28 August 2008

one little piggy, two little piggies, three...

I've long been interested in food production and the processes we're using as a culture both modern and traditional. Due to the predicted global food crisis that everyone is predicting things like urban and hydroponic farming are now hot topics. To be honest I'm not sure what the answer is, but I'm confident we'll figure it out as a society.

A friend of mine emailed me an article from Defpoints, which asks where do we stand as a nation in terms of food production now and then compares the productivity to the value. Below are the diagrams from that article. They are a bit dated being from 1997, but I think they are probably still pretty accurate in theory.


[Crops - acres per square mile by county, 1997]

food production us

[Animals - per square mile by county, 1997]


[Value - dollars per square mile by county, 1997]

At first glance there seems to be a lot of white space leftover on these diagrams. So curiosity got the best of me and I went through the exercise of layering all the images in Photoshop to produce a composite image. I quickly came to the conclusion that unless we want to begin "mountain farming" I think we're using our resources fairly well. I'm sure this doesn't take into count efficiency, but it's still amazing that we're actively using most of the land available to us in this Country.  The composite image I created is below.

combined farming and animals

[composite of crops and animals]

23 August 2008

subaru love


You may have noticed Subaru's ad campaign launched this summer, which shows short stories of how Subaru owners "love" their cars. Subaru America describes the ads with the following statement:

"I love my Subaru" is one of the most-used phrases we hear from Subaru drivers about our brand. That's why our new marketing campaign created by our agency of record, Carmichael Lynch, is based on the strong emotional bonds Subaru owners develop with their vehicles.

By focusing on the love Subaru owners have for their car, Subaru challenges non-owners: "Do you love your car?"

As a Subaru owner myself, I'd have to agree completely with the above sentiments. Whenever someone asks me about my car the first words out of my mouth are always "I love my Subaru." I thought that the feeling would begin to wear off as time pasted, but I honestly love it just as much today as I did when I bought it a few years back. In fact many of my friends would attest to the fact that I'm a bit overprotective and OCD about my car, which is a complete 180 from any other car I've ever owned.

All that aside, in regards to the new ad campaign it makes me wonder... if I didn't own a Subaru already would I want to buy one because of this campaign? Well I'm not sure. Prior to being dragged to the Subaru dealership by my Dad who is also a Subaru owner I had always thought that Subaru's were a bit uninspiring. What I realized quickly was that I didn't know what I was talking about. The test drive in particular sold me.

I think Subaru isn't far from the truth with the Love concept, but better than any marketing campaign what it has going for it most is word of mouth promotion from owners. That's something you simply can not have without producing a high quality product. Especially in the world we live in today where there are ENDLESS options making brand loyalty a thing of the past.

To prove my point here are the chain of events leading up to my purchase of a Subaru:

1. My Dad bought an outback after his good friend recommended he check it out. His friend is also a Subaru owner might I add. 

2. When I was thinking of getting a new car my Dad insisted that I go test drive a Subaru since he was so happy with his outback.

3. I ended up purchasing a Legacy. (There was no contest...)

4. A year after purchasing my car I insisted that one of my friends who was looking to buy a car go test drive a Subaru, which lead to her buying a Forester.

Coincidence? Maybe, but I don't think so. A happy customer is always you're best form of promotion. And that's priceless.

If you haven't seen the Subaru Love Campaign it's your lucky day. They compiled them all for you at Subaru America.

16 August 2008

alternative graffiti

pulaski bridge ny from ny times delivery bags unknown artist

[NYC skyline created on an overpass chain link fence with blue plastic bags]

Graffiti has been over-exposed in popular culture for quite a few years now. I mean if John Mayer features it in one of his music videos you sort of know it's run it's course in relation to pop culture. It's actually pretty sad how the media machine often destroys the essence of what made something once great, but that's a topic within itself and I digress...

