6/30/2008 2:10:57 PM
What makes an English town so, well, English? It could be the bright red phone booths, the black taxicabs, or the Tudor architecture housing fish-and-chips shops. If that’s so, then travelers can find their dose of classic England in a new city outside of Shanghai, China. Thames Town, which opened in 2006, is the spitting image of a small English town, right down to exact replicas of neighborhood eating establishments.
Though 95 percent of the real estate has been sold, the town that should hold 10,000 people is eerily dead. With prices reaching $800,000 for a villa, locals have shied away, and the owners who have purchased the lots as investments don’t reside in their counterfeited properties. Maybe it really does take more than cobblestones and fancy facades to build a community.
(Thanks, Next American City.)
Image by eiro, licensed under Creative Commons.
6/30/2008 11:35:48 AM
A custom-welded, 10-passenger, beast of a bicycle (complete with a purple velvet banana seat for the driver) was just one of the highlights on this past Saturday’s FRAME x FRAME gallery opening-barbecue-bike ride, which—as if it weren’t enough to squish all those activities together—also kicked off the Minneapolis leg of the Bicycle Film Festival (BFF).
The ride meandered leisurely through the city, making use of Minneapolis’ top-rate trail system. At the Minnesota Center for Photography, riders paused to have their portraits shot in the parking lot—posing with bikes, of course. Word is the photos will run as a slideshow during parts of the Minneapolis BFF, which takes place July 9-12. (The festival tours to more than a dozen other U.S. and international locations, so stay tuned for our online coverage of the Minneapolis event.)
The ultimate destination was the One on One bicycle studio, where the opening reception for the FRAME x FRAME photography exhibit was already underway. The show features work by six local photographers: Mark Butcher, Mark Emery, Jason Lemkuil, Kelly MacWilliams, Heidi Prenevost, and Kelly Riordan, and will run through July 13.
As I wandered through the gallery—noshing on hyper-local grub provided by Common Roots Café—I couldn’t help but feel, well, cozy. Bikers sometimes get a reputation for being insular, unfriendly, a clique on two wheels. Not here. The photos on display at One on One wrap the room in welcoming colors. From giddy shots of the Stuporbowl to portraits of riders in a back-alley derby, FRAME x FRAME makes biking look like what it’s supposed to be. Fun.
Image courtesy of Kelly Riordan.
6/26/2008 1:53:37 PM
Inspired by the elaborate competitions between color-coded teams at summer camps, Color Wars is a diverting repository of ingenious games and artistic challenges created by web developers Ze Frank and Erik Kastner. “It’s just like summer camp,” the site’s banner reads, “but not really.”
Either way, Color Wars appeals to the playful, creative preadolescent we hope isn’t buried too far inside all of us. Among other curiosities, there’s an audio library documenting a nerd rap battle, the results of a 600-person bingo game played “live inside of Twitter,” and a reverse-caption contest where contributors stage photos to accompany a predetermined caption.
The site closed the first round of games in May, but its wild success (nearly three million page views) all but ensures another round soon. My personal favorite category is Young Me Now Me, where contributors recreate childhood photos of themselves:
Even though the competition is over, this is such a good rainy-day activity that I might still do a Young Me Now Me of my own the next time I’m bored and want to indulge my inner summer camper.
, licensed by
6/26/2008 12:06:54 PM
I am an insatiable food porn consumer. My Google Reader is full of food blogs, and I scroll happily through food photos and recipes at work, at home, before and after grocery shopping. But nothing kills the mood faster for me as a vegetarian viewer than a big hunk-o’-flesh on the page. Chances are, if you don’t share in the “fleischgeist” of Meatpaper, you won’t salivate at the sight of meaty food photography, either. That rules out otherwise tasty sites like La Tartine Gourmande, Smitten Kitchen, or Food Porn Daily. Veggies seeking flesh-free fare might enjoy Simply Breakfast, Vegan Yum Yum, and What the Hell Does a Vegan Eat Anyway?, along with Flickr albums of vegan food porn—sites that let you ogle the vegan cupcakes, then bake them, too.
