Monthly archive for July 2008

Tiny Awesome Car

I was born in the land of Big. Big cars. Big muscles. Big breasts. Big country stretching from sea to shining sea. Big paycheck with which to buy a Big piece of meat from a Big cow, cooked on a Big open grill and served on a great Big plate. Big army with Big guns and Big bangs. Big sounds from loud guitars and Big bags of drugs, smoked up before the Big game. Big = Better. Biggest = Best.

Yeah that’s America. God’s glory. God Bless.

Time for something small. Because maybe Big isn’t the new Black. Maybe Big takes up too much damned space. What about what fits? How about enough?

They say gasoline in the United States is over 4 dollars per gallon. Good. I hope it goes to 6. Still a bargain for the energy equivalent of 500 hours of human work. Or when you consider that most of Europe already pays 8. The winds of climate change are tickling the chimes hanging from the awning of a house somewhere in the Missouri suburbs. And if the ringing has garnered the attention of the homeowner, is not because of Al Gore’s movie or Hollywood’s finest on parade. The catalyst for environmental change comes from economic self interest. Not “us” – me.

Americans have already spent half a trillion dollars on the Biggest boondoggle of a generation: the war in Iraq. Imagine for a moment, if you will, that kind of financial investment directed toward a well-researched energy policy. In my fantasy I envision my future hat, striking and stylish, providing both shade for my eyes and enough collected solar energy to propel my future middle-aged ass through the streets of Soho in the rain.

Time for something small. Time for something that fits. Because Big is clearly not sustainable when it is the thing everyone craves. And as I read an article in the Wall Street Journal that details how Hollywood has licensed the movie rights to board games, such as Monopoly, from toy-maker Hasbro for a new nauseating string of sequels and prequels, I am reminded that we have lost our grip on the one Big of any consequence or value: Big ideas.

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Update: I noticed that WordPress listed a previous article of mine about a big fish under “similar posts”. I assure you that the irony is not lost on me.

Venezia

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Venice appears to float atop an impossibly vast lagoon, drenched in salty air and gelato. The city is a maze of cobblestone corridors and foot bridges, utterly unnavigable in the late evening after the crowds have returned to their hotel rooms and the storefronts are secured with heavy metal shutters.

On the banks of the canal Rio dei Mendicanti, opposite the Scuola Grande di San Marco (today the city’s hospital), English and Spanish speakers sit on the dark steps of the canal crossing beneath a public telephone sign. The voice of an American jazz singer from my Grandmother’s youth lifts above the soft chatter and into the warm night air. Golden light from the wine bar spills from an open doorway where the barmaid pours house red into deciliter glasses for a half Euro.

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Venice does not really exist. Not as a city; not the kind of city that I have lived in or visited in former travels. Venice is a romantic memory of the past preserved in brick and brown stucco: a flotilla of opulence that emerged in layers from the salty backwash of the Adriatic Sea as ancient Italians sought refuge from marauding hordes. Centuries passed before she would rule the waters from Croatia to Crete, lining temples in marble and the pillaged relics of the orient, enriched through conquest and control of the lucrative trade route to India.

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Time and Empire have an acrimonious relationship, and eventually the city fell – again and again – finally to Napoleon’s army, ever so keen to violently spread the ideals of the French Revolution, they banished the Doges from their palace above Piazza San Marco.

san_marco_night.jpgModern travelers to Venice find a museum without markers. A city without industry. Unlike Europe’s other treasures, Venice was spared from the bombs of the Second War due to functional irrelevance. As I pass through the mass of sunburnt spectators and marvel at the exquisite work of Renaissance artists and Baroque architects, I try and brush aside the nagging sensation that I am in a sort of Disneyland for refined adults. The facade of Venice is preserved (after the last devastating flood by a gift from the United Nations) but the soul of the city departed with the last Doge.

Polaroid of That Day

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Jamie Livingston, filmmaker, took a Polaroid photograph every day for eighteen years until he inevitably died. His collection of photos is published against a sparse black background on a site called Some Photos of That Day. There are no captions, no biography or explanation, just a collection of thousands of sequentially dated moments in time.

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Livingston’s project begins on March 31, 1979 with the foreshorten profiles of two anonymous women speaking to a person beyond the view of the lens. Through the next eighteen years he compiles a story of his life in frames: evenings with friends, strangers, travel, televised deaths of note, accolades, and more frequently: glimpses of the mundane. The warm and muted hues of old Polaroids connote childhood for people of my generation and the elusive shadows of the world immediately before existence, when parents were young adults exploring the world in the ways that are seldom revealed to their children. The flavors of grey-blue skies and eggshell white lends itself to the allure and mystery of Livingston’s catalog. James Livingston has perhaps crafted the precursor to the weblog in the textured form of an ancestor’s quilt.
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I discovered this project on Mental Floss several months ago; an article by Chris Higgins reveals some of the mysteries behind the collection, though after viewing the photographs for myself, I find Higgin’s researched account as something of a spoiler.

Western Spaghetti

Western Spaghetti is a new stop-action short by the filmmaker know online as PES. I ran across this film today during my morning session and found the use of materials enchanting. I won’t ruin it by talking more, so go watch it.

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Ira Glass on Creative Work

This American Life is my favorite podcast, and these days one of the few pieces of radio or television media that I consume. The others are 60 Minutes, The McLaughlin Group, and Radio Lab. I generally save podcasts until I have a long train trip and then listen to several episodes consecutively. Typically because of the delay in weeks between the show’s production and my train ride, archived current events shows such as The McLaughlin Group are no longer relevant. This American Life remains current, if not timeless.

The following video is of the host of This American Life, Ira Glass, talking about producing creative work and the period where the output does not measure up to the creator’s standards of excellence. I have been at this point for several years now, and have recently decided to combat this syndrome with high volume.

via Lifehacker

bear and penguin

This is a comic about a bear and a penguin created by Jeremy Taylor.

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Vienna Graffiti

The Donaukanal channels some of the waters of the Danube River south and through the center of Vienna. The banks of the wide canal offer a pleasant walk along a boardwalk several meters below the bustle of the city. Many residents walk their dogs or ride bicycles along this route. A few creative entrepreneurs have opened beached themed bars atop the boardwalk, complete with imported sand, Mexican beer, and sun chairs.

Though most of old Vienna is free from graffiti, the city apparently allows urban artists free reign on the walls flanking the canal.

Below are some examples.
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