Archive for April, 2010




Leslie Buck, designer of New York’s iconic coffee cup, died Monday…


It was for decades the most enduring piece of ephemera in New York City and is still among the most recognizable. Trim, blue and white, it fits neatly in the hand, sized so its contents can be downed in a New York minute. It is as vivid an emblem of the city as the Statue of Liberty, beloved of property masters who need to evoke Gotham at a glance in films and on television. It is, of course, the Anthora, the cardboard cup of Grecian design that has held New Yorkers’ coffee securely for nearly half a century. Introduced in the 1960s, the Anthora was long made by the hundreds of millions annually, nearly every cup destined for the New York area. A pop-cultural totem, the Anthora has been enshrined in museums; its likeness has adorned tourist memorabilia like T-shirts and ceramic mugs. Like many once-celebrated artifacts, though, the cup may now be endangered, the victim of urban gentrification.

The Anthora seems to have been here forever, but in fact, it was first designed by Mr. Leslie Buck for the Sherri Cup Company in Kensington, Conn. Mr. Buck’s cup was blue, with a white meander ringing the top and bottom; down each side was a drawing of the Greek vase known as an amphora. (“Anthora” comes from “amphora,” as filtered through Mr. Buck’s Eastern European accent, his son said.) On front and back, Mr. Buck emblazoned the Anthora with three steaming golden coffee cups. Above them, in lettering that suggests a Classical inscription, was the Anthora’s very soul — the motto. It has appeared in many variant texts since then; Mr. Buck’s original, with its welcome intimations of tenderness, succor and humility, was simply this:

We Are Happy

To Serve You

Laszlo Büch was born on Sept. 20, 1922, to a Jewish family in Khust, then in Czechoslovakia. (It is today in Ukraine.) His parents were killed by the Nazis during World War II; Laszlo himself survived Auschwitz and Buchenwald. After the war, Mr. Buck made his way to New York, where he Americanized his name and ran an import-export business with his brother, Eugene, who had also survived the camps. In the late 1950s or thereabouts, the brothers started Premier Cup, a paper-cup manufacturer in Mount Vernon, N.Y. Leslie Buck joined Sherri Cup, then a startup, in the mid-’60s. Originally the company’s sales manager (for a time, he was its entire sales force), he later became its director of marketing.

Sherri was keen to crack New York’s hot-cup market. Since many of the city’s diners were owned by Greeks, Mr. Buck hit on the idea of a Classical cup in the colors of the Greek flag. Though he had no formal training in art, he executed the design himself. It was an instant success. Mr. Buck made no royalties from the cup, but he did so well in sales commissions that it hardly mattered, his son said. On his retirement from Sherri in 1992, the company presented Mr. Buck with 10,000 specially made Anthoras, printed with a testimonial inscription. In recent years, with the gentrification of the city and its brew, demand for the humble Anthora has waned. In 1994, Sherri sold 500 million of the cups, as The New York Times reported afterward. In 2005, the Solo Cup Company, into which Sherri had been absorbed, was selling about 200 million cups a year. Today, Solo no longer carries the Anthora as a stock item, making it only on request. Other companies still turn out versions of the cup, though not in the quantities of its 20th-century heyday.

(NY TIMES  4.29.10)

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did 21 months for forging Basquiats, then moved to China…


“I never liked Basquiat’s work much… I just knew instinctively it was something I could for — an easy way to make a quick 20 grand.”


The first thing that catches Alfredo Martinez’ attention outside Beijing’s hulking Military Museum is a 400-foot-long Scud missile on a trailer to the right of the entrance. “The Russians didn’t have GPS, so these are just guided by gyroscopes, which means they’re ‘guided’ in the sense that they’ll land anywhere from two to five miles from their target.” A quick discourse on gyro synchronous orbits comes next, followed by an anecdote from the two and half years Martinez spent at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, for forging Jean-Michel Basquiat paintings, among other things. While incarcerated he met a Georgian who’d been the first mate on a Russian nuclear submarine before becoming a Brighton Beach mobster. In the navy the Georgian had been an overachiever and wanted to get everything shipshape so he examined the housings of the missiles only to find out the crew had siphoned off the alcohol from the gyroscopes and replaced it with urine and seawater. What would have happened if the missiles had been launched? “It would have looked like a Roman candle.”

Climbing aboard a nearby Chinese copy of a Russian PT boat equipped with roughhewn Exocert water skimming missiles that resemble a high school metal shop project, he’s quick to point out a Type 90 twin-35mm anti-aircraft Chinese copy of a Swiss Oerlikon Bofors gun with a feed way for three bullets. “It operates like a gigantic zip gun, the spring wraps around the barrel, and you have to crank it to cock it. It’s all hydraulic.” The gun’s chair is small, Chinese size, and makes the 6’3” Martinez look monstrous, especially compared to the diminutive Chinese children running around the boat. A former Army corporal, convicted felon, instigator of and participant in Mad Max-like junk jousting tournaments in New York’s Joseph Petrosino Square in the early 1990s, and an artist who fabricates working guns, he has been curating shows and making new art in China for a year. A dyed-in-the-wool New Yorker who’s decamped to the People’s Republic partly for its psychic resemblance to the more chaotic and rougher New York of yore, he has a sophisticated cosmopolitan aspect to his character that belies his childlike obsession with guns. He’s also sarcastic and ironical, two decidedly “Western” rhetorical strategies that sometimes seem utterly foreign in China, as well as possessed of a cutting, occasionally extremely corny wit. When asked, “How’d you get to China?” he deadpans “On a plane” and when told a French friend had enthused that some Martinez drawings he’d seen in Paris were “hallucinant” and “amazing” he says, “Me and Jerry Lewis, big in France.”

I ask him if he was into Janes reference book as a kid and he rolls his eyes to indicate the question is so obvious it’s undeserving of an answer. “I first saw Janes when I was seven, around the time I started drawing. I never progressed to drawing naked girls.” Besides Janes, how does he know so much about guns? “I grew up in a bad neighborhood.” Sunset Park, where he later ended up serving time. There were also the rewards of Reading, Pennsylvania, the comparatively idyllic community to which Martinez moved with his family as a teenager. A man who worked for Lyndon LaRouche was investigating some overdue military reference books from the public library that had disappeared, leading him to 16-year-old Alfredo. They became friends, and with that came the gift of a huge collection of gun magazines.

Martinez looks around the deck the PT boat, studying details and musing, “This is what the U.S. is worried about, these kinds of boats attacking shipping. It’s 1950s technology that still poses a danger and they’ll still be dangerous in one hundred years. They’re cheap, tough to spot, and it’s easy to train the crews. It’s the naval equipment of a pistol—you can still assassinate someone with a pistol and you can take out an aircraft carrier with one of these.” Martinez seems fascinated and amused by all the “old technology dangers” in the world that are just as terrifying and destructive as the more spectacular ones governments tend to emphasize.

