Wednesday, December 30, 2009

RIP David Levine

In Steve Brodner's words, political cartoonist David Levine was "a hard working artist who understood the truth of our lives: that nothing matters but the relationship between you and the piece of paper. Any analysis is, at its worst, bullshit, and at best, a benign distraction because it never really catches the plasticity and dynamism of a living artist’s process. He knew what was important. The discoveries you make as an artist. The connections between the pictures and people. This was in him and in his work."

Friday, December 18, 2009

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

CSART - A Local Art Library


The Problem

Artists contribute much to their communities yet struggle to survive in those same communities. Making a living as a visual artist is nearly impossible. I’ve been self-employed as a full time artist for three and a half years and despite a steady stream of commissions, I could not have survived this long without spending all my savings. The commissions I receive don’t pay what the time of an adult professional is worth. Now, maybe that’s just my art, but I rarely meet an artist who is not either struggling to make a living or too busy working some other job to work on their art as much as they’d like. People value having art and artists in their communities, but the current model of selling/sharing art has failed all parties involved. The artists can’t survive. The people don’t have enough access to the art that the artists produce.

The CSA Model

Over the last 20 years, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs have created mutually beneficial relationships between consumers and local farmers. The farmers sell “shares” or “subscriptions” to the consumers at the beginning of the season. This allows the farmers to earn money early in the season, pay for seeds, etc., while also allowing them to grow different types of crops, as opposed to whatever the market dictates. The buyers then receive a box of fresh local vegetables every week for the duration of the season. Farmers and consumers meet each other, develop relationships, and foster a sense of community. The sense of community is further developed through the consumers’ shared risk in the endeavor – the fate of the farmer’s crops becomes the fate of the community’s produce. Tens of thousands of families have joined CSA’s in the last couple decades and the model’s popularity continues to rise. The model has been so successful that it’s been adopted by fishermen, who provide fresh fish weekly to their members in a version of the model that protects the fishermen from treacherous weather and protects fish and ocean ecology from over-fishing of any given species. There have also been Community Supported Bakeries developed recently. Clearly, the movement is growing.

Product sharing models

In addition to the popular CSA model, there has been tremendous growth in non-consumable product sharing models over the last decade. The most successful of these is probably Netflix, where members rent a movie online, receive the dvd in the mail, and return it with the outgoing mail at their leisure. Netflix was the natural offspring of its prototype sharing model – the video rental store – and the internet. The rental store, of course, was the child of the library, the oldest of old school sharing institutions. Another highly creative and successful product sharing company is Zipcar. Members of Zipcar share rental cars parked conveniently around the cities in which they live. They too can manage their rentals online. Communities have also worked together to establish tool banks, from which members can borrow tools for home improvement and other projects. There is even a company that rents high fashion dresses online using a model similar to Netflix. Product sharing models make expensive items affordable and accessible. If you can’t buy, borrow. If you can’t own, share.

The CSA & product sharing Models Applied to Art

Could these popular and effective models be applied to floundering local art industries?

As far as the CSA model goes, art isn’t seasonal like agriculture or fishing, so it’s not a direct fit to a traditional CSA model. Secondly, art requires more time to produce and is not a consumable like food. A model in which subscribers got a piece of art each week for a season would be too demanding on the artists and too expensive for the subscribers – not to mention more art than they’d want. So that doesn’t quite fit either. But what if we kept the spirit of the CSA model (support local industry, foster sense of community) and altered the structure a bit. Could it provide the same benefits to both the buyers and sellers of local art that a CSA does? What if we incorporated product sharing ideas?

One model that might accomplish this is a CSA style local art library. It’s not uncommon for artists to accumulate pieces that end up hanging all over their own walls or stacked in the corner of their apartment or studio, when they’re not displayed in shows. If artists pooled these paintings together and lent them out, this might create a new stream of revenue for them.

