Friday, December 19, 2008

This is what happens when you find a stranger in the Alps!

It doesn't snow that much in Seattle, but when it does it's bad news. This happened today.

HillSteep  • IceShitload + 2Ď€BusKids/Highway = What you'd expect.*

The post title, BTW, is a non sequitur.  On my brief foray into the frozen heart of the city, my co-worker told me about this master work of TV editing. It's wonderful.

This is what happens, Larry. This is what happens.

*Even though I can't prove it, I included pi in there, because, but I'm fairly certain that there was pie involved with some part of this accident.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A Moose, an Ass, and a Little Bit of Crow

“The most erroneous stories are those we think we know best - and therefore never scrutinize or question.”
-Stephen Jay Gould
All my life I've watched advertising assimilate and commercialize bits of culture.  From the rampant co-option of songs and phrases to the gross misappropriation of historical icons, nothing has been safe from The Market.  After several decades, I guess I've built up a bit of a grudge.

So when I saw a gasoline commercial that seemed to directly subvert a piece of reverse-graffiti protest art, I figured that I pretty well knew the score.  It was an old story, and I didn't really take the time to see if it was true. 

Instead, I went home, tracked down the videos, and wrote a rather fervent post about it.  At the time I felt like a bit of a sleuth, but now I feel like a bit of an ass.  Chris Yi, the creator of the advertisement, just happened by Letters from the Inquisition, and left a thoughtful comment calling me out.  So here I am, gratefully eating a bit of crow.

While I still feel that my basic observations were sound, the central premise of the post was based on two flawed assumptions.  Firstly, I wrongly assumed that Alexandre Orion was the originator of the reverse-graffiti method.  Secondly, I assumed that Yi had yoinked Orion's idea and used it in the service of Mammon.

In retrospect, both of those assumptions are foolish and unfounded.  I wish that it had occurred to me that I could contact Mr. Yi directly and ask what if any relationship existed between his and Orion's work.  If I had, I'm sure he would have privately set me straight, but instead I left him to do it in the comment section:

Reverse Graffiti is a technique that's been used by many other artists than Orion, and many times before his amazing Sao Paulo piece. Yes, the medium has been used as a form of protest, but more often it has served as just another form of artistic self-expression - with or without any specific message attached.... I don't believe I'm perverting Orion's work, I think we're just 2 more people who used the medium of Reverse Graffiti to create completely separate works.

Point taken, and I hope Mr. Yi will accept my apology for not having the wherewithal to contact him myself.  For all the interconnectedness of the web, it is a strangely impersonal medium, and it's pretty easy to forget that there are real people on the other end of the intertubes.  Unfortunately, my ignorance caused me to draw flawed conclusions from my observations, and my excess of zeal caused me to overstate my case.

Luckily, Chris Yi seems to be a good sport, and he tipped me off to the video above.  It features "reverse graffiti pioneer" Moose in the process of executing a large mural in the service of the makers of Clorox bleach.  The project is full-on advertisement but brings up some interesting non-bleach-related ideas.   

I find myself wondering to what extent commercial intent undermines broader message.  Though I mistrust corporate messaging,  I cannot wholly discount it.  In our capitalist, media-saturated society, much of our communication occurs through commercial channels.  Though it is economically motivated, this communication is an inextricable part of modern cultural exchange.  It manipulates the message, but is still subject to the zeitgeist.

In the end, I'm left with a quote from this video, which was featured on YouTube beside the Moose clip.   It's a nice counterbalance to the Cassandra theme of my previous post.  

What I don't like is a really critical message, like "Shitty System blah blah blah."  I think that if you want to criticize something you need to have a better idea how to do it, and then you can innovate.

So thanks and apologies to Chris Yi, and if any of you would like to reverse-graffiti my bathroom, I think it's pretty ripe for it.

By the way, that police bit at the end of the last video kills me.

Sunday, December 14, 2008


How many agents of Counterflow can you fit into one van?

I'm reposting this from Especially Messily because it's that good. It's a dispatch from her stepfather, who is a very funny man.

Driving to Tagaytay was also an experience. I learned another new word, counterflow. It is a Manila-taxi word, and is used in a sentence like this (spoken very casually): "If the traffic is bad, it is okay to counterflow." Then the cabbie smiles at you. (Note to travelers: pay very close attention when someone in Manila smiles at you.)


This was a great surprise to me, and I am determined to remember the word, counterflow. The next time everything looks like it has turned to shit around me, just before I do something incredibly stupid, I will smile and tell those around me (in a casual voice), "In this situation, it is okay to counterflow." Then I will smile and do the stupid thing. Counterflow.


Monday, December 8, 2008

More Signs of the Endtimes

This recent article lends credence to an unorthodox viewpoint held by some scholars. According to this maverick group of classicists, the following passage is, in fact mistranslated.
Another sign was seen in heaven. Behold, a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads seven crowns.(Revelations 12:3)

By going back to the earliest accounts of this text, Dr. Yazbin Hamjadi of Jordan has been able to discern that the original phrase read as follows:
Another sign was seen in heaven. Behold, a great red potato, having seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads seven crowns.

Dr. Hamjadi, who has been scoffed at for years, called this recent find "stunning and

Indeed. Personally, I would also add 'tasty' to the list.

Image yoinked from the BBC

(And yes, I did make all of this up... except the potato. That thing is for real. Repent! Repent!)

Collaboration in the Works

Recently I've been thinking and talking about collaboration.  According to this article, I have a life full of collaboration ahead of me.  That's OK, because I'm a huge fan.

On that note, I have decided to invite other authors to post on this blog.  I think that it will create a more dynamic space and, at the very least, widen the search pattern for interesting bits.

Stay tuned.

Image:  The Heian courtier Fujiwara no Yasumasa playing the flute by moonlight, by Tsukioka Yoshitoshi (1832-1892). Behind Fujiwara no Yasumasa is the bandit Kidomaru, who is dissuaded from attacking him by the beauty of his playing. Image ripped from Richard Ukiyo-e.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Neutrophils on Parade

Bill Gusky over at ArtBlog Comments posted this wonderful video.

It prompted me browse on over to YouTube and check out some of the incredible microscopic footage that is posted there. I swear, we didn't have this stuff when I was learning biology. I think I'm gonna be wasting a lot more time on YouTube in the near future.

This doomed little beast puts up a real fight. It's kind of nightmarish.

This one just looks graceful like the aliens from the movie Abyss. (Hit mute, because the sound effects are stupid and distracting)

Seriously. I am blown away by the smoke-like appearance of these little neutrophils. Bear with the narrator and be rewarded with some incredible footage.

This one is a little slow at the outset, but the part where the neutrophil exits the blood vessel... Whoa! It's computer animation, but still pretty wild.

I'm solidly geeking out now, so I'll include a link to one more and then cut myself off. This one has some music, and the animation is super cool. They won't let me embed it (jerks) so you're just gonna have to follow the link.

So everybody take a minute to give a big high-five to your immune system. Good job fellas! Go get'em!