Inside the museum’s grand hall, the centerpiece is an upright V-2 that doesn’t appear very different from the Scud outside. Arrayed around it are sundry fighter planes, tanks, and other military vehicles, all appearing a bit worse for the wear. Their shabbiness is striking considering this is the country’s biggest military museum. We inspect a Chinese equivalent of the M1 tank, a modernization of the Russian T-72. “These have a larger turret. Everybody hated how small the T-72 turret was. Have you ever seen a tank soldier? They’re like four feet tall. That’s a T-62, like the tank from the famous Tiananmen Square photo.” Then it’s on to some rumination on the problem of Explosively Formed Penetrators defeating the M1’s armor. “They’re a copper disc shaped like a lens in a can with plastic explosives, about the size of a can of baked beans. A doorbell chime beam sets it off and the explosion forms a core of molten copper that slices through the cobalt armor like butter. The army lost over one hundred tanks in Iraq, and now they all stay on base. The appeal of the Striker Brigades is they’re much cheaper than tanks but they still have a gun that’s big enough to fuck with people. My main fixation is anything that has a gun.”

(VICE  9.08)

the full article continues here




never talk to strangers…


The aliens are out there and Earth had better watch out, at least according to Stephen Hawking. He has suggested that extraterrestrials are almost certain to exist — but that instead of seeking them out, humanity should be doing all it that can to avoid any contact. The suggestions come in a new documentary series in which Hawking, one of the world’s leading scientists, will set out his latest thinking on some of the universe’s greatest mysteries. Alien life, he will suggest, is almost certain to exist in many other parts of the universe: not just in planets, but perhaps in the centre of stars or even floating in interplanetary space.

Hawking’s logic on aliens is, for him, unusually simple. The universe, he points out, has 100 billion galaxies, each containing hundreds of millions of stars. In such a big place, Earth is unlikely to be the only planet where life has evolved. “To my mathematical brain, the numbers alone make thinking about aliens perfectly rational,” he said. “The real challenge is to work out what aliens might actually be like.” The answer, he suggests, is that most of it will be the equivalent of microbes or simple animals — the sort of life that has dominated Earth for most of its history.

One scene in his documentary for the Discovery Channel shows herds of two-legged herbivores browsing on an alien cliff-face where they are picked off by flying, yellow lizard-like predators. Another shows glowing fluorescent aquatic animals forming vast shoals in the oceans thought to underlie the thick ice coating Europa, one of the moons of Jupiter. Such scenes are speculative, but Hawking uses them to lead on to a serious point: that a few life forms could be intelligent and pose a threat. Hawking believes that contact with such a species could be devastating for humanity.

He suggests that aliens might simply raid Earth for its resources and then move on: “We only have to look at ourselves to see how intelligent life might develop into something we wouldn’t want to meet. I imagine they might exist in massive ships, having used up all the resources from their home planet. Such advanced aliens would perhaps become nomads, looking to conquer and colonise whatever planets they can reach.” He concludes that trying to make contact with alien races is “a little too risky”. He said: “If aliens ever visit us, I think the outcome would be much as when Christopher Columbus first landed in America, which didn’t turn out very well for the Native Americans.”

The completion of the documentary marks a triumph for Hawking, now 68, who is paralysed by motor neurone disease and has very limited powers of communication. The project took him and his producers three years, during which he insisted on rewriting large chunks of the script and checking the filming. John Smithson, executive producer for Discovery, said: “He wanted to make a programme that was entertaining for a general audience as well as scientific and that’s a tough job, given the complexity of the ideas involved.”

Hawking has suggested the possibility of alien life before but his views have been clarified by a series of scientific breakthroughs, such as the discovery, since 1995, of more than 450 planets orbiting distant stars, showing that planets are a common phenomenon. So far, all the new planets found have been far larger than Earth, but only because the telescopes used to detect them are not sensitive enough to detect Earth-sized bodies at such distances. Another breakthrough is the discovery that life on Earth has proven able to colonise its most extreme environments. If life can survive and evolve there, scientists reason, then perhaps nowhere is out of bounds.

(TIMES OF LONDON  4.25.10)

“STEPHEN HAWKING’S UNIVERSE” begins sunday 5.9.10 @ 9pm on the Discovery Channel — check their website for clips and renderings of Hawking’s ideas…

more on the search for extraterrestrials




Shepard Fairey’s “May Day” (opening 5.1) will be the final show at Deitch Projects — as Deitch is taking over as director of LA MOCA


stills taken from “They Live” starring “Rowdy” Roddy Piper…


What else is there to add to the volume of words dedicated to the art, commerce, and character of iconic American artist, Shepard Fairey? People remember where they saw their first Andre the Giant sticker, some of us more than 20 years ago; and certainly the dust-up over the Obama poster can’t have escaped anyone’s notice.

What is worth noting about Fairey’s work is the balance he has struck over the years between challenging himself and expanding his horizons as an individual artist, while keeping the world’s most recognizable style-and-brand empire in business. Now the juicy art/commerce, rebel/royalty cage match gets even more meta, as Fairey opens a new body of work on the salient theme of May Day, at the imminently closing Wooster Street Deitch Projects.Fairey will be the first to tell you — his game-changing visuals are as much about commerce as they are about art.


Piper with Andre…

Years before the kerfuffle over the authorship and/or originality of his iconic Obama poster, Fairey was incurring the wrath of fine-art traditionalists and social progressives alike for his brazen fusion of progressive social politics and a desire to make a living. How could pictures inspired by Communist history that purport to ignite the free exchange of ideas be sold for money? How could a street artist still claim populist cred once he’s been in a museum? How can printed posters and sticker-tossing street teams ever be real art? Answering his critics with both inspired words and high-profile deeds, Fairey labors on and in true OBEY style, he’s opening up a pop-up shop downtown. Whether it’s a cynical commercial opportunism, or a god-send to east coast fans who can’t afford to shop at Deitch, is entirely a matter of opinion.

(FLAVORPILL  4.27.10)

more on Shepard’s battle with the AP —  and make sure to check out the new mural on Houston painted on the site of Keith Haring’s ’80s piece…

THEY LIVE” 1988 directed by John Carpenter


spring is in the air…


the Hester Street Fair drew over 11,000 people opening weekend!!!

and made the NY TIMES diner’s journal

THE HESTER STREET FAIR continues every weekend until December…




the first American museum exhibit devoted to photographer Miroslav Tichý is on view now at the International Center of Photography, NYC…


“the mistake is a part of it, it is poetry… for that you need a bad camera”

from the ICP

Born in Moravia in 1926, Tichý studied painting at the Academy of Fine Arts (SVU) in Prague in the years immediately following the Second World War. After Czechoslovakia’s adoption of communism in 1948, he left the Academy and turned his back on the official art world, withdrawing from mainstream society, in part as a political response to the social and cultural repressions of the regime. Regarded as a talented painter and draftsman influenced by Picasso and the German Expressionists, Tichý did not agree with the prevailing socialist realism of the day, instead forming an artist collective known as the Brněnská Pětka (Brno Five) with other likeminded SVU alumni.