Let’s say we start with 10 artists, each of whom puts 10 pieces of art into the library’s collection. Then we sign up 20 subscribers who pay $200 a year for a subscription to the library. Each subscriber chooses 2 pieces of art to bring home with them for 3 months. Every 3 months, they’ll return the pieces to the collection and select 2 more rental pieces to take home. If multiple subscribers want the same piece in the same 3 month period, it could be settled by a coin flip or something similar (rock-paper-scissors tournament, drawing of names, ping pong ball lottery, etc.). Then, those who don’t get the desired piece would pick another one and would be in the queue for the desired piece at the next 3 month period. If it were a ping pong ball lottery drawing, each time someone didn’t win, they would get an extra ping pong ball in the next drawing. Or subscribers could set up a queue similar to Netflix to rank their preferences. It could be a raffle scene at the quarterly art exchange which might create excitement and even a competitive desire for the art.

Competition to what end? Part two of the library system would be the subscribers‘ opportunity to buy the paintings in the collection. If there were some competitive desire for certain pieces, that would encourage sales. To stick with the community concept, the proceeds from the sales could be distributed amongst the artists, with the biggest share going to the artist of the sold piece. For example, the artist could get 50% of any of their art sold and the other artists would split the other 50%. Artists routinely give up 30% of sales of their art at galleries, so this wouldn’t be too much of a stretch beyond that, especially considering they’d earn money on other artists‘ sales too. This model would create three revenue streams for the artists: their share of the subscription fees, sales of their own work, and sales of the other artists‘ work - all real money for art that otherwise would have been sitting around the house or studio. When an artist’s piece sells out of the collection, the artist would be responsible for adding another piece to keep up the size of the collection. We’d want a decent sized collection to account for differences in taste and turnover of borrowed pieces.

There wouldn’t be a physical library per se for the art but the collection could be viewed online and there could be a rotating show at a local coffee shop, restaurant, or bar, that would feature one piece from each artist, rotating every three months along with the rest of the borrowed paintings. The establishment that hangs the art on its walls wouldn’t get a percentage of the profits but they would get free advertising, free local art on their walls, and business from hosting the tri-monthly exchange of art. All the subscribers would come in with their old piece, pick up their new piece, and would be encouraged to meet the artists. Each exchange could feature one or two of the artists talking about their artwork, their history, influences, plans, etc and/or doing some sort of live demonstration of their work. Alternatively, all this could take place at a gallery or some other arts institution.

The numbers are completely variable depending on a few factors, but here’s a general idea of how it might work. If we started with 10 artists and 20 subscribers at $200 per subscription per year, that’d be $4000 in subscription revenue, which would come to $400 per artist per year. Then, if each subscriber ended up buying one piece at let’s say $200 on average, and we used the 50-50 split, the least an artist would earn that year would be about $620 (if none of their pieces sold); the most an artist would make would be $2400 (if all 20 sales were their pieces). If three of twenty sales were an artist’s pieces, that artist would make $900. If ten of twenty sales were an artist’s pieces, that artist would make $1510. And so on. The numbers would change based on how many pieces sold and for how much they sold. But the minimum income with these numbers – if nothing sold - would be $400 a year for an artist. That’s not exactly a huge revenue stream, but it’s something for art that would be making nothing sitting around the house. Now imagine if the idea caught on and we got 100 subscribers and they paid $300 a year. That’s $30,000 in subscription revenue plus whatever is made on sales. We could be talking about $4000 or $5000 a year per artist - for artwork that wasn’t previously earning any money. If you got 200 subscribers, double that. If the average price of the paintings sold was $400 instead of $200, double the sales revenue. Double one win and you get two. Subscribers get a rotation of local art in their home and artists get previously unaccessed revenue = win win.

Possible concerns

What about damage to art? – It’d probably have to be a you break it, you buy it contract. This might deter some subscribers, but it would also bring in the shared risk aspect of the CSA model. We could give everyone instructions on care, places to avoid hanging (kitchen, bathroom, direct sunlight), and packaging for transportation of the art. Or maybe we could work some variation of you break it, you buy it. The subscriber could buy it at 75% cost, with the 25% swallowed by the CSART, or return it and pay a 50% of cost penalty, with the 50% swallowed by the CSART. This might diffuse any disputes between artists and subscribers over what constitutes damage. Or we could build some sort of damage insurance into the membership fee.

