Friday, October 31, 2008

Scary Monster & Super Creeps

For your listening enjoyment, I created a Halloween FavTape: Scary Monsters & Super Creeps. Happy Halloween.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Broadcast Yourself

The video ain't much to look at, but I just tried Qik, which allows you to live stream video from your mobile phone to the Qik Web site. That video is broadcast publicly (unless you choose otherwise), and automatically saved to your profile. Set up, as the name suggest, was very quick, and operating the installed application from my cell, astonishingly easy. I'd say the implications of this sort of technology for citizen journalism are huge.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Cloning Someone Great

Who doesn't like some LCD Soundsystem, and if you do, you'll agree that "All My Friends" and "Someone Great" were two of last year's best songs. I never tire of hearing them. But we all appreciate a little variety, right? So without further ado, here's my compilation of 10 mashups, remixes and covers of just those 2 songs, found in various places on the interwebs. You're welcome.
While we're at it, here's a real treat, too - the video for "Someone Great" directed by Doug Aitken:

Finally, here's Sounds Like Silverthe whole Sounds of Silver album remixed by the (intentionally anonymous) team  behind these Chemical Brothers remixes and these Prodigy remixes.

My Starbucks Idea

Doing a little research on user-generated content and submitted an idea to My Starbucks Idea: Create a Contest Site to Discover New Musicians.

There some great ideas there. I especially love the the buy someone a drink remotely idea, which appears to be the most highly rated, right now. I'm sure that idea could be replicated elsewhere on the Web to great success, too.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Domestic Terrorism

It's time we admitted we face the very real threat of domestic terrorism from people, who are, in fact, white and American by birth. That's not to say that radical Islam isn't also a threat, but it shouldn't be considered partisan to refer to the two men who were arrested yesterday as what they are: terrorists. So, too, by definition, Ms. Palin, are those individuals, who would blow up buildings and people to make political statements.
the term “terrorism” means premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents

- the definition of Terrorism under U.S. Law
More on the two neo-Nazis, who planned to assassinate Barack Obama and 102 innocent African-Americans.

Looking at the National Review's Corner today, aside from a startlingly brief mention by Kathryn Jean Lopez, you'd almost think the incident didn't happen. Apparently, some on the far right would like to ignore this sort of thing and just hope it goes away, but when there's an act of terror by Islamic fundamentalists, all we hear is "Where's the outrage?" if mainstream Muslims are perceived as not condemning the acts right away. A little consistency and intellectual honesty would be refreshing.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Nina Berman - Homeland

Border Watcher by Nina Berman

Border Watcher with Dogs, Arizona and Mexico border, 2008 - Nina Berman

If you're dawdling around Spring Street in NoLIta any time soon, drop into the Jen Bekman Gallery at 6 Spring and check out exhibit by documentary photographer, Nina Berman. It showcases 14 photos from her newly published monograph, Homeland. In her artist's statement, Berman describes the theme of her exhibit:
I came to this series after having spent the last few years photographing very graphic examples of the human cost of war. Many of the subjects I photographed said they grew up thinking war would be “fun.” Many watched the first Gulf War on TV and thought it was "awesome." Several said that becoming a soldier meant they would finally do something good in life.

Rather than continuing to show evidence of war, it seems appropriate for me to show the fantasies of war, the selling of war, the institutions of war, the culture of war and with it the militarization of American life.
Berman's photographs are matter-of-fact, even sterile sometimes, which only adds to their impact. The resulting conflation of the military industrial complex with ordinary American life - often including small children - is all the more haunting. I recently wrote about Berman's moving set of photos depicting Iraq veteran Ty Ziegel and his girlfriend. None of those pictures are on display, but may appear in the book.

More images from the exhibit
Nina Berman's Web site

Separated at Birth

Arizona Senator John McCain and Battlestar Galactica's Colonel Saul Tigh

Friday, October 24, 2008

What's Up?