Constantly threatened and watched by the regime, the group took great risk in producing their work, even holding a clandestine exhibition in the Kyjov hospital in 1956. Tichý benefitted from the small, yet vibrant, cultural scene of Kyjov, taking in dance performances, plays, and beginning his first photographic experimentations with the artist Ladislav Víšek. Prone to mental breakdowns since his youth, Tichý worked alongside his peers until an apparent psychotic episode just before a planned exhibition in 1957 from which he withdrew his images. His work was not exhibited again until nearly four decades later. Over the years, his deliberately nonconformist lifestyle—as well as his mental illness—landed him in trouble with the authorities and led to periods of confinement in psychiatric institutions and the loss of his studio in 1972.

Living in near isolation in his hometown of Kyjov, Tichý conceived a world populated by images of the local women, taking thousands of photographs from the 1960s through the late 1980s. Though he never stopped producing paintings and drawings, Tichý focused the majority of his attention on the photographic medium, practically reinventing it to suit his artistic vision of capturing the feminine essence with light. Save for the film, chemicals, and photographic paper he bought from a nearby drugstore, all his photographic equipment was self-made. Using cameras inventively constructed from found materials—shoeboxes, tin cans, clothing elastic, toilet paper rolls, even cigarette boxes—Tichý obsessively returns to the subject of the female form, whether viewed from afar with his makeshift telephoto lenses, or captured from the television screen. His intuitive method of photographing during daily walks about town might appear amateur in ambition, but the intensity, frequency, and regularity with which he creates reveal a unique and distinctly personal style of photography.

Despite his camera’s crude optics—the lenses were cut from Plexiglas polished with sandpaper, toothpaste, and ashes—and skewed framing, the resulting images are formally complex, reflective of Tichý’s early art training, and vaguely reminiscent of the early works of the classical pictorial tradition. His images of women—often in bathing suits, bare-legged, or simply walking about town—are subtly erotic, taken from afar, often without the knowledge of the subjects. Tichý often embellished the surfaces and borders of these scratched, blurred, torn, and spotted images by drawing directly on them in pen or pencil, heightening the expressive quality created by his imperfect equipment. Sometimes framed or mounted on newspaper or cardboard, these highly personal objects were created for his own viewing pleasure, each negative printed only once with a homemade enlarger.

In 1981, Tichý’s prolific body of work was brought to light by his longtime neighbor, psychiatrist Roman Buxbaum, who began efforts to document the artist and preserve the deteriorating photographs. Tichý’s work has received public attention only in the last five years, first going on view in an exhibition by Harald Szeemann at the 2004 Seville Biennale, where Tichý’s work won the “New Discovery Award.” After this exhibition, the Tichý Ocean Foundation was founded on the artist’s behalf by a group of trustees to preserve and exhibit Tichý’s work, which has since been shown at major museums including the Centre Pompidou in Paris and the Kunsthaus Zürich.

The exhibition, organized by ICP Chief Curator Brian Wallis, includes Buxbaum’s 2004 documentary film, “Miroslav Tichý: Tarzan Retired” and will be accompanied by a catalogue with essays by Brian Wallis, Roman Buxbaum, Carolyn Christov Bakargiev, Richard Prince, and Nick Cave.

on view now at International Center of Photography, NYC — through 5.9.10…




in the 1890’s Mitsubishi mined coal from the sea floor below, and at it’s peak in 1959, the 15.6 acre island housed to more than 5,000 workers and their families resulting in the highest population density in history — in ’74 everyone was relocated to the mainland and the island was left to ruin…  in ’09 travel to Hashima re-opened after more than 20 years…


Seen from a distance, Hashima Island might be mistaken for the Japanese counterpart of Alcatraz rising from the ocean like a ragged slab of concrete. Few casual observers would ever guess that, only 40 years ago, this tiny island was the site of a thriving community with the highest population density on earth. One among 505 uninhabited islands in Nagasaki Prefecture, Hashima lies in the East China Sea some 15 kilometers from Nagasaki, its naked crags striking a stark contrast with the verdant peaks of nearby islands. A closer look reveals clusters of unpopulated high-rise buildings pressing up against a man-made sea wall, a battered shrine at the top of a steep rock cliff, and not a single tree in sight. The clue to the island’s mystery lies in coal mining. Reached by long descending tunnels, coal beds below the bottom of the ocean near Hashima disgorged huge quantities of high-grade coal for almost a century. But in 1974 the inhabitants abandoned the island to the wind and salt spray, leaving behind only unneeded belongings and a few stray cats.

After several failed attempts, the Fukahori Family installed a shaft mine on Hashima in 1887, inhabiting it for the first time. Three years later, it sold the island to Mitsubishi Corporation for 100,000 yen. The now world-famous company had expanded rapidly after its inception as a shipping enterprise in 1873. The years that followed witnessed a remarkable surge in Japan’s industrial capacity and military might, encouraged by victory in both the Sino-Japanese War (1894-1895) and Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905). At Hashima, Mitsubishi launched a project to tap the coal resources under the sea bottom, successfully sinking a 199-meter-long vertical shaft in 1895 and still another shaft in 1898. The company also utilized the slag from the mine to carry out a series of land reclamations, thereby creating flat space for industrial facilities and dormitories. Completed around 1907, the high sea-walls gave the island the appearance of a battleship riding the waves. The resemblance was so uncanny that a local newspaper reporter dubbed it Gunkanjima (Battleship Island), a nickname that soon replaced the official name in common parlance.

Hashima was producing about 150,000 tons of coal annually and its population had soared to over 3,000 when, in 1916, Mitsubishi built a reinforced concrete apartment block on the island to alleviate the lack of housing space and to prevent typhoon damage. This was Japan’s first concrete building of any significant size. America’s first large-scale concrete structure—the Ingalls Office Building, in Cincinnati—had been built only 14 years earlier. A square, six-story structure built around a dingy inner courtyard at the southern edge of the island, the building provided cramped but private lodgings for the miners and their families. Each apartment consisted simply of a single, six-tatami-mat room (9.9 square meters) with a window, door, and small vestibule—more like a monk’s cell than an apartment, but still a major improvement over previous living quarters. Bathing, cooking, and toilet facilities were communal.

This building was followed two years later by an even larger apartment complex on the sloping rock at the center of the island. Then the tallest building in Japan, the E-shaped apartment block had nine stories on the ocean side and three on the rock side. One multi-story apartment block followed another until the tiny island bristled with more than 30 concrete buildings. Even during the 11-year period before and during World War II, when not a single concrete building went up anywhere else in Japan, the construction of apartment blocks continued on Hashima as part of national efforts to meet the tremendous wartime demand for coal. As a result of these efforts, Hashima’s annual coal production reached a peak of 410,000 tons in 1941. But it was an achievement that exacted a heavy toll in human suffering. While Japanese youth disappeared onto the battlefields of China, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific, the Japanese government forcibly recruited large numbers of Koreans and Chinese to fill the empty places in its factories and mines, and many of these men perished as a result of the harsh conditions and a starvation diet.