What I want to write about is not your standard painted graffiti, but clean graffiti. Clean graffiti also called reverse graffiti, dust graffiti or grime writing is created by subtracting layers of dirt from a surface or adding non-painted layers. Often times city officials dislike this form of urban art because it makes it very apparent just how filthy our cities have become, however since no damage is done it's nearly impossible to prosecute for clean graffiti.


We've all seen reverse graffiti although perhaps we didn't know it's official name. For example if you've ever seen a dirty car that had "Wash Me" written on the back window there you go!

Clean graffiti is not a new method and has been around for a long time. It's also much more difficult to produce than just you're standard painted graffiti as it requires cleaning years of dirt, oil and/ or grime from streets and walls with scrubbing or pressure washers and sometimes a detergent. The image is created through the contrast of dirty and clean, so basically by working in reverse of a typical style of drawing. Hence the name reverse graffiti. So for these artists a long dirty wall is simply a massive canvas!

For anyone without art experience it's probably hard to visualize, so lets get right into some examples of artists doing this and their work.

The most well known Clean Graffiti artist is Paul Curtis, or Moose, from the United Kingdom. Moose is considered to be the godfather of reverse graffiti. For the most part his tools are simply a brush, water and elbow grease. He's also formed a small company called Symbolix for commercial advertising campaigns using reverse graffiti. Below is a video directed by Doug Pray for the Reverse Graffiti Project showing the process Moose uses to create one of his pieces in a tunnel in San Francisco. 

I should mention that reverse graffiti isn't without media exposure. It has been used by brands like Smirnoff, BP, XBox and MSN since as early as 2004. 

Another reverse graffiti artist is Brazilian Alexandre Orion. One of his pieces was in a tunnel in Sao Paulo where he scraped away years of soot to draw hundreds of skulls. Jose de Souza Martins a Professor of Sociology at the Universidad de Sao Paulo describes the project as; "Skulls, one after another. From ocular cavities of so many dead, his work looks out on the living and interrogates people passing by; it quietly criticizes our omission, our comfortable acceptance of pollution."


[Orion at work Image from his website]

Without closer inspection it is almost impossible to believe that reverse graffiti like this isn't done with paint. It is unbelievable just how dirty our cities truly have become. Sao Paulo officials were not pleased with this particular piece, but unable to charge Orion with anything they instead power washed the entire tunnel. So in the end Orion's mission was successful and the city became a little cleaner. While Orion's work seems to me more politically and environmentally motivated it is no less appealing.


[from Orion's Website]

Going back to dirty cars. Scott Wade, an American artist, uses dusty cars for his canvas to create his own version of clean graffiti. These pieces are incredibly detailed and vary greatly in content from Mt. Rushmore to Landscapes to the Mona Lisa. He has an extensive gallery of his work at his site Dirty Car Art.


[Scott Wade's Mona Lisa from Dirty Car Art Gallery]

Last, but not least is the work of New York City street artist D. Billy. Billy uses primarily balloons and artist tape to create his whimsical pieces. The following is his artist statement regarding his work:

"Using colorful media such as twisting balloons, party streamers, and artist tape, I have begun to add visual representations of sound effects to public spaces as a sort of dimensional graffiti. After embellishing the found scenes and photographing the results, I leave my additions in place to engage passers-by for as long as the materials hold up. For me, this process encourages a reexamination of surroundings and objects that are usually taken for granted, and injects a hint of the fantastical surreality that I have established in my other work.

Or, at the very least, I hope someone thinks these things are kind of funny."


[D Billy - NYC subway - Balloons]

fire hydrant

[D Billy - NYC - Fire Hydrant]

Perhaps what is most compelling about the work of these 4 artists is the temporality and organic nature of their pieces. Especially with the true reverse graffiti of Moose, Orion and Wade. Overtime you know that pollution will again build up and slowly erase their creations or in the case of Wade a good rainstorm and all that's left is a memory. In any case all of these artists are successful in for at least for a moment getting passersby to stop and look at their surroundings a bit closer and even laugh at the mundane. So there you go. 4 artists trying to re-think street art in a non-destructive way.