(Thanks, Pinch My Salt.)
Image by Elaine Vigneault, licensed under Creative Commons.
6/20/2008 10:37:50 AM
If you are a fan of vintage photography, dive into Square America, an intriguing web gallery of “vintage snapshots & vernacular photography” curated by Nicholas Osborn. He divides his treasure trove into categories that reveal how photographer's favorite subjects haven't changed much over time. My favorites: On the Limits of Memory, The Book of Sleep, and Guns, Guns, Guns.
6/13/2008 4:20:10 PM
Every aesthetic movement has its rivalries, its schisms, its heated battles over who’s keeping it real and who’s already sold out. Hip-hop is, famously, no exception: East Coast vs. West Coast, Tupac vs. Biggie, old school vs. new school—we’re all too familiar with these contentions. But now some of the old-school contingent are hating on a new segment of their new-school progeny: hipster rappers (hipster-hop?).
Hipster rap, as loosely defined by the Chicago Reader, consists of the most recent crop of MCs and DJs who flout conventional hip-hop fashions, eschewing baggy clothes and gold chains for tight jeans, big sunglasses, the occasional keffiyeh, and other trappings of the hipster lifestyle. Mainstream rappers like Kanye West and Lupe Fiasco, along with smaller up-and-coming acts like Kid Sister and the Cool Kids, come under fire from the old-school hip-hop website Unkut, and Jersey City rapper Mazzi has recorded diss tracks criticizing, by name, the rappers he sees as poseurs.
The Reader argues that such criticisms don’t hold much water in a genre that has always reinvented itself, borrowing and remixing until the question of authenticity is at best a slippery one. It’s also superficial: much of the derision directed toward hipster rap barely extends beyond clothes and other accoutrements, while the actual substance of the music never really enters the discussion. Furthermore, hip-hop’s notorious homophobia still lingers; much of the backlash takes the form of overt gay panic as rappers call each other fags for copping the metrosexual appearances of hipster fashion.
Race also complicates matters: the latest crop of hipster rap—or new rap, or independent hip-hop, or whatever we’re calling it—is just as likely to be heard at a party full of white kids slamming back Sparks on the Lower East Side as it is in the black community. The Reader notes, however, that the listener base is increasingly diverse, citing multiple firsthand accounts of shows and parties around Chicago where the audience defies racial and socioeconomic categorization—a compelling rebuttal to those still hung up on racial, social, or artistic distinctions.
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6/13/2008 1:43:22 PM
I Love My Life the Way It Is
presents the frustration of unrealized potential. For the project, Ali Alvarez collects lottery tickets and leaves them unscratched, causing many of the people who see the collection to go “a little crazy.” Alvarez says it’s designed to explore high hopes, “dreaming, escaping, and then usually being let down.”
Image by Eric E Yang, licensed under Creative Commons.
6/13/2008 1:39:10 PM
Film analysis, architecture, and set design converge in We Make Money Not Art’s review of The Wrong House: The Architecture of Alfred Hitchcock. Location and architecture play a crucial role in nearly all of Hitchcock’s films, and some structures have become iconic: the bell tower in Vertigo, the apartment in Rear Window, the Bates mansion in Psycho. The review highlights just a few of the ways in which the films’ architecture informs and responds to the often twisted psychology of the characters.
6/11/2008 1:19:19 PM
There are almost as many free font sites
on the internet as there are free clip art sites
. Something Awful
has a great parody site
that shows just how disturbingly useless free fonts usually are.
6/10/2008 10:53:40 AM
If skanky porta-potties, mud wallows, and $5 bottled water weren’t enough of a deterrent to attending many music festivals, there’s always the possibility that the local sheriff is setting up a “drug checkpoint” on the road to the fest, shifting your focus from My Morning Jacket to My Arrest for Marijuana Possession. Phillip S. Smith writes in Drug War Chronicle about the many techniques that cops use to snare unsuspecting music fans, and what festivalgoers should know about their rights.