Hashima was no exception. By the time the atomic bomb rattled the windows on Hashima apartment blocks and Japan surrendered to the Allied forces in August 1945, about 1,300 laborers had died on the island, some in underground accidents, others of illnesses related to exhaustion and malnutrition. Still others had chosen a quicker, less gruesome death by jumping over the sea-wall and trying in vain to swim to the mainland. The end of World War II brought radical changes to Hashima Island and an important new purpose for its product. Instead of fuel for warships and steel for cannon shells, the coal from Hashima forged the tools for Japan’s recovery from the pit of humiliation and defeat. Ironically, however, it was another conflict—the Korean War (1950-1953)—that catapulted the coal mines, and virtually every other Japanese industry, into a golden period of prosperity and growth.

The population of Hashima reached a peak of 5,259 in 1959. People were literally jammed into every nook and corner of the apartment blocks. The rocky slopes holding most of these buildings comprised about 60 percent of the total island area of 6.3 hectares (15.6 acres), while the flat property reclaimed from the sea was used mostly for industrial facilities and made up the remaining 40 percent. At 835 people per hectare for the whole island, or an incredible 1,391 per hectare for the residential district, it is said to be the highest population density ever recorded in the world. Even Warabi, a Tokyo bedtown and the most densely populated city in modern Japan, notches up only 141 people per hectare. Hashima contained all the facilities and services necessary for the subsistence of this bulging community. Elbowing for space in the shadows of the apartment blocks were a primary school, junior high school, playground, gymnasium, pinball parlor, movie theater, bars, restaurants, 25 different retail shops, hospital, hairdresser, Buddhist temple, Shinto shrine, and even a brothel. Motor vehicles were nonexistent. As one former miner put it, one could walk between any two points on the island in less time than it took to finish a cigarette. Umbrellas were also unnecessary: a labyrinth of corridors and staircases connected all the apartment blocks and served as the island’s highway system.

Equality may have reigned in the corridors, but the allocation of apartments reflected a rigid hierarchy of social classes. Unmarried miners and employees of subcontracting companies were interned in the old one-room apartments; married Mitsubishi workers and their families had apartments with two, six-mat rooms but shared toilets, kitchens and baths; high-ranking office personnel and teachers enjoyed the luxury of two-bedroom apartments with kitchens and flush toilets. The manager of Mitsubishi Hashima Coal Mine, meanwhile, lived in the only private, wood-constructed residence on the island—a house located symbolically at the summit of Hashima’s original rock. Mitsubishi owned the island and everything on it, running a kind of benevolent dictatorship that guaranteed job security and doled out free housing, electricity and water but demanded that residents take turns in the cleaning and maintenance of public facilities. Thus the people of Hashima huddled together, all under the wing of “The Company” and all bent on a common purpose. The community depended completely on the outside world for food, clothing and other staples. Even fresh water had to be carried to the island until pipes along the sea floor connected it to mainland reservoirs in 1957. Any storm that prevented the passage of ships for more than a day spelled fear and austerity for Hashima.

The most notable feature of the island was the complete absence of soil and indigenous vegetation. Hashima, after all, was nothing more than a rim of coal slag packed around the circumference of a bare rock. A movie shot there by Shochiku Co. Ltd. in 1949 was aptly entitled Midori Naki Shima (The Greenless Island). The initiation of a planting campaign in 1963 was a sign of the residents’ first hard-won taste of leisure. Using soil from the mainland they made gardens on the rooftops and enjoyed the unprecedented pleasure of home-grown vegetables and flowers. It was around this same time that electric rice cookers, refrigerators and television sets became standard appliances in the island’s apartments.

Hashima’s fortunes started on a downhill slide in the late 1960s when Japan’s economy soared and petroleum replaced coal as the pillar of national energy policies. Coal mines across the country began to close. Mitsubishi slashed the work force at Hashima step by step, retraining workers and sending them off to other branches of its sprawling and booming industrial network. The coup de grâce came on 15 January 1974, when the company held a ceremony in the island gymnasium and officially announced the closing of the mine. The subsequent exodus proceeded with amazing speed. The last resident stepped onto the ship for Nagasaki on 20 April 1974, holding an umbrella up to a light rain and glancing back woefully toward the empty apartment blocks.

Now desolate and forgotten, Hashima guards the entrance to Nagasaki Harbor like a strange, dead lighthouse, attracting little more attention than the visits of tired seagulls and the curious stares of people on passing ships. But the symbolism is hard to ignore. The tight-knit Hashima community was a miniature version of Japanese society and it straddled a landmass that, except for the lack of water and greenery, mimicked the entire archipelago. The island’s present forlorn state is a lesson to contemporary Japan about what happens to a country that exhausts its own resources and depends solely on foreign trade. Taking note, the Japanese government has used photographs of Hashima in full-page national newspaper advertisements calling for conservation of energy.


read the complete article here

and check out this short documentary “HASHIMA (2002) by Thomas Nordanstad…




a mockumentary about hunting hippies

“1970. THE WAR in Vietnam is escalating. President Nixon has decided on a secret bombing campaign of Cambodia. There is massive public protest in the United States and elsewhere. Nixon declares a state of national emergency, and – we presuppose in the film – activates the 1950 Internal Security Act (the McCarran Act), which authorizes Federal authorities, without reference to Congress, to detain persons judged to be ‘a risk to internal security’. In a desert zone in southwestern California, not far from the tents where a civilian tribunal are passing sentence on Group 638, Group 637 (mostly university students) find themselves in the Bear Mountain National Punishment Park, and discover the rules of the ‘game’ they are forced to undergo as part of the alternative they have chosen in lieu of confinement in a penitentiary. Group 637 have been promised liberty if they evade pursuing law enforcement officers and reach the American flag posted 53 miles away across the mountains, within three days.” — Peter Watkins

“The rigorous way in which Watkins has worked this out is extraordinarily believable, and it is impossible to emerge from his 90 minutes of psychodrama unbruised. The considerable gut reactions Watkins’ films provoke may partially explain the extent to which they are despised and ignored. No other filmmaker I can thjnk of, with the possible exception of Samuel Fuller, expresses his ‘liberalism’ in such hysterical paroxsysms of hate, but the spectator’s difficulty in identifying even with the hero-victims of Watkins’ ‘punishments’ is what precisely what continues to make them so disquieting and lethal…if the hopelessness of Watkins’ vision increases with each film, his technical brilliance has been sharpening to contain this rage.” — Jonathan Rosenbaum (VILLAGE VOICE ’71)

“A key film in the unimpeachable cry-in-the-wilderness corpus of Peter Watkins…’Punishment Park’ is an act of howling political righteousness, a dystopian critique intended for the peace-movement years but possibly even more relevant today…the movie might be the most radioactive portrait of American divisiveness and oppression ever made.” — Michael Atkinson (VILLAGE VOICE ’05)