Speaking of saving the world with video, this would have to be the best political ad I've ever seen.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Saving the World With Video

Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.
- Article 19 of UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Tonight, I went to a panel at The New School, entitled "Saving the World, One Video at a Time." Each of the four panelists represented human rights organizations, which focus on the use of video (chiefly in the form of documentaries) to educate and promote social change. A few details about each of the agencies follows:
  • Arts Engine - Maintains MediaRights, a database of some 7000 documentaries on the subject of human rights, available to educators, librarians, and activists. It also presents the Media that Matters film festival each June, a showcase for a dozen new short films on human rights issues.
  • Human Rights Watch International Film Festival - Human Rights Watch selects documentaries from over 500 submissions to feature in this festival each year. The festival encourages film makers of any age and point of view to submit their work.
  • Video Volunteers - a social media network, which focuses on issues pertaining to the poor in rural communities around the world. Maintains Channel 19, an online network for distributing community-produced media in India.
  • WITNESS  - Encourages people to create videos about or depicting human rights violations and to submit them via The Hub, a sort of YouTube site for human rights videos.
The panel was organized by The Center for Communication and The New School's Department of Media Studies and Film.

Giving Proper Context

I do believe that for folks like me who’ve worked hard but frankly also been lucky, I don’t mind paying just a little bit more than the waitress who I just met over there. . . . She can barely make the rent. . . . And I think that when you spread the wealth around, it’s good for everybody.

- Barack Obama, speaking to Samuel J. (Joe) Wurzelbacher, AKA "Joe the Plumber"
The necessaries of life occasion the great expense of the poor. . . . The luxuries and vanities of life occasion the principal expense of the rich, and a magnificent house embellishes and sets off to the best advantage all the other luxuries and vanities which they possess. . . . It is not very unreasonable that the rich should contribute to the public expense, not only in proportion to their revenue, but something more than in that proportion.

- Adam Smith. In “The Wealth of Nations” (1776)
Excerpted from Steve Coll's current New Yorker article "Overtaxed"

Monday, October 20, 2008

IQ Test

Which of the following is not like the others?

The Grave of Specialist Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan

Elsheba Khan at the grave of her son, Specialist Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan.

Bronze Star. Purple Heart.

Operation Iraqi Freedom

Photo for The New Yorker by Platon

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Top 10 Cheap Indulgences After the Economic Collapse

So the bottom's about to rust out of the economic bucket? Trying to think positive, here's 10 cheap things to indulge in and be thankful for after the collapse.
  1. Listen to those old CDs you have laying around
  2. Croissants!
  3. Ride your bike
  4. Read those old New Yorkers you have lying around
  5. Walk around your 'hood 
  6. Converse All-Stars
  7. Netflix
  8. Deli coffee in those classic New York paper cups 
  9. Toasted cheese sandwiches with a glass of milk
  10. Flickr!
Feel free to add your own in comments.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Two Short Orders

Friend and Lego-sculptor extraordinaire, Sean Kenney has created this striking and poignant new sculpture, entitled "Two Short Orders," which "is an observation on the financial crisis currently engulfing the world."

He was inspired by the short order cook at his local deli, who recently added a sign to his tip jar, saying "Euro & Peso accepted too."

Monday, October 13, 2008

Banksy's Village Pet Store and Charcoal Grill

Saturday night, we paid a visit to Banksy's first New York exhibit, the delightful and disturbing Village Pet Store and Charcoal Grill.

Here a few photos I took there. The exhibit satirizes our comfort level with the processing of animals for human consumption and their use in product testing, as well as surveillance society and other themes. Many folks, however, just seemed to think it's cute. It certainly is entertaining, and I encourage you to go by, as the photos don't do it justice - each of the creatures depicted move and interact via animatronics.

Also, a brief BBC story on the exhibit with photos.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Subway Photography

23 Ely

I'm quite a fan of subway photography and have a set of subway photos on Flickr, as well as a public group I founded, which now has 45 members and some great photos. 

