC PANIC: Toxic chemicals and their effects on the body 
A well-researched, thorough article in the latest New Yorker magazine:

Friday, May 21, 2010

Looking from a Bomb-Proof

The back reads: "This picture, taken from one of the bomb-proofs in the rear of the fighting line of the Japanese, gives a very good idea of the heights of Port Arthur on which the frowning forts were erected...."
The text ends with an enigmatic "A8833". Hmmm.
And what are "frowning forts"?

This stereoscope was found at a flea market in Columbia, Missouri amidst antique cracked tea cups, photographs of other people's ancestors, and bird feathers. Strange and amazing in its simultaneous banality and poignancy, the photograph on the front shows a blurry and oddly framed landscape partly obscured on the top by what appears to be a clumsy photographer's equipment. Actually, the photograph was taken below ground level from inside a bomb-proof shelter. The The back recounts a story of war on the frontlines of the Battle of Port Arthur - the hazy mountains in the background. An oddly calm and bucolic image for the bloody skirmishes. The awkward composition - seemingly made in an attempt to place the viewer "in the thick of battle" inside the bomb-proof - has the effect of inspiring strange narratives: What spy is looking out on the range? Are we seeing the world from the eyes of aliens crawling out from their space ship? Who else would photograph this seemingly unexceptional scene? Is this a glimpse at the apocalyptic future? And for whom was this stereoscope made for and what did they glean from it?

About the Battle of Port Arthur:
The Battle of Port Arthur (February 8-9, 1904) is considered the starting battle of the Russo-Japanese War. It began with a surprise night attack by a squadron of Japanese destroyers on the Russian fleet anchored at Port Arthur, Manchuria, and continued with further skirmishing until May 1904. Losing at Port Arthur for the Russians — and especially for Tsar Nicholas II — was fraught with dire circumstances for the Imperial Russian regime as the Russian people lost confidence in the military and government. The Russo-Japanese War is believed to have been a direct causal factor for the Russian Revolution of 1905.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Kindred Spirits!!!

PieLab was originally conceived during a 2009 session of Project M in Belfast, Maine. Project M is John Bielenberg’s design-for-good movement, intended to inspire young creatives that their work can have a positive and significant impact on the world. Since 2003, Project M has been bringing young people together in various places all around the globe to develop projects and initiatives that contribute to the greater good at a local level. During this 2-week M session, the group came to understand the importance of healthy and supportive communities. Free Pie was a response to this discovery. On March 14th, (Pi Day) the designers set up a pop-up pie stand on a central corner in downtown Belfast, serving over 200 slices to hungry locals. Each slice was served on a real ceramic plate and eaten with a real fork, encouraging citizens to hang around and interact with their neighbors while enjoying their dessert. The message was simple: Sometimes life is bad; free pie isn’t.

The success of this inaugural event encouraged the designers to develop the Free Pie Movement as a way of motivating others to offer the same simple gestures within their own community. Again, the approach was uncomplicated and direct: make a pie, choose a spot, give it away, bring people together. The idea was eventually explored in several cities across the U.S. including Atlanta, Brooklyn, Richmond, Columbus, and Washington DC. What developed not long thereafter is today called PieLab, a multifaceted approach to small business that addresses this need for united and empowered communities in a way that is self-perpetual and fun.

In May of 2009, a handful of designers from the March Project M session relocated to Greensboro, Alabama and brought PieLab to life. Located within the Black Belt Region of Alabama, and situated within Hale County, Greensboro is a quaint Southern town restrained from substantial progress and economic growth. Since 2007, Project M has been working to develop projects in Greensboro, through a strong collaboration with HERO* (Hale Empowerment and Revitalization Organization), a non-profit housing resource center. Within three weeks time, the crew transformed one-half of the Project M Lab (an old home converted to a permanent studio space by the 2008 Project M team) into a real, live, functioning pie shop. They built tables and signs from salvaged wood and purchased plates and jars from the local flea market, keeping up-front investment costs very low. Then they opened. And the people came. Visitors of all ages and backgrounds could enjoy a slice of pie ($2), a cup of coffee or lemonade ($1), and some good conversation (free!). All revenue generated from pie sales went right back into the pot to make more pies. Still the concept was simple: pie brings people together, conversation happens, ideas are created, and the result is positive change through design. Moreover, what PieLab provided during this preliminary stage was an interface for the people of Hale County and the designers to interact, share stories and get acquainted, allowing for an accurate look into the community’s assets and needs.

Read more at the PieLab site. Amazing!

Monday, May 17, 2010

And, this too!