13 August 2008

watch out for that giant turd


Complex Shit by Paul McCarthy from ArtInfo

Alright, for my after vacation come-back to Pinball...too good of a story to pass on. The UK's Telegraph reported yesterday an incredible story. Here's the headline:


Now even Hollywood can't make that "shit" up. (sorry too good to pass on that one) The Zentrum Paul Klee in Berne, Switzerland was hosting a modern art exhibition entitled "East of Eden. A Garden Show" and this inflatable sculpture of a pile of dog turds the size of a small house was a part of the exhibit. The sculpture by American artist Paul McCarthy was supposed to have a built in fail safe that would deflate should the turds come loose, but it malfunctioned and floated 200 yards away to a children's home on July 31st.

The hardest thing about all this is trying to figure out what part is best. The turd sculpture, the fact some engineer had to design a deflation safety device (can you imagine a client coming in asking for that..."Um yeah, we'd like you to design a deflation device for a balloon." "How large of a Balloon." "One the size of a house, oh and shaped like a turd."), or that apparently today we would consider an inflatable turd "high art."Ah, I almost forgot. The name of the piece is "Complex Shit" (2008). Totally Classic!

As for the sculpture itself this isn't an unexpected piece from McCarthy. He himself has said "My work is more about being a clown than a shaman." (Magnus Petersen) Critics have also gone so far as suggesting his work seeks to undermine the idea of "the myth of artistic greatness." (Paul McCarthy: Rites of Masculinity) Either way you have to give it up for someone out there who still has their sense of humor intact because personally I think it would be awesome to walk through a beautiful sculpture park full of serious pieces watching people pretend to know something about art and then turn a corner and find a giant pile of inflatable dog poop. To see such a common nuisance elevated to such a ridiculous scale would be hysterical. The fact that it took flight is just the cherry on the sundae.

The museum's official description of the intent for exhibit is as follows,

"20 Hectares of playground for the garden show: the farmland to the rear of the three steel hills and the entire tract of greenery from the Wyssloch Valley down to Lake Egelsee will be sprouting weird and wonderful objects to form and animated kind of front garden.

Paul McCarthy will be subverting the otherwise harmonious landscape sculpture of the Zentrum Paul Klee with his installation Complex Shit - a giant pile of dog feces."

To read the full article - Telegraph Uk

Zentrum Paul Klee Bern

12 July 2008

memory and music association

felix sockwell ny tiimes

[Felix Sockwell - New York Times Illustration]

I am a HUGE fan of music. I think I always have been. I remember sitting in my room when I was little listening to B104 on the radio and calling in requests with my friends. I like a lot of different type of music too... Actually the variety out there is one of the reasons I think it's been such a big part of my life. There is something for every mood and situation. Music is also a great equalizer. It doesn't matter what you do or how you grew up a song can evoke the same emotions.

One of the most powerful things about music is the memory associations created. Anyone affected by music can tell you that hearing certain songs can transport you back to a specific time in your life instantly. For me any 80s song and it's summer with my friends or cruising around with my sister and our sitter. Classical music reminds me of my father. There is also one song that I don't even know the name of, but it brings me right back to a child fashion show at the local mall I participated in. I can even feel the itchy turtleneck they made me wear. The list goes on and on.

It's amazing how clear the memories evoked are as well. I mean sometimes I can't even remember someone's name 2 minutes after being introduced, yet I know the lyrics to more songs than I can count.

The American Psychological Society is just as interested in this phenomenon. A study published in the journal "Nature" used an MRI to see what parts of the brain are used while listening to music and it was determined that musical memories are stored in the brain's auditory cortex. The researchers also found that even when the music ended we still continue to "hear it in our head," which keeps the auditory cortex active helping to further establish the memory. In fact there is an additional burst of brain activity after the song ends, which is contrary to normal brain function. (Usually the activity occurs while something is actively being perceived.)