What if some artists sell, and some don’t. Isn’t this unfair to the sellers? – As compared to what people would make at a gallery that took 30% of profits, artists will still come out ahead if 50% of all sales were their pieces. We could easily incorporate an adjustable percentage beyond that. For example, if your art accounted for over 50% of the total art sold, your share of your sales could go up to 66%. Using the above numbers, this would ensure that you’d come out ahead of the gallery scenario even if 100% of the total art sold was yours.

If subscription numbers rise, more artists would need to be added, and then the profits would be split more ways. – This is a good problem to have. If subscription numbers balloon, media outlets will be interested in the story and this will mean more advertising/marketing for the artists. That’s beyond the regular free advertising/marketing that you’d already be enjoying by having your art hanging in the houses of art appreciators around town.

Isn’t exclusivity in picking artists counter to the CSA collective spirit? – The CSART Local Art Library model is completely open source – If you like the idea and aren’t included in a particular library, then start your own. Quality is an integral part of any CSA. People want fresh vegetables, fresh fish, etc. And people will want to hang quality art on their walls, so it’s natural for library organizers to want to pick what they consider to be a diverse collection of good artists. Also, diversity of art style in the collection will make the CSART more attractive to subscribers.

Aren't you worried that "CSART" will be read as "Seize Art" or "Cease Art"? – Yes. Yes I am. While it's a clever tie in to the CSA name and it could be read as "Sees Art", it's probably not the best name. This is probably not the final name.


I'm workshopping/brainstorming/testing the whole CSART Local Art Library idea right now and would love any feedback anyone has to give - artist feedback, potential subscriber feedback, business/marketing feedback, community organizer feedback, etc, etc, etc, etc, etc.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Wednesday, November 04, 2009


Shaime on Maine for voting to ban gay marriage. Extra Shaime on everyone who organized to push this vote through. Extra extra shaime on the Catholic Church. You're an embarrassment to Jesus.

The good news, as DailyKos points out, is that it's just a matter of time before the bigots will die out and be replaced by people who can't understand why they would think they should have any say over two grown adults' decision to get married.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Monday, October 12, 2009

Friday, October 09, 2009


The Phillies have a pitcher named Bastardo. I mean, c'mon. That's just too fantastic. He struck out Jason Giambi on 4 pitches today. Of course he did. Because he's Bastardo! And it's Giambi.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Yankees' Playoff Preview

A 10 run 6th inning capped the Yankees' 103rd win this afternoon. I was optimistic about their chances in the regular season after the acquisitions of Sabathia and Texiera, and the returns of Posada (from injury), Pettitte (from free agency), and Cano (from bad form). But 103 wins well exceeded those optimistic expectations. CC and Tex have been worth every penny, Jeter's been fantastic, Mariano's been Mariano, and pretty much everyone's contributed substantially. And there's that A-Rod guy. Thanks to the prankster principal for this link.

Questions remain for the playoffs. How will their starting pitching fare beyond CC? Will Joba and Burnett be effective? And who will catch Burnett? Will their offense suffer if Molina's in the line-up? Will their bats stay hot?

But there are questions every playoffs. I'm just glad that October matters again. I'm not going to get into saying I'd rather have one team over another because I've been wrong about that the last few times. It'll either be the Tigers (and Verlander on short rest) or the Twins. Bring em on. The playoffs have a knack for sorting out who the best team is, so we'll have to beat all comers. Go Yanks!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Art Returned, Case Closed.

The painting arrived in the mail yesterday in good condition, so that's the end of that. The return address was that of the Lower Depths, the bar from which the painting was stolen - clever. But the postmark was from Brooklyn - shocker. Looks like our art thief moved on to hipper pastures. In any case, it's a relief. Now I don't have to give up one of the other paintings that will be hanging in Ula Cafe in Jamaica Plain for the next month, which is both the last month of the baseball season and a month that includes next weekend's JP Open Studios. If you're in the area, stop by and check it out. I'll be manning a small table out front. This will allow me to market the paintings and keep an eye on sketchy potential thieves like the shifty characters pictured below.

Any one of them could be a thief.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Art Thief Fesses Up!