PUNISHMENT PARK” 1971 directed by Peter Watkins

notes on ‘Punishment Park’ from Peter Watkin’s website

showing thursday, 4.22.10 @ 7:30 pm at the James Bridges Theater, UCLA




architect Ron Castellano, developer of several visionary projects in the area — such as the delectable Broadway East Restaurant and the remarkable restoration of the Forward Building — has teamed with co-founder SuChin Pak to bring a new street fair to the neighborhood below Delancy…

Hester Street late 1800s Getty Images

Hester Street late 1800s

the HESTER STREET FAIR debuts next weekend between the Essex Street basketball courts and Seward Park…

HSF will host roughly 60 vendors and continue Saturdays and Sundays through December — find all you need to know at the HESTER STREET FAIR




this June — the 25th anniversary of Porter College dropouts, Sluggo’s regulars, and venerable rock legends…

check out this great link to an achive of Camper LIVE on KZSC from feb. ’85..!  plus several other recordings from when Lassie was just a pup…




one of the PBS “Independent Lens” series and a revalation for those of us whose exposure to origami is limited to Gaff’s unicorn — who knew folding paper could help us solve the universe?  when was the last time you even folded a piece of paper?  before e-mail we had to fit the letter in an envelope at least…

“Taking Curves to the Limit” 2009 by Erik Demaine

a brief history of Origami…

from PBS

Origami is composed of the Japanese words, “oru” (to fold) and “kami” (paper).

Paper was first invented in China around 105 A.D., and was brought to Japan by monks in the sixth century. Handmade paper was a luxury item only available to a few, and paper folding in ancient Japan was strictly for ceremonial purposes, often religious in nature.

By the Edo period (1603–1868), paper folding in Japan had become recreational as well as ceremonial, often featuring multiple cuts and folds. It came to be regarded as a new form of art that was enabled by the advent of paper both mass-produced and more affordable. Written instructions for paper folding first appeared in 1797, with Akisato Rito’s Sembazuru Orikata, or “thousand crane folding.” In 1845, Adachi Kazuyuki published a more comprehensive compilation of paper folding with Kayaragusa; by the late 1800s, the term for paper folding had morphed from orikata (“folded shapes”) to origami.

Europe also has a tradition of paper folding that dates back to the twelfth century or before, when the Moors brought a tradition of mathematically based folding to Spain. The Spanish further developed paper folding into an artistic practice called papiroflexia or pajarita. By the 1800s, kindergarten-aged children in Europe and Japan were learning paper folding.

Traditional origami is characterized by open-access folding patterns and sequences passed down orally or anonymously from generation to generation. Modern origami often features models created by designers. Many of these models are considered copyrightable material or intellectual property. Modern origami often prioritizes a puzzle aspect to the folding, and the challenge of folding a single square of paper without using cuts or glue.

Akira Yoshizawa, who died in 2005 at age 94, is considered one of the progenitors of modern origami. In the 1930s, he developed a system of folding patterns employing a set of symbols, arrows and diagrams. By the 1950s, these patterns were published and widely available, contributing to origami’s global reach and standardization. Yoshizawa and other origami masters formed local and international organizations publicizing the art.

Today, origami has expanded to incorporate advanced mathematical theories. Mathematical origami pioneers like Jun Maekawa and Peter Engel designed complex and mathematically based crease patterns prior to folding, which emphasized the puzzle aspect of origami, with the parameters of using one piece of uncut paper. Artistic origami has also enjoyed a recent resurgence, with abstract paper folders such as Paul Jackson and Jean-Claude Correia.


“BETWEEN THE FOLDS” 2008 directed by Vanessa Gould

for more information visit Green Fuse Films — also check out more from Erik Demaine PhD, author of “Geometric Folding Algorithms: Linkages, Origami, Polyhedra”…

and — if you know any replicants, freak ‘em out with one of these:

gaff's unicorn bladerunner

Gaff’s calling card from “Bladerunner”…

step-by-step guide to make your own




a lesser known work by Malcom McLaren

a mix made from 45s on the jukebox in Malcom and Vivienne’s shop SEX at 430 Kings Road

1. Psychotic Reaction – The Count Five

2. Through My Eyes – The Creation

3. Ain’t Got No Home – Clarence ‘Frogman’ Henry

4. Shake Some Action – Flamin’ Groovies

5. You’re Gonna Miss Me – The Spades

6. Liar Liar – The Castaways

7. In The Nighttime – The Strangeloves

8. Brand New Cadillac – Vince Taylor

9. You Better Move on – Arthur Alexander

10. Eighteen – Alice Cooper

11. Night Of The Vampire – The Moontrekkers

12. Monster In Black Tights – Screaming Lord Sutch And The Savages

13. I Can’t Control Myself – The Troggs

14. I Put A Spell On You – Screamin’ Jay Hawkins

15. Have Love Will Travel – The Sonics

16. Joue Pas De Rock’n’Roll Pour Moi – Johnny Halladay

17. The Pill – Loretta Lynn

18. We Sell Soul – The Spades

19. Valerie – Jackie And The Starlites

20. Roadrunner – The Modern Lovers


“SEX: TOO FAST TO LIVE, TOO YOUNG TO DIE” 2003 (Only Lovers Left Alive Records)

for a very complete breakdown of the songs go to CAR TROUBLE




d.i.y., pronto…


Mark Hatch sees the revolution going something like this: wealthy, love-handled Americans will turn off their televisions, put down their golf clubs and step away from their Starbucks coffees. Then they will direct their disposable income and free time toward making things — stuff like chairs, toys and, say, synthetic diamonds. They will do this because the tools needed to make really cool things have become cheaper and because humans feel good when they make really cool things.

Should this revolution take place as planned by Mr. Hatch, much of it will happen at TechShop, a chain of do-it-yourself workshops. Mr. Hatch is chief executive of the company, which has three locations and plans to set up about 10 more over the next 20 months. TechShop represents an inevitable, corporatized version of the “hacker spaces” that have risen in popularity over the past couple of years to cater to people who like to hack things open and see how they work.

The typical hacker space consists of a few dozen people who share the costs of renting a work area and buying tools. There are spaces that lean toward robotics, some that specialize in software and others that generally encourage the melding of metal, electronics and plastic in artful forms.

TechShops offer more structure and a grander scale. Each has hundreds of members who pay a $100 monthly fee for access to a workshop and $500,000 of equipment. The members sign up for time on a machine or for a class and pop into the TechShop to do their work. If bending metal is your thing, great. The same goes for using a laser to cut fine designs into paper, creating custom silverware with the metal tools or making bespoke light fixtures with a 3-D printer. There are plenty of open workspaces, free popcorn and a communal kitchen, too — all to foster discussion, of which there is plenty.

The hacker spaces and TechShop are part of what has been described as a “maker movement,” basically a surge in do-it-yourself behavior that is at least partly a reaction against the banality of mass-produced goods.