Researchers from McGill and Stanford have also discovered that using music for brain studies is ideal because listening to music activates nearly all known areas of the brain. Perhaps music's ability to use many senses is what makes it so powerful and long lasting. People were playing carved flutes long before they were writing books and it was also a primary means of passing on oral history for centuries.

Many feel that listening to music helps cognitive development hence the "Mozart Effect". Now, I'm not sure if listening to Beethoven or Mozart will make you smarter, but King George I of England did. He commissioned Handel's Water music to help him reduce stress and decrease memory loses.

Playing a musical instrument has been proven to take the power of music a step further. Scientists have found that many musicians have an increased ability with linguistics and word associations especially if they started playing at a young age. There is evidence that since music simulates both sides of the brain at the same time it in a sense exercises the brain helping it to process complex information throughout life.

So next time you hear a GREAT song appreciate the power of music. Not many things have the ability to evoke a memory or change your mood instantly. And thanks dad for making me listen to classical music, while I was growing up. Every little bit helps.

To read more:

MSNBC May 26, 2005 article

CBC News Canada August 5, 2007 article

Mozart Effect

Music and the Brain - Laurence O'Donnell

09 July 2008

kitchen landscapes

While researching collections for my graduate thesis one of my advisors shared with me the work of Monica Rosello and Jordi Guillumet. They published a small book of photographs of "alternative landscapes" made from arranging common kitchen equipment like a grater, string, shakers, baskets, espresso maker, and sponges to name a few. The book is called l'Armari de l'Arquitecte and it is in Spanish, so much was lost in translation, but the images were no less haunting.

rosello 1

[from l'Armari de l'Arquitecte]

2 rosello

[from l'Armari de l'Arquitecte]

3 rosello

[from l'Armari de l'Arquitecte]

While Chinese artist. sculptor Zhan Wang has taken this concept 10 steps further with his futurist interpretations of modern cities like London and San Francisco. Using mirrors, pots, plans, tea kettles, utensils and any other stainless kitchen utensil you can imagine he creates these scenes as part of his "Urban Landscape"

Most of Zhan's work is of abstract forms resembling stone/ rocks that have been coated in chrome, so these cityscapes are a departure from his normal repertoire.

His recent "On Gold Mountain" exhibition at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco on just closed in May. The exhibit featured interpretations of rocks from Sierra Nevada, but Zahn also created one of his urban landscapes of the city of San Francisco. Stunning or maybe a "blinding" is more appropriate!

zhan wang - san fran

[SAN FRANCISCO from io9 http://www.io9.com/]


[LONDON from Williams College Museum of Art http://www.wcma.org/]

These certainly put my cereal box John Waynesque western town from the third grade to shame.

For more information on Zahn Wang check out the following sites:




07 July 2008

the air car

air car

Motor Development International (MDI) may have a solution for breaking the world's dependence on oil! And the answer is...drum roll please...The Compressed Air Car!

Models like the CityCAT can hit up to 68 mph with a range of 125 miles. They can be made into a hybrid as well to extend the range.  The best part is that it costs only around $2.00 to fill up with compressed air! (it holds 340 liters of air) Coming in at an estimated cost of around $13,000 it's also affordable.

These cars are ZERO emission! In fact air motors generally release cleaner air than they intake due to the air filter. Cars that are actually purifying the air? What a concept. And unlike fuel cells or electric cars they don't have batteries, which means they are more easily recyclable.

models       taxi

[proposed models of the Air Car under-development]

The only catch is they are tiny! They actually make the smart car seem large. So don't count on seeing them any time in the United States because I doubt they would pass safety requirements. They actually sort of remind me of those Fisher Price Power Wheels for kids.

They go into production this year in India.

More information can be found on MDI's website: http://www.mdi.lu/

02 July 2008

lyman-alpha blobs


(Image from http://www.subarutelescope.org/)

I've been home sick the last few days, so it gave me ample time to catch up on my saved History Channel and Nova episodes. While watching "The Universe" series on the History Channel highlighting the largest things in the universe I was introduced to the Lyman-Alpha Blob.

