8/27/2008 4:50:58 PM
Abandoned houses, churches, and stores can give strange and eerie looks into the past. They also provide opportunities for some great photography. The blog collective Web Urbanist has compiled links to flicker groups for photos of the world’s discarded places.
For a creepy look into a place of broken dreams, the creators of the website illicitohio photographed Mike Tyson’s abandoned mansion. In the pictures, zebra print carpets, over-grown landscaping, and shuttered windows tell a story of former opulence gone awry.
, licensed under
8/21/2008 11:48:23 AM
In his book The Roma Journeys, photographer Joakim Eskildsen documents the lives of the Roma people, an oppressed and misunderstood minority often known as gypsies. The September-October issue of Utne Reader features Eskildsen’s lush color photographs and explores the lives and history of the Roma people.
For the latest episode of the UtneCast, Eskildsen sat down with senior editor Keith Goetzman to talk about the stereotypes that surround the Roma, how he immersed himself in their culture, and what he admires about them.
You can listen to the interview below, or to subscribe to the UtneCast for free through iTunes, click here.
Joakim Eskildsen on The Roma Journeys: Play Now
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Copyright Joakim Eskildsen.
The Roma Journeys by Joakim Eskildsen published by Steidl
8/19/2008 10:27:05 AM
The public art project TRASH: anycoloryoulike, launched this summer by the artist Adrian Kondratowicz, replaces traditional black trash bags with bright, colorful, biodegradable bags. Kondratowicz hopes that, in addition to making city streets look a little better, piles of flashy pink and white polka-dot garbage bags will get people thinking about how much they throw away.
“People are sensitized to seeing mounds of black trash bags lining sidewalks,” writes Kathryn Kondracki at the Next American City blog, “but the use of multi-colored bags will hopefully make by-standers stop and think about the impact.”
Individuals and businesses can sponsor city blocks or schools for one or more trash-collection days, and Kondratowicz can produce bags in just about any color.
If you want to see the pink polka dots in action, head to Brooklyn on August 21—the bags will be out on Broadway between Marcy Avenue and Hewes Street.
Images by Gina Marie, courtesy of anycoloryoulike.biz.
8/19/2008 12:02:20 AM
With over seventy years of musical experience between them and countless musical collaborations, film soundtracks, and multimedia projects gracing their resumes, Brian Eno and David Byrne could be forgiven for resting on their laurels. But the release of their new collaboration Everything That Happens Will Happen Today—their first work together since 1981’s acclaimed My Life In The Bush of Ghosts—marks the beginning of yet another creative chapter for the a capella enthusiast and the bike-rack designer.
With other rock juggernauts like Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails devising innovative ways of distributing music in the digital age, Byrne and Eno are placing a premium on their album’s physical packaging. Hardcore devotees can pony up $70 for the elaborate decorative box, Idolator reports, with traditional CD and digital downloads also available. Listeners can preview the album at its website and read Byrne’s characteristically low-key description of the project: “For the most part, Brian did the music and I wrote some tunes, words and sang. It’s familiar but completely new as well.”
8/18/2008 5:27:33 PM
Most of us think of postcards as the glossy tabloid of correspondence: pretty pictures, trivial statements, all easily forgotten. But California-based artist Julianna Parr had a different idea: Why not use the postcard as a legitimate artistic medium? Starting 10 years ago, she set out to draw or paint one work of postcard art each day. The result is Time Stamp: A Diary in Postcards, now at the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center's Advocate and Gochis Galleries. Parr’s postcards are sometimes funny, sometimes tragic, sometimes abstract, but all take well to their tiny medium, where the confined space paradoxically makes them more expressive and accessible than would a bigger canvas of a similar work. According to the exhibit’s press release, Parr wanted not only to showcase her creations, but to remind the viewers that they could easily do the same thing and explore their own creativity. “One of the underlying themes of this show is that I did all of this, and you can too,” she says. The entire exhibit (over 1000 postcards) is also available to browse online, where you can search by keywords and order prints of your favorites.
(Thanks to Drawn! The Illustration and Cartooning Blog)
Image courtesy of Julianna Parr.
8/18/2008 5:18:18 PM
Brazilian artist Nele Azevedo created a beautiful installation of tiny ice men who sat out in the sun until they melted. I like the ephemeral nature of the pieces, and how they changed and seemed to slump as the sun took its inevitable toll. You can also see more photos of the installation on Flickr.
8/18/2008 2:36:39 PM
People seem to be more vulnerable to earworm infections in the summer, and the ditty that’s been bouncing around my cranium lately is the insidiously catchy “Pot Kettle Black” by Omaha, Nebraska's Tilly and the Wall. The chant-along chorus, the repeating five-note guitar hook, the descending organ line, the big beat supplemented by tap-dance percussion: This is a soundtrack-for-the-season type of tune (and completely unrelated to a song of the same name by Wilco, I might add). It’s also got an amateurish but cool video (see below) in which the band members stage guerilla street performances around Omaha, star in a parade, and whip out some Michael Jackson-esque dance moves. Go ahead, give the song a try. It’s just waiting to find a nice, warm home in your ear canal.