Believe it or not, the great stolen art caper of 2009 has been solved. This weekend, I was working on the and took the opportunity to rename the stolen painting to "Stolen By Scum". Apparently, the thief had the good sense to take my card along with the painting off the wall, because he or she emailed me today with the subject line "Stolen By Scum". Here's the body of that email:


I am that scum. You may or may not want to hear the story of how I took your painting, but here it is anyway. It was my last night in Boston and I was out celebrating with some friends. We ended up at The Lower Depths and after drinking a little too much, I was egged on to take your painting. It was not out of maliciousness of any kind, but out of admiration for your work. We had spent time discussing which piece of the series that we liked the best. Your painting is still in the same condition, and is on my wall.

HOWEVER, I feel particularly bad about what I have done. (I wouldn't be writing if I didn't.) I completely understand that you are upset, as I would be myself. So here are three suggestions I have to amend the situation. The first is that I pay for the painting. The second is that I send it back to either you or The Lower Depths. And the third is that I create some original art and send it to you, within two weeks time.

I am sincerely sorry for this whole ordeal. I have learned my lesson and will not under any circumstances do it again.

What is this, Let's Make A Deal? Art Door Number 3? When I posted this on facebook, I got an avalanche of comments telling me to go for the money and to go big. I would have been inclined to do so, since ultimately a compensated stolen painting pays the bills as well as a sold one does, but the stolen painting was already sold and hanging in the show as a favor from the buyer. So, I chose the send-it-back amends option. And I was pretty polite, if curt. I thanked him/her for having the decency to contact me and make amends. I told him/her to send the painting to my home address and I said I'd spare him/her any further commentary since he/she already felt bad, had learned a lesson and wouldn't do it again. Conscience is the cruelest of bounty hunters.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Art Stolen From The Lower Depths Tap Room

If you're an artist and you don't want your art to be stolen, then don't hang it at the Lower Depths Tap Room on Commonwealth Ave near Fenway Park in Boston.

I hate to hit my dear readers over the head with such a vengeful and self-serving statement, but I want to ensure that I include as many searchable terms here as possible, such as: "art theft", "painting stolen", "not safe for an art show", "manager of the Lower Depths is an oily troll scumbag". And in case you're better with pictures than words, this is the place:

Faithful VTKids may remember that I had a showing of my baseball paintings at Bukowski Tavern in Inman Square earlier this summer. That show went quite well - I sold four paintings, the manager couldn't have been better to deal with, and the owner had a message conveyed to me to contact her other bar, The Lower Depths Tap Room, about having a show of the baseball paintings there. It sounded like an ideal situation, since it's a couple blocks from Fenway in Kenmore Square. Earlier this year, I'd been frustrated to find out that that neighborhood is off-limits to street vendors - a fact that derailed my plans to walk around and sell the very same baseball paintings to the roving Fenway Faithful. As for the bar, I was concerned about possible drunk college kid theft, but it seemed like a decent gamble considering the potential sales to suburban, spendy, day-in-the-city, drunk, impulse buyers. If one got stolen, it would hopefully only be after a few sales and then I'd simply take the show down and cut my losses, as they say.

Now, if I were to come up with a comic book caricature of the worst person for an artist to deal with, I could not have done better than the oily incompetent troll that bears the title of manager of the Lower Depths. And I couldn't have conjured a better wanker of a sidekick than his smarmy bartender. Maybe they resented the show being pushed on them by ownership and responded by doing the bare minimum in working with me. Maybe they don't like artists and wish they were a more standard sports bar. Dunno. What I du no is that it was clear that they were not going to do one percent more than necessary in the arrangement or management of this show. Despite the show being solicited by the owner, I had to call repeatedly, week after week, and bike out of my way to the place twice to meet with them, before even getting a time frame and confirmation of the show. This is a pain in the ass under normal circumstances, but becomes a real pain in the ass when you have to postpone other shows in order to wait on the coveted baseball season Fenway show. I inquired about the theft issue and Oily Troll and Wank McWankerstein both told me that the place was patronized by more grad students than undergrads and they'd never had a painting stolen. They made it sound like the atmosphere found in both Bukowski Taverns, which are inhabited by a mostly non-thieving crowd.