Our friend who is an artist but also a gallery. Really.
Ben Russell

And... ACRE Project (The Artists’ Cooperative Residency and Exhibitions Project) is a non-profit based in Chicago devoted to developing new systems of support for emerging artists and to creating a regenerative community of cultural producers. ACRE investigates and institutes models designed to help artists develop, present, and discuss their practices by providing forums for idea exchange, interdisciplinary collaboration, and experimental projects.

More Chicago Goodies...

After learning about InCUBATE, we found a whole host of other interesting and experimental cultural projects based in that fine Midwestern metropolis... There are surely others, but here is a start.

AREA Chicago
Backstory Cafe and Social Center
Baltimore Development Cooperative
Chicago Underground Library
Devening Projects & Editions
FEAST Brooklyn
G Rad
Groups & Spaces
Harold Arts
Hideous Beast
Joe Post
Marc Moscato
Mess Hall
Portland Stock
Saturday Soup
Spring Break: Publishers/Curators
Sweet Tooth of the Tiger
Tanda Foundation
The Artist Run Credit League
The Department of Aesthetics
The Stockyard Institute
W.A.G.E. (Working Artists and the Greater Economy)


From their website:
InCUBATE (Institute for Community Understanding Between Art and The Everyday) is a research group dedicated to exploring new approaches to arts administration and arts funding. We at InCUBATE act as curators, researchers and co-producers of artists projects.  These activities have manifested in a series traveling exhibitions called Other Options, an artist residency program, and various other projects such as Sunday Soup (a monthly meal that generates funding for a creative project grant). We don’t have non-profit status, instead we are interested in what kinds of organizational strategies could provide more direct support to critical and socially-engaged art and culture beyond for-profit or non-profit structures.  Our core organizational principle is to treat art administration as a creative practice.  By doing so, we hope to generate and share a new vocabulary of practical solutions to the everyday problems of producing under-the-radar culture.  Currently we do not have a physical location and we work together on an ongoing project basis.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Lost in the supermarket

An experiment conducted in 1954 by the Kroger Food Foundation set 50 children loose in a Kroger supermarket to buy what they wanted without any supervision. 
Photography by Francis Miller (Time & Life Pictures / Getty Images)

LA Ladies Choir

Hooray for this project!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Bless This Mess!

Columbia, Missouri, USA / February 2009 / The Archaeology of the Recent Future Association

The Beginning of the Misfortune

Inspired by today's article in the New York Times about strange and sometimes poetic translated signs from non-English-speaking countries. The article is here and readers' submissions of similar photos is here.
Sanqing Mountain, China / May 2007 / Image by The Archaeology of the Recent Future Association

Monday, April 26, 2010

Dreaming of bakfiets... (i.e. hauling things by bike!)

Bakfiets?! Wait, it's a good thing. It is what Dutch cargo bikes (usually front-loading) are called. They're generically called "freight bicycles" or "cargo bicycles" and have capacious seating/transport rigs. A great list with photos can be found here. There are similar bikes made in Denmark by Christiania. (There are also others: Nihola, Sorte Jernhest [Black Iron Horse], Bellabike, Triobike, Esimex, Larry vs. Harry, Long John, Short John and Kangaroo Bike). Here's the Cargo Cycling website if you want to go deep.

Sadly, all these bikes/trikes are quite expensive (although if you consider the cost of cars and gasoline...) and very hard to get in the USA. Though there are importers (see this list).

There is at least one US manufacturer: Human Powered Machines (photo below).

And a Boston-based group that devoted  to exclusively human-powered (bicycle-driven) transport: Metro Pedal Power. And back in Copenhagen, IKEA has created a program for customers to use cargo bikes for free to bring home their purchases. Read here. I have big dreams for more human-powered non-polluting locomotion!

World Bike is one non-profit that designs and distributes low-cost bicycles for programs that increase economic opportunity, improve health outcomes and boost enrollment and gender equity in secondary school among the rural poor. The bikes are configured to be not only affordable, but also maintained and repaired locally.

Hauling things on bikes is actually quite normal in many countries and communities (and can be very safe). Here's a furniture seller in China and a school bus bicycle in India.

Or you can make our own...

Other links: 
Family Bicycles
Cargo bike restoration (in Dutch)

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Man's Companions

Joanna Ruocco - dear friend, gifted writer, remarkable woman, hilarious adventurer - has just published her latest book, Man's Companions. Hooray!
About: http://www.tarpaulinsky.com/Press/Ruocco/
Look inside: http://www.tarpaulinsky.com/Press/Ruocco/issuu/ruocco-companions-issuu.html

(See what I mean about the birds...?)

