Saturday, May 31, 2008

Skepticism

If we are not able to ask skeptical questions, to interrogate those who tell us that something is true, to be skeptical of those in authority, then we are up for grabs for the next charlatan, political or religious, who comes ambling along.

- Carl Sagan
You can download Sagan's classic book The Demon Haunted World here in PDF form.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Daddy's Little Darling Bunny

Daddy's Little Darling Bunny

My brother has some striking new artwork up on eBay. As he explains,
The theme of this painting is domestic violence.
It's about how children are forced into the middle of their parent's disputes and there is no safety zone for them.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Truth Will Out

Scott McClellan

Quotes for the week, if not the year:
History appears poised to confirm that the decision to invade Iraq was a serious strategic blunder. No one, including me, can know with absolute certainty how the war will be viewed decades from now ... What I do know is that war should only be waged when necessary, and the Iraq war was not necessary. ...

I spent countless hours defending the Administration from the podium in the White House briefing room. Although the things I said then were sincere, I have since come to realize that some of them were badly misguided.
Scott McClellan, Bush's Press Secretary from July 17, 2003 – April 26, 2006.

When even those closest to George Bush are confessing their disillusionment with his misguided and dishonest campaign, I guess there's some hope that American history books will record the details of our engagement with Iraq with a modicum of accuracy.

Further Reading:

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

You've Been Left Behind

Now, you can just use a Web site to tell folks - your loved ones, presumably - they've been left behind. And you even pay the site for the ability to do so. Genius. Think about it. Genius. I may have start this site and retire on the proceedings. With income in perpetuity. If L. Ron Hubbard were alive today, he would've built this site. And he would've laughed all the way to the bank.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Unparalleled Generosity

The Bush administration, we're told, is generously allowing Americans to send cellphones to their relatives in Cuba. What an extraordinary step forward for human rights. Now, how about to allowing those same Cuban-Americans to come and go freely to their own homeland? That's right. Cuban-born Americans have restrictions on their ability to travel to their place of birth - a clear human rights violation. And the rest of us Americans aren't really supposed to go there at all . (Technically, we're not supposed to spend American dollars there. Same difference.) Arguably, the government's restrictions on our travel to Cuba are not only impractical and ineffectual, they're un-Constitutional. In fact, if you ever traveled to Cuba and paid a fine for doing so, you should have insisted on holding onto your money: Our Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control has apparently never insisted on anyone paying the fine for fear that if they were taken to court over the matter, the travel restrictions would be deemed un-Constitutional. So, traveling to Cuba may be illegal, but it's also an excellent opportunity for legitimate civil disobedience.

Were the Bush government to make some changes to those restrictions, then I'd be impressed.

Graffiti & Street Art

NoLIta protest graffiti

Just created a set for Graffiti & Street Art on Flickr. I've taken photos of graffiti, wheat paste, and other forms of street art in many cities and countries around the world, including Charleston, London, Manchester, Barcelona, Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, San Juan, Prague, Berlin, and, of course, New York. Lots more, in fact, than I have on display here.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Errol Morris on Advertising

The May issue of GQ features a profile of Errol Morris, primarily to trace the arc of his career from his first documentary The Thin Blue Line to his latest, Standard Operating Procedure, which focuses on the infamous photos taken at Abu Ghraib. Along the way, however, he has a couple of things to say about advertising, which I found amusing.
[When asked whether he has any "dark hobbies—like computer games"]:
"No computer games. My darkest hobby of all is how I earn a living—I make TV commercials. That’s the darkest, darkest hobby of all."

Reading about Morris before I [interviewer Chris Heath] met him, I had seen him justify his love of commercials in two memorable and ingenious ways. The first was with his theory that while movies always try to sell us the lie that people can be heroes, commercials put forward the far more achievable and believable premise that products are heroes. The second was his notion that consumerism in general, and hence commercials in particular, divert us from our worst instincts as a race. This is how he once argued it: "I love commercials, unreservedly. The haiku of the West. And I like to think of consumerism as the most effective preventative to genocide yet devised. If someone shows up at your door and asks you to hack your neighbor to death with a machete, you’re less likely to do it if you have prior plans, say, to go and buy a DVD player."
The article also details Morris's friendship with Werner Herzog. Why am I not surprised that those two iconoclasts would strike up a friendship? And that they'd both end up annoying each other.