On the day of the show, I dropped the paintings off in a rush since I was illegally parked and needed to get the zipcar back. When I told this to the bartender, whom I'd met twice before, and said I'd be right back, he motioned for me to hold up while he finished his phone call. He talked for two minutes and then waved me on, without hanging up, talking to me, or moving from behind the bar. When I returned on bike to hang the paintings and put up the price/info tags, he told me that I couldn't hang the tags, that the owner "didn't want it to seem like a gallery". This almost certainly allowed the thief to think they were stealing from the bar, rather than stealing from the artist. He told me he'd keep a price list behind the bar.

When the painting (pictured here) did get stolen, the Oily Troll couldn't have cared less. Really. I'm trying to envision a scenario in which it could be said that they cared less. I can't. They didn't even contact me to let me know. I happened to drop by because I found out that they were not telling people the prices and instead telling them to email me (not great if you're going for that day-at-the-game, drunk, impulse sales). When I asked him about the missing painting, the oily troll acted aggressive/defensive, like I was being a primadonna, and like it was just one of those things. He said he was going to contact me at some point. He seemed to be trying to manage my reaction and to convey that I had no right to be upset about it. When I asked him if there was somewhere we could store them until I got back later, he asked why. Because my art was stolen, dickhead, and I'm not hanging them here anymore. He refused to store them and said I would have to leave them on the wall until I got back.

Oddly, the real salt in the wound is the fact that I acted like a consummate professional throughout the whole experience. I mean, you want to be an unprofessional, obnoxious dickhead? I can do that. I'm really fucking good at that. But I held back. This anger management stuff is bullshit. *Walking away from bar, fuming, thinking about how I'm going to update my facebook status*

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Enough Of The Fish Already.

That picture of my cod (not to be confused with my codpiece) has been headlining VTK for far too long. I was preparing to do a post on how stupidly the Cambridge police acted, but what's there to say? The Cambridge police acted stupidly. Barack Obama may be forced to backtrack from that statement, but I'm happy to give it a new home here. I've been living in Cambridge for 9 years and I have no reservations saying they acted stupidly, because I've seen them act stupidly - and lie about it - on more than one occasion. I'd be happy to discuss this with anyone who disagrees in the comments, but that's all there is to say on the post itself. [update: said discussion did ensue in the comments.] Now on to some pictures of the insane trail BV and I hiked in New Hampshire's White Mountains this weekend:

That's not us in the pictures (and the rocks weren't that dry). I found these on google images and borrowed them since we were too busy being exhausted, discouraged, terrified, and disoriented to take any pictures when we were on the "trail". What you see there is the Flume Slide Trail up to the top of Mt. Flume, elevation 4300 feet. According to this hiker/blogger who gives a good account of the hike, it's about 3000 ft of total elevation gain up Flume Slide, to the peak, and over/up to the adjacent Mt. Liberty. 1800 of that is on the 0.7 miles of Flume Slide rock wall that somehow qualified for the name "trail". We got some advice from a couple hikers who had just climbed down "suicide hill" and suggested that we pull ourselves up using the trees along the side of it and climb through the forest where possible. Somehow, that description didn't deter us. The Appalachian Mountain Club tries to stop people from climbing through the forest next to the wet rock trail by laying trees across the paths that people bushwhack. So, while climbing up the wet rock wall is practically impossible, climbing up through the dense and obstacled forest with a big 45 pound backpack is merely almost impossible. I couldn't figure out how the AMC expected us to climb up the wet rock walls without dying. There were no warnings or anything. The only way we could do it was to crisscross the face of the trail, burrowing through the side trails. Eventually we stopped seeing the blue blazes that marked the trail. We were lost in a dense, steep thicket of trees and rocks. Every 25 feet or so, it would look like we had no option of where to go. We would pick the most tenable passageway and go up another 25 feet. While we were demoralized and starting to get concerned about light and water, we were heartened to see that other people had clearly gotten lost and passed through this way too. It wasn't a marked or approved trail, but it had become a trail of some sort. We also knew that it couldn't go up forever. Eventually, we'd get to a top, if not the top of Mt. Flume. We'd be able to put the tent down somewhere, if not on an approved campground platform. After a couple hours, the incline decreased and I came over a small ridge to see an AMC sign! I chucked my poles and screamed in triumph. Here's the sign (obviously without the snow):

It doesn't say anything about the "Flume Slide Trail" and we didn't see it on our 0.1 hike to the peak of Mt. Flume and beyond. That unmarked bushwhacky madness might have actually been the trail the whole time. When we finally got to the campsite, the ranger dude who supervises the site said he'd never climb the Flume Slide Trail in these wet conditions. So, that answered my question as to how the AMC expected people to climb the trail: it didn't. Not unless it was bone dry, anyway.

