Vogue: Police Brutality is Sexy

September 21st, 2006

Vogue announces: police brutality is sexy. The new black is black-and-blue.

And here I was, hoping it was passe.

iBuyRight Melodrama

September 19th, 2006
iBuyRight (shh.. don't tell)

Lilia Manguy busted arse with three teammates for nine months to create a cleverly-designed, well-implemented tool that won an award for outstanding final Masters’ project this year at my alma mater, Berkeley’s iSchool.

What they built has the potential for plenty of social good. The software’s called “iBuyRight” [Web site, Master’s project report] and it helps people make purchases aligned with their personal values. When you’re out shopping, you can scan a product’s UPC code using your camera phone, and iBuyRight will display on your phone’s screen information about the product and the firms behind it, how they treat their workers, associated environmental and health concerns, etc.

Now Lilia claims that Dara O’Rourke, a Berkeley assistant professor who suggested that the team implement this idea, is attempting to remove Lilia from the project and take it over. Lilia says O’Rourke’s core justification for this is that he came up with the idea behind the project. She says that, months into the students’ work building iBuyRight, he filed a draft patent application listing himself as sole inventor.

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Garfield Non Troppo

August 5th, 2006
Garfield Non Troppo

Today David at Boingboing pointed out this series of Garfield comic strips from 1989. It’s remarkable for a Garfield story because it’s dark and depressing, and it’s not trying to be funny.

Here’s why this strip blew me away: Jim Davis clearly took the idea from one of my favorite cartoons, a magnificent Italian short from 1977 called “Valse Triste.” There are just way too many strong similarities. (It’s just 7 minutes long and I highly recommend viewing it: see the YouTube box at the bottom of this post.)

In the cartoon a cat awakens to find himself abandoned in his vacant, dilapidated ruin of a house. The starving feline sees visions of the people he loved offering him food, but the hallucinations disappear whenever he approaches them. That’s precisely what happens to Garfield, and Davis uses the same visual past/present layering technique used in the 1977 cartoon. (“Feline Fantasies” appears in Bruno Bozzetto’s film “Allegro Non Troppo“, a decidedly un-Disney homage to Disney’s “Fantasia.”)

This is not the darkest Garfield story. When I was little I found what are still two of the most disturbing comic strips I’ve ever read. They appear in the 1984 book “Garfield: His 9 Lives” which tells stories of Garfield’s past and future. In “Primal Self,” Garfield appears to viciously murder a doddering old lady. The other is a photorealistic strip entitled “Lab Animal.” (I wish I still had this book! If you know where I can find these strips online please point me to them.)

“Valse Triste” by Bruno Bozzetto, 7 minutes:

Selling Out the Presidency

July 16th, 2006
Bush the Ho

March 2006 – Dunkin’ Donuts is acquired by the Carlyle Group and two other buyout firms. The Carlyle Group, headquartered on Pennsylvania Avenue between the White House and Capitol Hill, pays George’s daddy for public speeches promoting Carlyle interests.

The firm has many strong ties to the Washington establishment as well as to the Bin Ladens and to powerful politicians and businesspeople in Asia and the Middle East.

Carlyle’s massive investments in a range of weapons firms, oil corporations and media companies ensure it handsome profits from U.S. military incursions in the Middle East.

June 2006 – Dunkin’ Donuts publicizes a new plan to “rapidly expand to nearly 15,000 US locations by 2020,” according to the Boston Globe.

July 2006 – George W. Bush’s handlers arrange a photo opp at a Virginia Dunkin’ Donuts, where George passes out Dunkin’ Donuts products to reporters and carefully poses with the Dunkin’ Donuts logo in plain view.

Unkind Donuts, indeed. Webloggers are writing about this; I’d say it’s time for the old-school media to point it out.

Swede Revenge

July 10th, 2006

Americans, Get Out Of Here.

Arthur spotted this ad last week in a Stockholm subway station.

A New Yaginuma

July 5th, 2006

My dear friends Mie and Dav Yaginuma are parents as of 9:20 this morning. Tesla Rhea Yaginuma weighed in at 7 pounds. Welcome Tesla, and congratulations. You must have won the baby lottery to have these parents.