The tips range from common sense to counterintuitive. Some highlights:
--Don’t smoke pot in your car, and don’t have any paraphernalia in view.
--Don’t ever consent to a police search of your car. It’s your right to refuse. “It might be couched in terms of a command, but it is a request,” Steven Silverman of the civil liberties group Flex Your Rights tells Smith. Be polite but assertive, the experts advise.
--Drug checkpoints per se are unconstitutional, but some law enforcers skirt or defy the law. They’ll call it a “safety check,” or put up a “Drug Checkpoint Ahead” sign, “then watch who turns off the highway at the next ramp or who throws something out his car window,” says Silverman. “Then they pull them over for littering or failure to signal a lane change or something.” Don’t fall for this trap to “lure the freaked out,” Smith writes.
6/9/2008 4:43:45 PM
In a small, dimly lit auditorium, a twenty-something music artist known as Igloo Martian stands behind a table on a blackened stage. Projected on the backscreen are staticky images from a camera focused on his hands and his instruments: children’s audio toys modified with bizarre-looking switches and a tangle of wires. Igloo Martian is a circuit bender, and the noise issuing forth from his machines is reminiscent of a modem dialing up over incendiary house music.
Circuit bending is an emerging sound art in which battery-operated toys, keyboards, and other electronics are creatively short-circuited to reveal new, unexpected sounds. The sounds range from high-pitched wails to bass-drum kicks and everything in between. When layered, the various noises create an electronic, sonic cornucopia.
Earlier this spring, acts from all over the world gathered in Los Angeles, New York, and Minneapolis for the fifth annual Bent Festival, two days (at each location) of concerts and workshops aimed at promoting circuit bending, inviting newcomers into the growing community. Sponsored by The Tank, a New York-based nonprofit arts organization, the festival brought in artists from three continents and at least 10 countries.
Circuit bending falls somewhere in between mad science and performance art, and it can be as complex or as basic as you make it. The bent duo Beatrix*JAR (Bianca Pettis and Jacob Roske) have been instrumental in promoting circuit bending by teaching beginner workshops in libraries and galleries all over the country.
“One of the reasons we started the workshops was because people didn’t know what we were doing,” Pettis says.
She’s absolutely right. Though the performances are interactive (audiences are encouraged to come down to the stage before and after sets to check out an artist’s equipment), it is confusing to see a Speak & Spell spout out an alien-sounding melody over an ’80s Casio keyboard pounding out drum patterns.
The spontaneity of circuit bending is one of the art form’s major draws, explains Igloo Martian (Robert Clark), who likens circuit bending to beachcombing when he was a child. “I remember collecting tons of sharks’ teeth,” he says.
The exploration of seemingly nonmusical electronics is a romantic pursuit for the bent community. “It’s not so much about the sound, but how you find it,” says Roske. “Ten people with the same toy get ten different results.”
Along with exploration, circuit bending is attractive because of its DIY appeal. Old kids’ toys (some of the most popular are Speak & Spell, Speak & Math, and even Furbys) can be picked up at local thrift shops for peanuts and bent for just as cheap. The process is similar to DJs digging through crates looking for promising records and hot samples. The bending process is simple and can be learned in an afternoon.
Circuit bending’s future looks bright, and many of its supporters have high expectations for the nascent genre. Some popular artists like Beck and Björk have already incorporated bent techniques into their music, and the members of Beatrix*JAR, who consider their work a fusion of bent and pop music, hope to be “ambassadors to bring circuit bending to the mainstream.”
6/9/2008 1:48:47 PM
When a child draws a picture, how can we know what’s really in their mind? Instead of taking your kid to a shrink, get a load of these photos by Korean artist Yeondoo Jung. Jung takes drawings made by children and interprets them literally through photography. While not exactly making fun of children's art (unlike this guy), Jung seems especially interested in presenting how a child’s sense of perspective tends to be flat, with amusing results.