What's really funny to me - in retrospect - is that when we chose the trail, it did not occur to us at all that we were about to climb a trail NAMED AFTER A FUCKING WATER SLIDE. This only occurred to me when I was doing a google image search for "flume slide".

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Something's Fishy

Not this fish. Not fishy in that rotting old fish fishy smell sort of way. This bad boy's straight off the boat.

I joined a local Community Supported Fish program this summer with BV and the roommates. For $45 a person, we're getting more fish than we can fit in our bellies for 12 weeks.

Those fillets don't look that great because I hadn't filleted a fish in years, I hacked it up a bit, and the photo makes it look grayish, but trust me - it was as fresh as fresh gets and delicious. In addition to these 2 big fillets, I was left with the head and bones:

I used the head and bones to make a big pot of fish stock, which I then used to make New England Fish Chowdah.

A little white wine to cook the fish, a little for the stock, and a little for the cook. I love the CSF.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Green Balloons Over Tehran

Long live creative dissent. As the government cracks down on protests in the streets of Iran, some creative protesters take to the roofs to launch green balloons over those streets. Adapt!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Revolution Will Be Tweeted

When the US State Department asks you to hold off on scheduled maintenance because the fate of a critically important nation is at stake ... you've arrived. Just a short couple months ago, I was confessing to not really grasping the obsession with Twitter. Well, suffice it to say that the role Twitter has played in the dissemination of information in an otherwise media-blacked-out Iran over the last couple weeks has fully dispelled any doubts I had about the power of the tweet.

Now that the only news coming out of Iran is coming from citizen journalists - protesters and bystanders alike - using their cellphones and twitter feeds, the importance of microblogging should be obvious. But even a week and a half ago, after the election but before the government moved to total media lockdown, the tweets were making themselves heard. Here's an article from stodgy old media stalwarts, The Wall Street Journal, talking about how twitterers were able to push fellow media dinosaurs CNN into better/more coverage of the protests in Iran. Not only did CNN step up their coverage after the online public shaming, they published a stroke job of an article about the emergence of twitter as a news source. This made me wonder what the media landscape will look like in the future if major media felt compelled to respond to trends and popular demands on twitter. Will our news be dictated by those savvy enough to manipulate and mobilize microblogging? The obvious concern for critical consumers of media is the legitimacy and reliability of this potentially massive stream of information. How do we know what's True and what's unverified, unreliable, or even false, manipulated, or engineered?

The picture at the top of the post is from twitterer Iridium24 via The Atlantic's Andrew Sullivan's blog, The Daily Dish. Sullivan is a credible journalist and has been compiling what he considers to be legitimate tweets. Is this the model of the future? Will the modern journalist essentially be a credible librarian, collator, and dispatcher of the data collected and broadcast by the people on the streets? The journalist becomes the editor and the reader becomes the journalist? If you consider journalism to be a skill at all, then there are ramifications from this transformation that extend beyond the idea that it's good to have more people reporting and disseminating news.

Rachel Maddow talked to another tweet gatherer,
Nico Pitney from the Huffington Post, on her show last week about his role in gathering information from the streets of Iran, while in his office in New York:

Since that interview, the media situation in Iran has devolved to the point where these twitter feeds, flickr and youtube images, and other transmissions are literally the only news coming out of Iran other than the obvious propaganda of the government. This type of proletariat micromedia may literally be the last hope of the people. But unfortunately, it might also spell their doom.