Mr. Hatch is among those who say the maker cause will shift from a bandwagon to something that might have staying power in the American consciousness, like jogging or iced tea. He says that the prices of serious tools — mills, lathes, laser cutters, 3-D printers — have fallen about 90 percent over the past 15 years. One of the company’s $17,000 lathes, for example, used to cost $250,000. (It seems that China has a knack for lowering not only the price of finished goods but also the equipment needed to produce them, Mr. Hatch says.) In addition, people can now connect powerful computers to these machines for a low cost.

Building on another American tradition — capitalism — TechShop’s backers have tried to make the most of these trends by pushing hacker spaces into the mainstream. On an average weekday at the TechShop here in Silicon Valley, you might run into people laser-engraving wedding invitations, making soil fertilization analysis machines or shaping fake dog feces for a movie set.

Doug Busch, a vice president of Intel, is investing in TechShop as it looks to expand. Its other two current locations are in Durham, N.C., and Portland, Ore. There are plans for three more TechShops this year — including one in San Francisco and one in San Jose, Calif. — and an additional seven next year.

Mr. Hatch says the Menlo Park store, which now has 600 members, can turn a profit at 1,000 members. “I believe a significant subset of Americans will trade up from Ikea to TechShop, so they can point to one of their chairs and say, ‘I made that,’ ” Mr. Hatch says.

(NY TIMES  4.9.10)

read the entire article here




Milton Black’s dog is barking…


Los Angeles’ most famous hot dog bun needs a roll.

Trouble is, Tail o’ the Pup owner Dennis Blake doesn’t have a place to roll it to.

The landmark hot dog stand that resembles a mustard-slathered wienie-in-a-bun — featured in movies and music videos and considered an important piece of L.A. architecture — has sat on wheels and been covered with a tarp in a Torrance warehouse since being evicted five years ago from its longtime home.

Blake badly wants to return the Pup to its chowhound followers. But he can’t find a spot to put the tiny hot-dog house.

Crafted from chicken wire and stucco, the stand measures 17 feet from wienie tip to tip. It sits between a shiny aluminum travel trailer and a fiberglass-hulled boat at the Wesco Self-Storage Center on Normandie Avenue.

The Pup had a few bites taken out of it when it was booted from San Vicente Boulevard in West Hollywood. But a couple of stucco patches and some new paint will handle those, Blake said.

“The dog itself doesn’t need a lot of work. We’d just have to build a kitchen and attach it to the back of it,” he said.

Viewed by architecture experts as an important example of “programmatic” design, in which merchants tried to catch motorists’ eyes with buildings shaped like chili bowls, oranges, doughnuts and coffee cups, the Pup had a proud place on L.A.’s streetscape for nearly six decades.

If it comes out of storage and reopens, it won’t be the first time that’s happened.

Originally designed by architect Milton Black, the stand opened at La Cienega and Beverly boulevards in June 1946 to luminary-studded, searchlight-lit fanfare.

Eddie Blake purchased the Pup in the early 1970s from its celebrity owners, the dance team of Veloz and Yolanda.

But in 1985 the Pup was closed to make way for a luxury hotel. The stand sat in storage for a few months until its replacement location on nearby San Vicente Boulevard was found. Its reopening in 1986 was another celebrity-filled affair.

sigorne weaver at the pup

Sigourney Weaver at the Pup…

But then a development company purchased the Pup’s site at 329 N. San Vicente Blvd. from Blake’s landlord, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, and announced plans to build 152 condominium and apartment units.

By that time, Dennis Blake had taken over the stand from his father. He toyed with the idea of moving the Pup to Westwood after its closure. That’s where the development company was willing to let him install it at a Broxton Avenue parking lot it owned.

“But they wanted me to sign a long contract, and I got scared” and turned down the offer, said Blake, 57, of West Hollywood.

Blake received what he calls a “severance package” from the company. More recently, he has lived on the proceeds of the sale of the Westchester home owned by him and his late wife, Mariaelena.

“I’ve been looking for a new place for it for a year — in West Hollywood, West L.A., Santa Monica, even Beverly Hills. Someplace our built-in clientele can find us,” he said. “I’m ready to rock and roll.”

Eddie Blake, 85, said his son needs a space “about 25 feet by 20 feet, plus some customer parking space,” before the Pup can be unleashed.

Ironically, the residential project responsible for the stand’s shutdown remains unbuilt. Dennis Blake said he would be happy to return to the San Vicente Boulevard site if a long-term lease could be arranged.

Regent Properties, which sold its majority interest in the housing project in 2008, did not return phone calls. But West Hollywood planning officials suggested that financing has held up the proposed three-acre development, which would be their city’s largest residential project.

John Keho, the city’s planning manager, said he still thinks there’s space for the Pup in West Hollywood.

“It might be able to go right across the street from City Hall,” Keho said. “Maybe it could go next to Irv’s Burgers.”

That celebrated 63-year-old hamburger stand at the northeast corner of Santa Monica Boulevard and Sweetzer Avenue was saved from being bulldozed by a coffee chain outlet five years ago after its fans persuaded West Hollywood officials to designate it a cultural resource.

Hot dogs alongside hamburgers. Fast-food fans might relish that.

(L.A. TIMES  4.11.10)




alone in the universe..?


Fifty years ago this week, on April 8, 1960, a little-known astronomer named Frank Drake sat at the controls of an 85-foot radio telescope at an observatory in Green Bank, W.Va., and began to sweep the skies, looking for a signal from an alien civilization. It was the start of the most ambitious scientific experiment in history.

Barely an hour had passed when the equipment suddenly went wild. A loudspeaker hooked up to the giant antenna began booming and the pen recorder gyrated manically. The radio telescope was pointed at a nearby star called Epsilon Eridani. Mr. Drake was nonplussed. Surely his quest couldn’t be that easy? He was right. The commotion turned out to be a signal from a secret military radar.

The astronomer’s solitary vigil lasted for a few weeks; he ran out of telescope time with little to report. Nevertheless, his pioneering effort sparked the genesis of a 50-year project known as the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, now an international research program with a multimillion-dollar budget. It has included renting time on some of the biggest radio telescopes in the world—such as the 1,000-foot dish at Arecibo in Puerto Rico, featured in the James Bond movie “GoldenEye.”

After five decades of patient listening, however, all the astronomers have to show for it is an eerie silence. Does that mean we are alone in the universe after all? Or might we be looking for the wrong thing in the wrong place at the wrong time?

By focusing on radio signals, the search for intelligent life has been extremely limited. As in forensic science, the clues left by alien activity might be very subtle and require sophisticated scientific techniques. An advanced civilization might engage in large-scale astro-engineering, reconfiguring its planetary system or even modifying its host star, effects that could be observed from Earth or near space. The physicist Freeman Dyson once suggested that an energy-hungry alien community might create a shell of material around a star to trap most of its heat and light to run its industry—a solar energy program with a vengeance. Dyson spheres would betray their existence by radiating strongly in the infrared region of the spectrum. A few searches have been made using satellite data, but without success.