6/9/2008 12:19:04 PM
Artists continue to make shocking and sacrilegious art, even after Piss Christ and "dung Mary." Even steering clear of religious subjects, flesh-based projects can still create a clamor. In April, Yale student Aliza Shvarts stirred up a furor by claiming her senior art installation would incorporate blood smears and videos of several of her own self-induced miscarriages. It was a fabrication, but it attracted plenty of ire anyway.
Another woman artist, Chrissy Conant, actually did use her body to make outrageous art. She injected herself with the same fertility drugs in vitro fertilization patients use, an endocrinologist and embryologist harvested twelve of her eggs, and Conant created Chrissy Caviar (a trademarked product). Twelve eggs in flasks were set in jars “similar to those used for commercial caviar,” reports Gastronomica in its spring 2008 issue, and the Chrissy Caviar was placed in a refrigerated deli display case.
wrote about Chrissy Caviar when it debuted in 2002, and interest has not abated in the intervening years. “One chef wanted to do a tasting of the eggs as part of a media event in his high-end restaurant in New York,” reports Gastronomica, “but Conant has resisted his offer, even though … she was, on a certain level, pleased that the chef made the connection [with sturgeon caviar] so literally. She finds it somewhat shocking that people would actually consider ingesting a part of her.”
Conant refused the Chrissy Caviar tasting, but she would let the buyer of the installation do whatever he or she wanted with the eggs, according to Gastronomica, for $250,000. Nor does Conant seem to shy away from the possibility that a buyer might want to create little Chrissys. The Chrissy Caviar site includes medical histories for Conant and her immediate family.
Conant’s project isn’t likely to attract cross-dragging protestors, whereas Shvarts’ might have. Chrissy Caviar is disturbing, but it’s a good example of art that goes beyond provoking simple outrage and disgust to encouraging viewers to think about bigger issues surrounding the ethical limits of art and the use of reproductive technologies.
Image by Maks D., licensed under Creative Commons.
6/2/2008 12:56:27 PM
It’s a lament we’ve long heard from cultural scolds: Entertainment these days is just too raunchy. Whatever happened to nice, decent, moral films and television? Whether the halcyon days of wholesome pop culture ever actually existed is debatable, but the CAMIE (Character And Morality In Entertainment) Awards intend to put the brakes on our culture’s collective backslide by recognizing films and shows that, according to the organization’s website, “provide positive role models for building character, overcoming adversity, correcting unwise choices, strengthening families, living moral lives, and solving life’s problems with integrity and perseverance—realizing some lessons of life come with pain and sorrow.”
The 2008 CAMIE awards were held last month, and the winners included such family-friendly films as Miss Potter and Bridge to Terabithia as well as the Hallmark Hall of Fame’s presentation of The Note. (In fact, four of the five nominees in the made-for-TV movie category were produced under the aegis of the Hallmark corporation, which has apparently cornered the wholesome TV-movie market.)
CAMIE is just one component of what Reason’s Greg Beato calls “Hollywood’s Decency Epidemic,” as the mainstream media, particularly big Hollywood studios, are dedicating unprecedented dollars to the sort of G-rated entertainment frequently advocated by religious groups and other conservative culture warriors; one example of this supposed paradigm shift is Fox’s new Christian media division, Fox Faith. But what neither Beato nor CAMIE seem to acknowledge is that money talks nowhere as loudly as in Hollywood, where the major studios collect the lion’s share of their revenue from 17-year-olds who pay to see shoot-em-up blockbusters and teen sex comedies.
All the same, after perusing the entries in CAMIE’s 2008 winners’ circle, this impressionable pop culture blogger is considering expunging the more salacious items on his Netflix queue in favor of more uplifting fare like The Ultimate Gift and Love’s Unending Legacy.
Image of A Fair Puritan by E. Percy Moran licensed under Wikimedia Commons.
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