My first question is who comes up with the names for these things? Blob is the best we could do?!? The Lyman Alpha part refers to the filter, which filters the Lyman-Alpha emission line of hydrogen and allows us to see these amazing formations.


(Image from http://www.subarutelescope.org/ the LABs are green. Each square is 620 thousand light years across)

The Lyman-Alpha Blob or LAB is a concentration of gas. On the show it was compared to a giant bubble except instead of gaining its shape from gravity and air it moves and grows based on amassed energy and heat. The gas inside is moving at an estimated 300 miles per second. They are also immense! Some are more than 200 million light years across! Compare that to the our GALAXY, The Milky Way, which is only 100,000 light years in diameter. (That's 3,000 times larger for those keeping score) They aren't just big, they are also quite beautiful ameba-esque formations, constantly shifting and growing.

fig6 fig5

(Image from http://www.subarutelescope.org/)

LABs are relatively recent discoveries having been first seen in 2000 using the Subaru Telescope of the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan. Of course these LABs are so far away that we're really seeing what many of them looked like 12 million years ago. Scientist predict that the big bang was about 13.7 billion years ago, so 12 million is only a blip on the universal timeline.

Researchers believe these blobs are the precursors to the formation of large galaxies. So the blob is only a stage in a galaxies development. The blobs are regions where gas is collapsing under its own gravity in turn forming a galaxy. Some LABs have several galaxies already in their composition. With this discovery scientists hope to learn more about the cycle of a galaxy.

If this doesn't boggle your mind about just how large the universe really is then perhaps you should read up on the search for dark matter. There are so many amazing things out there in the universe!

I've done a fairly poor job of explaining these fascinating formations, so watch the video from the History Channel below to hear the experts give it a try! (Or go to http://www.history.com/video.do?name=The_Universe and watch The Universe: The Biggest Things in Space: Part II)

29 June 2008

run mice run rat run


I think local commercials are hysterical. While living in St. Louis I couldn't not laugh when a "Becky's Carpet and Tile" commercial came on. I mean what's not to love about a women in her 50s with heavy makeup, a pageant crown, and a prom dress flying around the Arch on a magic carpet.

The East Coast certainly does not disappoint. I just saw a great one tonight for a local company called "Run Mice Run Rat Run." The commercial is of a guy in a mouse costume jumping on a bed and then running out of a house. The product is just a spray that keeps rodents out of the house and apparently it's a green product. Even the local guys are cashing in on the green trend.

Having DVR means that I rarely see these local gems, but it's nice to know they are still out there.

25 June 2008


I'm a bit of a Polaroid maniac. I have hundreds...Sadly Polaroid announced earlier this year their plans to discontinue making the film at the end of 2009. For the moment I'm stockpiling, but instead of worrying about what's to come with the classic film I thought I would talk about a new product created by Polaroid. ZINK!

Short for "Zero Ink," Zink is thermal printing paper. Now you may be thinking ok sounds great, but what does that mean. The short version is that it is paper embedded with dye crystals of the primary ink colors - Cyan, Yellow, and Magenta. At first glance the paper is colorless and appears to be nothing special, however when you load it into the thermal printer it goes through a developing process that produces professional quality prints.

So what does this mean for the common recreational photographer? Well since Zink requires no ink cartridges printers can be a fraction of the size, not to mention that you'll never again need to worry about running out of ink. There is even talk of incorporating printers into cell phones & digital cameras, so perhaps you'll finally print out all those digital pictures.

Plus the prints are water-resistant, smudge proof and tear proof. Coming in at a cost of 30 cents a print, they are far less expensive then traditional Polaroids to boot. Even more motivation to print out all those great digital images just sitting on your memory cards.

Zink and Zink products enter the market this fall. Visit the official Zink site to learn more: http://www.zink.com/ OR watch the "What is Zink" video below from Zink.com