Above: Dav lactates in a demonstration of solidarity with Mie and love for Tesla. More photos: 1, 2. Details and even more photos:

Tesla is healthy and beautiful, and her Mom’s happy and recovering well. They named her after Nikola Tesla. Experts confirmed that Tesla is not, as originally feared, the reincarnation of Kenneth Lay.

Update: Patrick Roddie took much better photos.

Thanks, Jane.

April 29th, 2006

Jane Jacobs died this week. She permanently changed the way I think and see.

Her book “The Death and Life of Great American Cities” overwhelmed me with feelings of serendipity and intimacy. It dug deep into a long series of my questions and observations about cities and neighborhoods and public spaces.

I kept bumping against these issues in the dark, struggling with common-sense suspicions that so much of the logic behind recent North American urban planning and housing development is just plain wrong and destructive — until Jacobs flipped on the spotlights and revealed the very real sources of those feelings.

She led me to an ongoing fascination with urban studies and architecture. I realized through Jacobs how important it is to understand the workings of places and flows of people in the city when designing new communications tech.

She underlined the need to break out of academic and professional echo chambers. To simply get out there and watch how things work, from the ground up. To plant the right seeds and get out of the way, rather than attempting to overdesign, to dictate, to predict the unpredictable.

She did all this through plain, passionate, human language, without an ounce of pedantry or arrogance.

Thanks Jane.

Flash Mob Flashback

March 29th, 2006
flash mob retrospective

Nobody asks anymore, but now I can finally tell people who invented flash mobs.

He’s Harper’s magazine editor Bill Wasik, and he revealed his identity to the public in this month’s issue.

In the article Bill credited me with naming flash mobs flash mobs.

Bill, thanks for kicking off the fun. I don’t share all your interpretations of what flash mobs were. I certainly don’t view Stanley Milgram through your eyes. And I think flash mobs turned out less hipster-centric than you expected, at least beyond Manhattan. (How many hipsters can you count in these photos?)

But bravo; this was one the funniest spectacles I’ve taken part in. Core to the fun for me were all the wild interpretations people put forth, how earnest and sure of themselves most commentators seemed, and the vast differences between interpretations. Now the guy who started it all finally chimed in with the most surreal interpretation yet, closing the circle.

Thanks Bill and the rest of the flash mobbers. If nothing else, we slipped a bit of prankster graffiti into the Oxford English Dictionary.

(A minor correction: the article claimed that I named the phenomenon after “Flash Crowd,” a 1973 short story that I’d never heard of until the flash mob fad was in full swing. For the record: Howard Rheingold’s book “Smart Mobs” probably influenced the name, but “Flash Crowd” didn’t.)

[tags]flash mobs, flash mob, memewrangling, culture hacking, situationism, flash crowd[/tags]

Seeking Office Space for Coworking

March 28th, 2006

The Coworking project’s goal is to create a new sort of digitally-augmented office/collaboration space for independent workers in cities around the world.

I’m psyched about this because (1) I don’t have an office and I’d love to set up shop in such a coworking space for at least a day a week, and (2) location-based tech and digitally-augmented urban spaces are things that make my heart go pitter-patter. Coworking spaces can be great incubators and testing grounds for this mojo. This stuff is what PlaceSite is all about, and I’m excited to see how we can adapt PlaceSite to boost collaboration and creative cross-pollination in these spaces.

The San Francisco coworking project is looking for a largish, relatively inexpensive office space or warehouse in town to house our first coworking space. We’re particularly interested in the areas around 20th and Mission, 16th and De Haro, and South Park. We’re open to other places in the city near BART and other transit, and preferably near cafes.

If you know anyone who might lease out such a space, please drop me a line.

To learn more about the Coworking project and to contribute, check out the project wiki.

[tags]coworking, san francisco, sfcoworking, tehspace[/tags]

feral marketing?

March 27th, 2006

Someone mailed me a wonderful mysterious object. It glows and pulsates red, green, blue. Two now-cancelled postage stamps are attached. It’s painted with my name and address, a funky little face and the phrase “SAVE THE WORD.”

“Save the word?” What could that mean?

If this is part of a marketing scheme, bravo. I’ll bite, I’m spreading the word about who knows what. If the sender is reading this: thanks!

In other news: I think it’s time to resuscitate cheesebikini.

[tags]art, marketing[/tags]

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