8/15/2008 5:25:24 PM
If you believe conservative media conspirators, the only reason a majority of film critics have embraced Pixar Animation Studios’ WALL-E is because of its anti-corporate take on our environmental future (or lack thereof). But in a recent piece comparing Pixar to competitor DreamWorks, Film Comment (article not available online) argues that the movie’s magic—like its studio—is all about old-fashioned storytelling.
“Why are Pixar films so vastly superior to DreamWorks’ sorry output?” Ken Jones asks, setting up his piece in the magazine’s July-August issue. It’s because Pixar, which also produced Cars, The Incredibles, and the Toy Story movies, respects “their audience as sentient human beings rather than average consumers. There is no compulsion to check off categories (up-to-the-minute hipstermism, fart jokes for the kids, blueish double-entendres for the teenagers and adults, a barrage of visual and aural cues that keep the action cynically grounded in hip-hop/mall/Internet culture), none of the relentless calculation that renders the average commercial product, animated or live-action, nothing more than pricey yet expendable box office fodder.”
Jones argues that the creative forces at DreamWorks, which recently released Kung Fu Panda, are so driven by profit and opinion polls that they’ve scared themselves out of taking risks or challenging audiences. As a result, their movies lack the sense of wonder essential for escape. “It’s not that Pixar is less concerned with turning a profit,” Jones writes, “but that they care about making movies as much as they care about making money.”
Listening to WALL-E writer and director Andrew Stanton talk about the project on a recent episode of National Public Radio’s Fresh Air, you can’t help but conclude Jones is on to something. His tales about creating the characters and storyboarding the film make it clear that Pixar’s creative teams are given an unusual amount of freedom, as well as the time and resources necessary to execute originality. They’re also encouraged to challenge cinematic convention.
Stanton also addresses the political storm around his hit, which New York Times columnist Frank Rich concluded, unintentionally adding fuel to the echo chamber’s fire, was no less powerful than The Inconvenient Truth. The animator convincingly claims that when writing the script there was no “liberal” agenda. The circumstances simply fit the story arc of his main characters, who aren’t environmentalist, politicians, or blowhard pundits—just romantic robots in love.
Photo courtesy of Walt Disney Internet Group.
8/11/2008 1:40:14 PM
What do the Republican National Convention and rock and roll have in common? Very little, which is why most of the rock concerts in Minneapolis and St. Paul during RNC convention week are renegade events aimed at countering the Republican mania, not fueling it.
On Labor Day, which is RNC kickoff day, a host of national acts with working-class sympathies will rock the Take Back Labor Day Festival at Harriet Island Regional Park, just across the river from the convention site. On the docket of this concert sponsored by the SEIU (Service Employees International Union) are Steve Earle, Billy Bragg, Lupe Fiasco, Mos Def, Atmosphere, Alison Moorer, and Tom Morello, a.k.a. the political hell raiser known as the Nightwatchman.
On Tuesday, September 2, a large roster of local bands plus smartypants New York singer-songwriter Nellie McKay will play at Provention, “a concert for people, peace, and the planet” at the Fitzgerald Theater in downtown St. Paul. (Utne Reader is the concert's media sponsor.)
Finally, on September 3, the eve of the convention’s close, Morello and his briefly reunited Rage Against the Machine bandmates will bring their potent rap-rock to the Target Center in St. Paul’s sister city of Minneapolis. You might recall that Rage broke up shortly after an incendiary gig during the 2000 Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles.
Altogether, this show of musical force seems to reinforce the idea that apart from Ted Nugent, the Republican Party doesn’t have many rock and rollers on its side. Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, who’s been getting a lot of buzz as a potential McCain running mate, was famously flummoxed before the 2004 election to learn that his favorite rock artist, Bruce Springsteen, harbored liberal tendencies. As the governor may have figured out by now, it’s not just the Boss who’s blue.
UPDATE (8/15/08): The date and venue for the Provention concert have changed, as noted above, to Tuesday, September 2, at the Fitzgerald Theater. The last we heard, the bill included Nellie McKay, the Honeydogs, Dan Wilson, the New Standards, and Matt Wilson and John Munson, along with several other acts. Get the latest here.
As a commenter notes below, the Ripple Effect music festival (motto: “beyond the convention, beyond partisanship”) will take place on the State Capitol lawn on Sept. 2, with Michael Franti and Spearhead, Matisyahu, Dead Prez, Anti-Flag, and other bands as well as polar explorer/environmentalist Will Steger and Code Pink antiwar activist Medea Benjamin.
And the Black Dog Block Party is “an all-ages, free-admission, outdoor experience” happening on two nonconsecutive days (Sunday, Aug. 31, and Tuesday, Sept. 2) in St. Paul's Lowertown area. Political funksters Boots Riley and the Coup are flying in from the Bay Area to headline this event featuring several local bands.