Check out this fascinating lecture that technology expert Clay Shirky gave last month, before the Iranian election. It's 17 minutes but I highly recommend you watch it because I can't quote it all:

In discussing the phones, cameras, blackberries and other tools being used by people on the streets to record and report elections in first Nigeria and then the United States, Shirky notes that "these tools don't get technologically interesting until they get technologically boring. It isn't when the shiny new tools show up that their uses start permeating society. It's when everybody is able to take them for granted... Now that media is increasingly social, innovation can happen anywhere that people can take for granted the idea that we're all in this together. And so we're starting to see a media landscape in which innovation is happening everywhere and is moving from one spot to another. That is a huge transformation."

Huge indeed. That got me thinking: could the technology era create a sort of reverse Big Brother situation? In a totalitarian regime, everyone assumes that the government is always watching and awareness of that dictates their behavior. Could the proliferation of cell phones capturing video and the transmission of information via text, twitter, etc., create an environment in which the police, the military, the media, the government, assume they're being watched and have their behavior dictated by the cameras being turned on them? Of course, this phenomenon must compete with governmental secrecy, spying, torture, executive privilege, etc. (and that's just in the US), so it might not be a net gain. But at least it might not be a net loss for the people. Power to the people, 140 characters at a time?

Later in the lecture, Shirky tells the story of how the BBC found out about the massive earthquake in China via twitter, before the US Geological Survey had anything up online about it. He points out that "the last time China had a quake of this magnitude, it took them three months to admit that it had happened. Now, they might have liked to have done that here, rather than seeing these pictures go up online, but they weren't given that choice, because their own citizens beat them to the punch. Even the government learned of the earthquake from their own citizens rather than the news agency." And remarkably, China allowed this reporting of the people to go on. But then the people pushed it further and successfully shamed the corrupt local government officials who had let the collapsed school buildings be built under code, which had resulted in the deaths of the children. This sort of bottom-up power dynamic was happening in China. As in Tiananmen Square China. So, eventually China shut the protests down and arrested the people. And after analysis of the transformation of the technology and media landscapes, they recently decided to shut twitter down (on the 20 year anniversary of Tiananmen Square massacre). They could police the internet with The Great Firewall of China, the best in the world, but they couldn't handle Twitter, so they had to shut it down entirely. "The transformation to amateur media [was] so enormous that they can't deal with it any other way", says Shirky.

But short of Chinese level censorship, how does a government control the message in this modern media environment? It's near impossible - which brings us to Iran's dilemma. My guess is that Iran will be forced to make a decision: whether to follow China's lead or not. And the decision they make will determine the outcome of this revolution. I'm guessing that they're going to choose lockdown and that the situation is going to get worse. But it's also the case that Iran doesn't have the same type of infrastructure, the massive firewall management that China does. This would prevent them from shutting down parts of the internet effectively or immediately. It may end up having a devastating effect on their economy, as well as eliminating any remaining pretense of democracy, both of which would further fuel revolutionary sentiment. Twitter could bring down the whole Iranian government.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Shame! Shame! Shame!

Shame on the murderers in Iran.

Will this be the face of change in Iran? If you can stomach it, Andrew Sullivan of The Atlantic is hosting some serious coverage of the events unfolding on the streets of Iran on his blog, The Daily Dish. Saturday's death toll is between 19 and 150, according to dinosaur media outlet, cnn.

Meanwhile, in Iraq, at least 67 people killed in a suicide bombing. Not a good day for peace in the Middle East.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

OK Go Animation Video

I'm in the process of handing out my resume in an effort to find some supplemental employment, and it occurred to me that I hadn't posted this animation on which I did some graphic design work. Some work. Robin's the real genius behind this stuff. (and yes, I'm starting my job search the same week that US Unemployment hit a 25 year high.)

update: the embedded video is not working, so here's a link.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Bacon Paper Pig

So, you see, it's a pig made out of paper. And that paper has bacon printed on it.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Dan Nolan Art @ Bukowsi Tavern (Inman)

Should you find yourself in the Inman Square neighborhood of Cambridge and were interested in seeing the new baseball paintings, feel free to stop by Bukowski Tavern, centrally located on Cambridge Street.

If you're a buyer, get there quick. The one at the top of this post sold in less than a day and a half. They're cheap. Here's what they look like hanging:

You can also visit old friends, Business Casual Stag Devil Death Boy, Den and Maggie:

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Sonia Sotomayor- SCOTUS Nominee, Yankee Fan.