I just happened across this set by mcbnyc, who takes a photo of every subway train he rides as it arrives. Looks like he often rides the same line I do. 

I stumbled across mcbnyc's efforts reading this thread about the legality of taking photos on the subway. It is legal, but apparently MTA employees regularly harass people taking photos, threatening to fine them or have the arrested. Earlier this year, photographers met in Brooklyn to protest MTA harassment. 

The MTA's Web site actually explicitly allows photography, though if forbids tripods, unless you're a member of the press with identification.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Pattern Recognition

This blog tends to focus on human rights, politics, and whatnot - all those serious, grave controversial subjects - as well as photography, literature, science and whatever else randomly strikes me.

If things get too heavy here, check out my Tumblr blog, Pattern Recognition: I make a concerted effort to keep it colorful, positive and entirely non-political. It consists mainly of quotes, which inspire me in the moment and photos of stuff which amuses or touches me, and which I've generally taken and uploaded on the spot with my cell phone.

I do write about politics and sometime religion on this blog pretty openly because I'm convinced that as a society we've made it a taboo to discuss the three topics we should probably be having the most dialogue around: sex, politics and religion. Because we're not always sure how to handle these subjects delicately and diplomatically and because some people can't engage in debate respectfully either without taking offense or quickly descending into ad hominem attacks, we've kinda thrown up our hands and decided not to discuss such things, unless we feel pretty safely that we're preaching to the converted.

As a result, in the 21st century we have
  • Kids getting pregnant at 17 and then forced into marriage because their parents didn't want them told explicitly how their privates function
  • Folks believing and fiercely defending the idea that Iraq attacked us on 9/11 and that Barack Obama is a covert Muslim/terrorist/communist/all of the above
  • Folks believing the Bush administration engineered the events of 9/11 in order to justify its hawkish, pro-Democracy agenda
  • Folks believing that our gay friends aren't deserving of the same civil and human rights as the rest of us
  • Folks believing all sorts of other superstitious nonsense - often to the detrimental effect of the health and well-being of others
What part of any of that is any good? So I'm a believer in open but civil dialogue. Sometimes it might get a little rough and tumble, sometimes there might be a healthy injection of humor or satire, but, hopefully, it remains civil and respectful. Otherwise, we're just preaching to the converted. 

We all - liberals and conservatives, Republicans and Democrats, Christians and Muslims, and so on - suffer from a tendency to focus upon only that information, which reinforces that which we already believe.  To ignore that is to misunderstand the human condition. But it'd be nice if we could recognize that pattern of thinking and work to overcome it.  

P.S. I just added comments to Pattern Recognition. Like many, I love the minimalist approach to Tumblr, but I think the ability to comment creates more community.

Cash Does Presley

CNN just posted some vintage footage from 1959 of Johnny Cash impersonating Elvis Presley.

"This is an impersonation of a rock-n-roll singer impersonating Elvis," says Cash. And a pretty scathing impersonation of Presley follows.

Ouch. With that simple introduction, Cash summed up neatly while I'll always be a Johnny Cash fan and have long found Elvis ersatz and superficial. From Presley would spring ten thousand manufactured pop stars and a music industry machine, which continuously thrusts market-formulated music down our throats today.

Not to dis the King entirely: without him admittedly, we'd have no Madonna (some may shrug at that thought). But neither would we have Britney Spears. He was an excellent performer. Just not a musician.

It's About Time

John McCain earned a small amount of the respect I once had for him back tonight, when he - finally - interrupted some of his own constituents to correct them on Barack Obama's nature (not a terrorist) and religious beliefs (not a Muslim, not that it should matter). When he corrected the first man, who expressed his fear of raising a child under an Obama presidency (!), responding that Obama's a decent man with whom he simply disagrees, he was greeted with a chorus of boos from his own supporters. Later, when

A cynical side of me thinks - not without good reason - that Obama had to correct the folks at this point a) because they were getting increasingly belligerent, racist, and potentially violent, but also b) because they were simply making his campaign look bad. Ridiculous, in fact. And this, like his choice of Palin, was reflecting poorly on his judgment. Nonetheless, his tone struck me a genuine, and I thank him for correcting those bigoted individuals on matters, which have been spreading for months now.