If a civilization endures for long enough, it might seek to migrate beyond its planetary system and colonize, or at least explore, the galaxy. The Milky Way is huge—about 100,000 light years across—and contains 400 billion stars, but given enough time, a determined civilization could spread far and wide. Our solar system is about 4.5 billion years old, but the galaxy is much older; there were stars and planets around long before Earth even existed. There has been plenty of time for at least one of those expansionary civilizations to reach our galactic neighborhood—a prospect that once led the physicist Enrico Fermi to famously utter “Where is everybody?”

How do we know they haven’t been here already?

It would be an incredible coincidence if Earth had been visited by aliens during the brief span of human history. On purely statistical grounds any visitation is likely to have been a very long time ago. To pluck a figure out of midair, imagine that an alien expedition passed our way 100 million years ago. Would any traces remain?

Not many. However, some remnants might still persist. Buried nuclear waste could be detectable even after billions of years. Large-scale mineral exploitation such as quarrying leaves distinctive scars that, in the case of Earth, would eventually become obscured by overlying strata but would still show up in geological surveys. Space probes parked in orbit round the sun might lie dormant yet intact for an immense period of time. Scientists could look for such hallmarks of alien technology on Earth and the moon, in near space, on Mars and among the asteroids.

Another physical object with enormous longevity is DNA. Our bodies contain some genes that have remained little changed in 100 million years. An alien expedition to Earth might have used biotechnology to assist with mineral processing, agriculture or environmental projects. If they modified the genomes of some terrestrial organisms for this purpose, or created their own micro-organisms from scratch, the legacy of this tampering might endure to this day, hidden in the biological record.

Which leads to an even more radical proposal. Life on Earth stores genetic information in DNA. A lot of DNA seems to be junk, however. If aliens, or their robotic surrogates, long ago wanted to leave us a message, they need not have used radio waves. They could have uploaded the data into the junk DNA of terrestrial organisms. It would be the modern equivalent of a message in a bottle, with the message being encoded digitally in nucleic acid and the bottle being a living, replicating cell. (It is possible—scientists today have successfully implanted messages of as many as 100 words into the genome of bacteria.) A systematic search for gerrymandered genomes would be relatively cheap and simple. Incredibly, a handful of (unsuccessful) computer searches have already been made for the tell-tale signs of an alien greeting.

One of the hazards of searching for alien life is an inbuilt anthropocentric bias. There is a natural temptation to fall back on what we would do when trying to guess the motives and activities of aliens. But this is almost certainly misleading. Unless alien communities inevitably destroy themselves, they could last for tens of millions of years or more. It is impossible for us to guess what such immensely long-lived civilizations would be like or how they would affect their environment.

One thing seems clear, though. Biological intelligence is likely to be merely a brief phase in the evolution of intelligence in the universe. Even in our own young species, computers now outperform people in arithmetic and chess, and Google is smarter than any human being on the planet. Soon, most of the mental heavy lifting will be done by designed and distributed systems, and over time those systems will themselves design better systems. Given a very long period of development, information and knowledge processing, networks could merge and in principle expand to cover the entire surface of a moon or planet. If we ever do make contact with E.T., it is unlikely to be a flesh-and-blood being with a big head, but a gigantic throbbing artificial brain. Whether such an entity, inhabiting the highest reaches of the intellectual universe, would have the slightest interest in us is moot.

We have no evidence whatsoever for any life beyond Earth, let alone intelligent life. It could be that life’s origin was a stupendous fluke, and that we are alone after all. But the consequences of discovering that other intelligences exist, or have existed, are so momentous it seems worth taking a penetrating look at how we could uncover evidence for it. While astronomers painstakingly monitor the hiss and crackle of the natural universe for any hint of a signal, scientists of all disciplines should reflect on how alien technology might reveal its existence in other ways, both across the vastness of space, and in our own astronomical backyard.

For many nonscientists, the fascination with the search for extraterrestrial intelligence is its tantalizing promise of wisdom in the sky. Frank Drake has said that the search for alien intelligence is really a search for ourselves, and how we fit into the great cosmic scheme. To know that we are not the only sentient beings in a mysterious and sometimes frightening universe—that an alien community had endured for eons, overcoming multiple problems—would represent a powerful symbol of hope for mankind.


read the entire article here




a new film by Banksy about Mr. Brainwash…


With his new documentary, “Exit Through the Gift Shop”, British street-art superstar Banksy serves up his most irreverent work yet. The film depicts the crazy rise of film-and-art dabbler Thierry Guetta, a.k.a. Mr. Brainwash, whose unlikely success Banksy jump-started.

If “Exit Through the Gift Shop” is technically flawed, the documentary is nevertheless a savvy testament to the concept of DIY filmmaking, both a valuable recorded history of a scene and an awesome romp through perilous L.A. with the world’s most admired street artists, allowing viewers to experience life underground in the wee hours of the morning. Through the eyes of Guetta, a native Frenchman who inadvertently stumbled into the world of graffiti art, we witness wheat-paste postering at death-defying heights, intricate stenciling on rooftops and the inevitable run-ins with police.

While most fans of graffiti and street art could watch these scenarios play out for the film’s entire 90 minutes, Banksy takes a 180-degree turn — perhaps out of respect for a general audience — to focus on Guetta, a self-professed filmmaker obsessed with capturing absolutely everything on tape, no matter how mundane. In Exit, Guetta comes off as a bumbling, Inspector Clouseau–like self-promoter who pastes posters of his face all over L.A.

In the late ’90s, at a family reunion in France, Guetta realized that he is a cousin of mosaic artist Space Invader, and began documenting the burgeoning street-art scene worldwide for his own film. Over the past decade, Guetta and his camera had unrestricted access to street art’s most prolific talents, including the scene’s anonymous cult figure, Banksy.

After being the subject of Guetta’s lens for nearly 10 years, Banksy realized the potential of Guetta’s footage. He then suggested that Guetta hand over his tapes and instead occupy himself with making his own art, perhaps even staging a show in L.A. Guetta’s subsequent hiring of some 20 assistants to produce a major exhibition culminated in the now-infamous June 2008 show in Hollywood that catapulted him to celebrity status.

Meanwhile, Banksy and friends began work on Exit using Guetta’s footage. And in Exit, we glimpse what Guetta’s documentary might have looked like: an unwatchable, crosscut, random, self-promotional mishmash called “Life Remote Control”, part ’80s-style music video, part schizophrenic nightmare. After first seeing Guetta’s rough cut, Banksy recalls in Exit, “I didn’t know if I believed he was a filmmaker or a mental patient with a camera.”

Asked via e-mail how he maintained his anonymity while shooting Exit, Banksy responds, “The film was made by a very small team. It would have been even smaller if the editors didn’t keep having mental breakdowns. They went through over 10,000 hours of Thierry’s tapes and got literally seconds of usable footage out of it.”

Guetta may have spent years stalking Banksy with his camera, but by the end of the film, it’s difficult to decide who’s more obsessed with whom.

“I continue to find the rise of Mr. Brainwash absolutely fascinating,” Banksy quips. “His art sells for roughly double what mine does these days. Gore Vidal once wrote that ‘Every time a friend of mine succeeds, a little bit of me dies.’ I’d amend that to ‘Every time one of my friends borrows my ideas, mounts a huge art show and becomes a millionaire celebrity,’ a little bit of me wants him dead.”