When German interviewer asked Morris about the message of his new film, Morris sighed and said, "I don’t know. Pick a different place to live than planet Earth?" Can't you just hear Herzog saying the same thing?

Errol Morris's Web site
, which includes many of the remarkable commercials he's made

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

An Historic Day

If post-911 America has been an often troubling, even bewildering place to be, today, the United States has reason to be proud. The Democrats may have had their squabbles over the past several weeks, but if folks on either side of the political divide will step back for moment, we can all appreciate this day for the extraordinary day that it is: Today, we have essentially nominated our first African-American candidate for President, whilst simultaneously seeing a female candidate go further than any female candidate before her. Down to the wire, in fact. There will be some predictable bitterness and squabbling on the Democratic side, and the Republicans will continue to moan about how Obama isn't qualified - despite having elected the least-qualified person into the office ... twice - but, no, we really do have cause for celebration. Congratulations, America. There's reason to love this fledgling, teenager of a country, warts 'n' all.

A Jihad for Love

Congratulations to Parvez Sharma and Sandi DuBowski on the release of A Jihad for Love here in NYC at IFC Center. The documentary details the live of gay and lesbian women, who are also Muslim. It was filmed over 5 1/2 years in 12 countries and in nine languages.

More details on Facebook, too, if you're in the area. You can also read Sharma's blog on his experience making the documentary and watch the Jihad for Love trailer.

With the debut of this film here in New York and California's recent confirmation of gay marriage, it's a remarkable week for human rights, coast to coast.

Related:

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

RIP Robert Rauschenberg

Robert Rauschenberg

One of my favorite artists Robert Rauschenberg died of heart failure yesterday. He was 82. Both a painter and a sculptor, he was most famous for his mixed media work. His work always seemed tough, but beautiful. From all appearances, he stayed busy until the end.

Wikipedia entry on Rauschenberg

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Quote for the Day

All your life you live so close to truth,
it becomes a permanent blur in the corner of your eye,
and when something nudges it into outline,
it is like being ambushed by a grotesque.

- Tom Stoppard

Monday, May 05, 2008

Subway Poem 5

She clutches the rail with striated bird hands
Lips pressed together tight to ward off the thrusting crowd
The floral silk of her blouse espouses
A more colorful demeanor than her gray countenance
Good for health, says the white lettering on her crisp, green bag
Her other, seated across from her
Free of fear
Her lipstick has run into her chin
Spittle flies with each other word
As she addresses her seat mate
I'll fly, she says, I'll fly, I'll fly!

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Pray the Devil Back to Hell

Pray the Devil Back to Heaven poster
"Does a bullet know Christian from Muslim?"
- tagline from Pray the Devil Back to Hell, and a paraphrase from one of the interviewees
I had the opportunity this afternoon to see the excellent documentary, Pray the Devil Back to Hell, which one best documentary at the Tribeca Film Festival. It features several Liberian women, who lead the effort to capture the attention of Charles Taylor and the warlords, who had been terrorizing Liberia. These women banded together and eventually forced Taylor and the warlords to both to dialogue with them and to engage in peace talks with each other. They even played out a real-life version of Lysistrata along the way.

It's a tragic and often harrowing story that also proves extraordinarily inspiring in the end. Watching the film, I wondered what you'd have to do to nominate these incredible women for a Nobel Peace Prize. Because these women certainly went to greater lengths to forge peace than some who have won that prize.

The documentary also focuses on how Christian and Muslim women alike united in their cause, realizing that their common plight as humans had grown far more important to them than their religious differences. So too women from traditionally unfriendly ethnic factions joined together, aligning themselves against the war.

The film-makers have been showing the documentary around the world in similar places that are being torn apart by various factions. And already women are uniting in similar fashion, motivated and empowered by what they've seen.

Now, by the way, with Charles Taylor is on trial at the Hague for crimes against humanity, and Liberia's current President is Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, the first elected female head of state in Africa's history.

Pray the Devil Back to Hell just won Tribeca's World Documentary Competition. Last year Taxi to the Dark Side won that award and went on to win the Academy Award for best documentary. One can only hope for similar success for this year's winner.

Thursday, May 01, 2008