Finally, a proper Yankees fan on The Bench. For years, we've been represented only by that despicable, if hilarious, arch-conservative, Antonin Scalia. Not only is he conservative, but he's from Queens! What kind of Yankee fan comes from Queens?!? The newest nominee to the Supreme Court, Judge Sonia Sotomayor, grew up in public housing in the South Bronx. Now that's a Yankees fan we can trust. Her confirmation will secure our passage out of a nightmare era in which political representation of Yankees fans was limited to Scalia, Rudy Giuliani, and Ari Fleischer on the right, and Joe Lieberman and Hillary Clinton on the ... well, on the right. Sotomayor will now be the true face of the Yankees. And it's pretty clear that anyone who opposes her confirmation to the Supreme Court, or who roots against the Yankees, is a racist, misogynist, neo-con.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

"Welcome to New Orleans", said the black hooker shoe.

That's the shoe that's black, not the hooker. I don't know whether or not the hooker was black. It was this black shoe in the corner of our hotel room that welcomed us back to wonderful New Orleans for Jazzfest 2009. And it is this shoe that welcomes you back to your VTK New Orleans Jazzfest photo diary. We left it there all weekend. I suggest you leave it in your heart for the remainder of this post.

On the other side of that curtain was Bourbon Street itself. Talk about your centrally located hotel rooms! The trick to being able to sleep when you're located right on Bourbon Street? Stay up later than anyone who might wake you up.

Another view (check out all the beads on the roof):

And this was our local corner establishment right downstairs, where we kicked off our first day of Jazzfest with a nice spicy bean bloody mary. (note MC Smackdown's outfit (right))

And this is literally 20 seconds and 20 feet later - my first spilled drink. First sip = first spill. Nice. Relax a minute. Business Casual Stag Devil Death Boy seemed to think it was pretty funny.

It was fantastic to return to the Fairgrounds for this year's Fest after a year's absence. We were welcomed by New Orleans native and goodtime trumpet player Kermit Ruffins. I always try to catch Kermit when in town.

As usual, we saw tons of great music by bands we had never heard of and whose names we could not possibly remember, including these dudes who pumped out some great old timey jazz:

And a good interview with this guy, whose name I know for sure: Allen Toussaint.

A definite musical highlight was Neil Young playing on the main stage. Click on this panoramic stitch-up for a sense of how many people were there. We were about a football field away and the crowd spilled out well to the side of what my camera could capture in three photos.

And a definite musical highlight of the musical highlight was hearing Neil end the show with a cover of the Beatles' "A Day in the Life".

And in the Heritage display, there was this:

which really needs no further explanation.

What might require further explanation is this:

which was a shrine to one of the "stars" of this year's Jazzfest, Jon Bon Jovi. I tried to explain to Dd that it was sarcastic, but she didn't believe me and was sure that the woman was just a crazy Bon Jovi fan. She herself is a Bon Jovi fan and attended that particular show, which, I'm told, was good.

Beignets at Cafe Du Monde in a black dress. Before first bite (above) and after first bite (below).

Irishing up the Cafe du Monde coffee. Tip to the uninitiated: don't wait in the obscene line in the morning/day. Go at night when you need a little juice to get you going for the evening round.


Tip # 2 for the uninitiated: save $ by buying beers at the local market and drink them outside of The Apple Barrel on Frenchmens Street in the middle of the night. Tip 2.2: do not attempt to do this while sober. Tip 2.3: tip 2 + tip 2.2 may = oxymoronic.

Note MC Smackdown's outfit again. 4 nights later, still rocking it.

Rocky rocking it. Jazzfest is a heavyweight fight. If you've made it to the end, you've got enough points to win and you just need to make sure you stay on your feet.

The day after we won the fight, Mac-D and Dd headed home and MC Smackdown and I stuck around for a day to relax a minute. I took advantage of the free day to take a lazy, hungover stroll around the French Quarter to snap some photos of the buildings that I always seem unable to find time to photograph. Enjoy:

I will now field any questions and will be unable to provide answers to any of them.