Friday, April 16, 2010

Polaroid Film Reinvented

Dry your eyes and dig up your old Polaroid land cameras, a new film stock has been created: The Impossible Project

Sustainable House for the 21st century

BrightBuilt Barn is the product of a collaboration among a team of some of the Northeast’s top green professionals, who decided to create a prototype for the sustainable house of the 21st century. The result is an award-winning, practical, affordable, beautiful structure that is one of the only buildings in the world to be designed to be truly carbon neutral: by making more clean energy than it consumes, over its lifespan, BrightBuilt Barn will actually offset all the atmospheric greenhouse gases produced by its construction.

Monday, April 12, 2010

If you're buying/ordering seeds...

Please consider investing in organic, non-GMO and/or heirloom seeds. Actually, a majority of seed companies use GMO (genetically modified) seeds and supporting their businesses only adds to environmental pollution (GMO plants require pesticides, drain the soil, etc), disinvestment from small and local farms (farmers have to keep rebuying these seeds), and is generally a move towards unsafe and unsustainable practices. With this in mind, it is really easy to order great seeds from lots of local and national distributors.

The Safe Seed Pledge lists all the companies that have signed on.
The Organic Seed Alliance is another good resource.
Organic Cosumers Association lists seed suppliers by state.
So far, we've only tried Seeds of Change and Baker Creek. Yes, they're a little more expensive than the 99 cent packets at your local hardware store, but it is well worth the investment in terms of taste, beauty, and responsibility.

To learn more about the importance of heirloom seeds and non-GMO plants, please look at some of the resources below. This is not just an issue of personal taste or about the few plants in your particular patch, it is really a global issue that concerns the safety of our food, ecological biodiversity, the health of our environment, and the empowerment and well-being of millions of farmers. Spend the extra buck and buy good seeds!

Vandana Shiva is an eloquent, informed, and passionate activist and scholar who has fought for more sustainable, traditional, and local practices and paradigms of agriculture and food. She has assisted grassroots campaigns against genetic engineering all over the world. Here is one video to look at.

Seed Savers Exchange
SSE is a non-profit, member supported organization that saves and shares the heirloom seeds of our garden heritage, forming a living legacy that can be passed down through generations. Our loyal SSE members have distributed an estimated 1 million samples of rare garden seeds since our founding nearly 35 years ago. Those seeds now are widely used by seed companies, small farmers supplying local and regional markets, chefs and home gardeners and cooks, alike.

Sunday, April 11, 2010


A small sampling of the incredible world of tents:

Children in a home-made circus tent (1922)

Moroccon wedding tents

Yurt from Uzbekistan

Saturday, April 10, 2010


We are so excited... our friends Nelson and Lynn will have the world premiere of their film at the Full Frame Film Fest.

Summer Pasture
2010, 98 min. USA | China | Tibet
True Walker Productions

Summer Pasture is a feature-length documentary about a young nomadic couple living with their infant daughter in the high grasslands of eastern Tibet. Filmed during the summer of 2007 with rare access to an area seldom visited by outsiders, Summer Pasture offers an unprecedented window into a highly insular community and a sensitive portrait of a family at a time of great transition. Locho and his wife Yama live in Dzachukha, eastern Tibet - nicknamed "5-most" by the Chinese for being the highest, coldest, poorest, largest, and most remote area in Sichuan Province, China. They depend on their herd of yaks for survival, just as their ancestors have for generations. In recent years however, Dzachukha has undergone rapid development, which poses unprecedented challenges to nomadic life.

Summer Pasture evolves as an intimate exploration of Locho and Yama's personalities, relationship, and the complicated web of circumstances that surrounds them. Over its course we witness their travails with illness, infidelity, and the dissolution of their community. In the face of mounting obstacles, Locho and Yama gradually reveal the personal sacrifice they will make to ensure their daughter's future. Through its subtle observation of Locho and Yama's character, Summer Pasture provides a deeply personal account of what it means to be a nomad in a swiftly modernizing world, and a universal story of family survival.

Friday, April 09, 2010

DIY Pedialyte

Instead of getting crappy chemicals, make your own electrolyte tea for relief after diarrhea or vomiting (with stuff you probably already have in your cupboard):

Into 4 cups of warm water, stir in 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and 2-3 tablespoons sugar or honey. (Honey shouldn't be used for little babies).