Now, let's see if Sarah Palin's willing to do the same.

We probably have the failing economy to thank somewhat for Obama's success right now, but I'd like to think people's critical thinking skills have improved somewhat since the Swift Boaters convinced so many to believe their hateful dreck during Kerry's campaign.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Nachtwey's Wish: Defeat TB

I didn't have time to write about this last week when it rolled around, but James Nachtwey's TED Wish turned out to be a series of photos highlighting a particularly resistant strain of TB, which is taking many lives globally: XDR-TB. From the site:
[I]n 2007 alone, TB killed 1.7 million people. That’s 4,660 deaths a day, or one death from TB every 20 seconds. TB is the leading killer of people with HIV: Individuals are able to live with HIV but are dying from TB. Without proper treatment, 90% of those living with HIV die within months of contracting TB.
This Time magazine article also includes the above video with Nachtwey's photography. 

Some Good News

Amongst all the bad news, finally some good news: an advancement for human rights in Connecticut as the court decide that banning marriage for gay couple is un-Constitutional and that the state's law banning gay marriage discriminates on the basis of sexual orientation. It's good to know that even with a guttering economy and under a belligerent and hawkish administration, we're still making progress in areas where it counts.

Now, come on New York, get on the ball. We're only half-way there

Monday, October 06, 2008

Noted Without Comment

From Wikipedia, the origins of the descriptor "Maverick":
Samuel Augustus Maverick (July 23, 1803–September 2, 1870) was a Texas lawyer, politician, land baron and signer of the Texas Declaration of Independence. His name is the source of the term "maverick", first cited in 1867, which means independent minded. Maverick was considered independent minded by his fellow ranchers because he refused to brand his cattle. In fact, Maverick's failure to brand his cattle had little to do with independent mindedness, but reflected his lack of interest in ranching. He is the grandfather of U.S. Congressman Maury Maverick, who coined the term gobbledygook (1944).

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Banned Books Week

"Our liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost." -  Thomas Jefferson
It's Banned Books Week again from September 27th - October 4th, so pony up a few dollars for a copy of Catcher in the Rye - or the American Heritage Dictionary for that matter or pull that neglected copy of Huck Finn out of storage and give it another read.

Delete Censorship has a great list of 100 Most Frequently Banned or Challenged Books . Here are three of my favorites:
  • Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck - hard to know what impact this book would have on me if I read it now for the first time, but when I read it as a teenager, I wept like a baby. A great little novel, with great details (Curely's Vaseline-filled glove), which we tend to take for granted after being forced to read it.
  • The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood - the irony of religious groups attempting to ban a book about persecution by the religious should, of course, be lost on no one. And those folk would do well to remember that The Bible consistently appears in lists of banned books, along with the works of Shakespeare, The Koran. In 2003, a Cuban court even ordered copies of The U.S. Constitution destroyed.  In other words, who gets to decide what's offensive?
  • The House of Spirits by Isabel Allende - what's not to love about this rich, colorful work of fiction? Guess it must have some saucy passages that offended the more prudish.
  • Lord of the Flies by William Golding - not the sunniest appraisal of human nature and how quickly civilization can deteriorate - I imagine it offends both liberals who believe we're all innately good and conservative horrified by kids murdering each other. In other word, it's probably a fairly accurate portrayal of what would happen. Alex Garland added a decade to everyone's age and had a hit with The Beach, so you there's something about the scenario we find compelling. 
Keep in mind, those are just the 100 most frequently banned or challenged - that's "out of 6,364 challenges reported to or recorded by the Office for Intellectual Freedom, as compiled by the Office for Intellectual Freedom, American Library Association."