Finally, the official Republican entertainment roster is indeed packed with country acts, as Hannah Lobel notes below, but I see that a few glad-to-get-a-gig rockers have signed on with the RNC: Sammy Hagar, Smash Mouth, and American Idol figure Chris Daughtry.
Image by Andrea Sartorati, licensed under Creative Commons.
8/8/2008 1:23:29 PM
Finally, some pleasant news related (however tangentially) to the oil industry: Minnesota Public Radio and MNSpeak are celebrating the 50th anniversary of what might be America’s most aesthetically pleasing gas station—the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Lindholm Service Station in Cloquet, Minnesota.
This milestone inspired me to browse images of other Wright structures, whose practical designs and clean lines ensure a calming, refreshing effect on the viewer. You can browse his work at the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation’s website and view a list of the many public sites designed by the architect, in case you want to see one up close.
Image by Elkman, licensed by Creative Commons.
8/8/2008 1:11:37 PM
Sergei Prokudin-Gorsky produced color images decades before color film, but his photos of the Russian Empire didn't go on public display until the 21st century. It's no surprise, since shortly after Prokudin-Gorsky's cross-empire photo survey (between 1905 and 1915), the October Revolution erupted, the photographer's supporter Tsar Nicholas II was executed, and Prokudin-Gorsky fled to France. But the years spent documenting the empire must have been heady, traveling in a darkroom-outfitted railroad car, producing images of miners, prisoners, tea harvesters, and yurt-dwellers. “Using color-filtered glass plates to capture a red, a blue, and a green channel of each image, the chemist-turned-photographer was able to project dazzling pictures onto Russia’s walls long before the advent of Lumicolor and Kodachrome film in the 1930s,” writes Russia! (article not available online), a U.S.-based Russian culture magazine that reprinted several of Prokudin-Gorsky’s images in its summer 2008 issue. The images were quietly bought up by the U.S. Library of Congress after World War II and got little attention until they served as records for church restoration in the post-Soviet 1990s, reports Russia!. The images are available for the first time to U.S. audiences at The Museum of Russian Art in Minneapolis, Minnesota, through October 1.
8/7/2008 3:34:20 PM
We’ll wait to see whether it joins “cool jazz” and “post-bop” in the jazz lexicon, but jazz has entered the “Radiohead Era,” according to Jonathan Zwickel in Down Beat (article not available online).
Down Beat certainly isn’t the first to notice that it’s become common for hip young jazz musicians to cover songs by Radiohead, one of rock’s most sonically innovative groups. The practice has almost become almost de rigueur among a certain crowd. Brad Mehldau, Marco Benevento, the Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey, Petra Haden, and the Bad Plus are among the players to have interpreted the band’s murkily majestic music.
Zwickel attributes the connection in part to Radiohead’s “balancing act between innovation and communication. Radiohead speaks clearly to the masses, but in its own language.”
“For me and my friends, jazz includes Radiohead,” Reed Mathis, bassist in Benevento’s trio and the Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey, tells Zwickel. “Thom Yorke has synthesized rock ’n’ roll forms with harmony that sounds like Rachmaninoff and Chopin—a weepy, dramatic, late-19th century thing.”
8/5/2008 12:00:34 PM
Not to be confused with the personalized mixes we make for ourselves and our friends, underground mix tapes—or these days, mixes burned to CDs—are the DIY recordings that unsigned hip-hop acts hawk on the street and at their shows.
Hip-hop mix tapes emanate from an involved subculture that the young magazine Foundation covers with an insider’s expertise. Philadelphia Weekly profiled the magazine’s founders, a trio of young men who began the magazine four years ago, lacking any formal writing experience but recognizing an underserved niche of mix tape criticism and commentary.
While rock bands peddle demos, unsigned hip-hop artists make mixes of themselves rapping over cobbled-together beats. It’s how most major performers, such as 50 Cent and Lil Wayne, got their start, and many major-label artists still reserve their rawest material for the medium, as if to repay their oldest and most loyal fans.
It’s an ethos that naturally appeals to DIY enthusiasts in other art forms, like writing. In the Believer, Found magazine’s Davy Rothbart was moved to sing the praises of mix tapes—arguably the sonic analog to his scrappy literary enterprise:
“The sleek and sanded major-label concoctions on sale at Circuit City are counterbalanced by hundreds, maybe thousands of great, unheard albums … I can’t help but respect the punk-rock, DIY spirit of anybody who makes art and tries to sell it to strangers on the street. After all, I do the same shit myself: Every year I hop in a van and go city to city selling my zines.”
Foundation has followed an upward trajectory similar to the artists it covers, from small-time music mag to venerated authority. Its story is heartening not simply because its writers are passionate about their subjects, but also because the magazine is a runaway success—an increasingly rare thing in today’s print-media landscape.
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