Another recipe for an electrolyte replacement fluid from kellymom.com
1 teaspoon baking soda
8 teaspoons sugar
8 ounces orange juice
Dilute to 1 liter with water

You can add a little flavor by mixing in a little ginger brew (water boiled with grated ginger root or store-bought tea) since ginger helps settle stomachs and helps with nauseau.
Also, you can add some peppermint tea or a tiny drop of peppermint oil as it also helps with stomach pain. But, be aware, nursing moms: peppermint is associated with diminishing breastmilk.
Chamomile is generally calming and soothing.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Wood Pallet Architecture

Great use of recycled wood pallets... make a shed, fence, chicken coop, or something else altogether:

And a whole book of projects: Build It With Pallets

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Sad but ingenious

Due to the high rate of drinks getting spiked, someone has finally come up with a quick and easy way to test whether your drink is safe or not: Drink Safe USA

Monday, March 08, 2010

A Mysterious and Philosophical Baby

From Alison Gopnik's book, The Philosophical Baby:

It's possible that babies literally don't see a difference between their own pain and the pain of others. Maybe babies want to end all suffering, no matter where it happens to be located. For them, pain is pain and joy is joy. Moral thinkers from Buddha to David Hume to Martin Buber have suggested that erasing the boundaries between yourself and others in this way can underpin morality. We know that children's conception of a continuous separate self develops slowly in the first five years.

There's a good review of  the book here. And a few quotes from it below.

Gopnik speculates that early childhood prepares us for both the appreciation and creation of art: imaginary play among children hones the ability to entertain counterfactuals—the alternative worlds out of which art, and invention of any sort, are primarily made. ... Imaginary play is a rehearsal for understanding the minds and intentions of others, a basic survival skill.

Almost all of the 100 billion neurons in a human being's nervous system are in place at birth, and in early childhood the synapses—the points of contact between neurons that fire memory and sensation—are vastly overproduced. To a large extent, maturity is a neural pruning process, an uncluttering of consciousness so that what is most useful for getting through a day—driving to work, for instance, or negotiating the supermarket—is readily, and unconsciously, available. Our lives are far more organized around repetition than novelty. Less useful neurons weaken and die, a form of forgetting.

Gopnik offers the captivating idea that children are more conscious than adults but also less unconscious, because they have fewer automatic behaviors.

A Love Letter For You

A beautiful and inspiring project straight outta Philly (one the best cities in the USA for amazing murals):
The Love Letter For You project

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Monday, February 15, 2010

Museums Cont'd: Peace Museums

As a starting point, here are some of the institutions in this world that are uniquely dedicated to peace
(source: International Network of Museums for Peace)

AFRICOM International Council of African Museums
Albert Schweitzer House
Antikriegshaus Sieverhausen
Anti-Kriegs Museum
Battambang Peace Museum (project) in Cambodia
BOCS Foundation
Article 9 Society
Centre for Peace and Reconciliation Studies Coventry University
Centro Documentazione Manifesto Pacifista Internaz
Center for Peace Museum, Seoul Korea
Centre Mondial de la Paix (World Center for Peace)
Comenius Museum
Dayton International Peace Museum
Display House of the Fifth Lucky Dragon
Envision Peace Museum (planned opening 2013)
Europäisches Museum für Frieden
First Austrian Peace Museum
Flanders Fields
Franz Jägerstätter Haus (Franz Jägerstätter House)
Friedensbibliothek - Antikriegmuseum
Friedensbibliothek-Antikriegsmuseum ( Berlin , Germany )
Friedenshistorisches Museum (Peace History Museum)
Friedensraeume Lindau
Friedensmuseum Meeder
Friedensmuseum Nürnberg
Friedensmuseum Remagen
Friends of Peace
Gandhi Durshan Gandhi Smitri
Gandhi Memorial Museum
Gandhi Smarak Sangrahalaya
GandhiServe Foundation
Gernika Gogoratuz
Gernika Peace Museum Foundation
Ghent University
Global Peace Pioneers
Grassroots House
Green Island Human Rights Memorial Park
Gustavus Adolphus College, Peace Studies Program
Halabja Monument and Peace Museum
The Herbert
Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum
Historical Museum of Japanese Military Sexual Slavery
The Children’s Museum for Peace and Human Rights
Imperial War Museum
Indian Institute for Peace
Interfaith Peace Museum of Pakistan
International Exhibition Centre

International Museum of Peace and Solidarity
International Red Cross & Red Crescent Museum
Kochi University Peace Studies
Kurdistan, Save the Children Fund
Kyoto Museum for World Peace
Kyoto University of Education
La Paix Herb Farm Interactive Museum
Le Mémorial de Caen
The Lion and Lamb Peace Arts Center of Bluffton University
Lucerne Initiative for Peace and Security
Maria Stein Heritage Museum and the National Marian Shrine of the Holy Relics
Missing Peace Art Space
Musée Albert Schweitzer à Kaysersberg
Museum Haus am Checkpoint Charlie
Museo della Pace Piccoli Martiri di Gorla
Museum de la Paz (Museum for Peace)