Whatever the case, there’s something undeniably L.A. about the success of Mr. Brainwash.

“Thierry is the living embodiment of the American dream,” Banksy says. “America’s capacity to be infuriating is matched only by its capacity to reinvent itself into something brilliant.”

Los Angeles plays a huge role in Exit, and the Weekly makes a cameo appearance or two. When asked about what director Werner Herzog has referred to as the “magic” of L.A., Banksy responds: “In Los Angeles, you can rise without a trace. There’s a moment in the film where you see a dude joining the back of the line at an art show. He says he doesn’t know why he’s there, but he joins it anyway. The first time I saw that, I laughed — it was the emperor’s new clothes, the triumph of hype and hot air.

“But now I’ve thought about it. I love that guy — he’s prepared to give anything a shot, to try something new. Cities like New York and London might pride themselves on being more hard-bitten and cynical than Tinseltown, but you have to ask yourself: What’s actually so great about that?”

In Exit, Shepard Fairey, art-world icon and Echo Park resident, is less generous with regard to Guetta’s celebrity. Fairey tells the Weekly, “Mr. Brainwash is all public perception, and that’s what gets him off the hook. He couldn’t get away with what he does if the public didn’t buy into it, and that says a lot about popular culture, new technology and perhaps the art world in general, which is what Banksy’s getting at. If it wasn’t for Thierry’s glorious lack of self-awareness — and his public’s for that matter — he wouldn’t be where he is today. How can you begrudge him?

“Yet it was an injustice that the only street-art cover story the Weekly ever chose to do was the one on his show. Pop art was never a bad word to me until I saw Thierry’s show in L.A. It was then I found the line between what looks cool but has no meaning and a piece that maybe continues a deeper conversation. It’s helped me not to make those mistakes in my own work, the cheap shots, ever again. That being said, Thierry’s my friend. He’s a nice person and a hard worker. Don’t be annoyed by him. Make him irrelevant, make something better.”

Parallel to the entertaining story line of the unnatural rise of Mr. Brainwash, and notwithstanding its tag, “The World’s First Street Art Disaster Movie,” Exit is an invaluable celluloid retrospective of Banksy’s prolific career, including his greatest hits: iconic rat stencils, the uninvited interjection of paintings into institutional collections, a Guantanamo prisoner placed in a diorama at Disneyland and, of course, the painted elephant that raised so many eyebrows here during his 2006 blockbuster show, “Barely Legal.” Despite the auction price for his original work hitting a record high of more than $1.8 million in 2008 (for a charity collaboration with Damien Hirst titled “Keep It Spotless”), Banksy may still wrestle with some of the same “is it art?” questions that a personality like Mr. Brainwash faces. But he remains unconcerned.

“I’m not so interested in convincing people in the art world that what I do is ‘art,’ ” Banksy says. “I’m more bothered about convincing people in the graffiti community that what I do is really vandalism.”

(LA WEEKLY  4.2.10)

check out the full article here

“EXIT THROUGH THE GIFT SHOP” 2010 directed by Banksy

opens at ArcLight Hollywood and Landmark West L.A. 4.16…




the restored version screens at MOMA next week…

“World on a Wire”


Not only a forgotten masterpiece of screen science-fiction but one of the forgotten masterpieces of the screen in any genre, Fassbinder’s adaptation of Daniel F. Galouve’s novel is like the ultimate cinematic Kafka, a science-fiction epic which hardly any of the trappings of the genre.  We assume it’s set in the future, but aside from the technology we take for granted and a few novelties like video phones, we could just as easily be in the 1970s.

Never was Fassbinder’s love of phantasmagoria more potent than here, chucking in not only numerous truly surreal sequences, but also homages to more films and other divers artistic milestones than one can count.  There’s barely a single film connoisseur alive who will fail to spot the black monolith-shaped object in a slow track back early in the first episode, and even less who won’t recognise and smile at the scene shot in the fashion of The Third Man – complete with zither music – and pastiche of the Dishonored firing squad finale in the second half.  It’s in the small details that the film is most unnerving, however, from the fact that nearly everyone drinks whisky to the cold inscrutability of the various women in the piece to the police coming to ask questions we know they’re asked before but they don’t.  Fassbinder fans will recognise numerous faces from his other works, not least those two mainstays of his later small screen masterwork Berlin Alexanderplatz, John and Lamprecht, and though all the cast play their parts to perfection, it’s Löwitsch who holds it all together, in a performance of ever-increased paranoia – one feels almost as if one can see him split at the seams like an old shirt.  It’s a “thin line between madness and genius“, we are told, and never did that statement seem to more persuasive than here.


“WELT AM DRAHT” (World on a Wire) 1973 directed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder

at MOMA 4.14-19…

more on the film and it’s upcoming release


launch time…


the Discovery taking off in Florida, Monday, on a mission to resupply the International Space Station

photo by M. Walsh for the NY TIMES




“if you expect loud, loud is what you are going to hear”…



At 72, Jerry Weintraub is still swinging. He has just come out with his autobiography: “When I Stop Talking, You’ll Know I’m Dead: Useful Stories From a Persuasive Man”.

Weintraub was the Man Behind the Man, whether the man was Sinatra, Elvis or George H.W. Bush.

Long ago, Weintraub realized that the guy who does favors is never far from the guy who has favors done for him. One thing parlays into another. His firm, Concerts West, revolutionized the form in the 1960s. He managed recording artists and then moved on to producing television, Broadway shows and movies. He became chairman of United Artists. And he still works the phone.

“I get calls every morning,” Weintraub says from the deck of his Palm Desert mountaintop oasis. “Really I am a concierge, because the first 150 things I do in the day are for somebody else — get somebody rooms in Vegas, tickets for James Taylor, can you get me into this hospital, get me into that college?”

“When I Stop Talking” is anything but a rote, let-the-record-show memoir. In it he tells about the folks he’s known and worked with: He describes the statue of the Buddha that Elvis’ manager, Col. Tom Parker, kept in a cabinet in his motel room on the road and how he almost cast Japanese actor Toshirô Mifune in “The Karate Kid.” How he got Bob Dylan to perform on the Chabad telethon he produced, how he hung out with Bobby Fischer and tried to make an album, teaching a kid how to play chess, with him.

Although it’s packed with stories he’s surely been telling at dinner forever, the book is also a modest set of guidelines for how you too can be a successful mogul. “A lot of it comes from my father,” he says. “He told me when you walk in to work, in the office, just say ‘Good morning’ and go to work. Whatever you do, don’t say, ‘How are you?’ Because people will tell you — and there goes half your day.”

More than that, it’s written with stealth and style, doubtless shaped by his co-writer, Rich Cohen, who profiled Weintraub for Vanity Fair in 2008. The book, really, is a performance, a monologue by a guy comfortable hanging with Armand Hammer at Leonid Brezhnev’s funeral or with Joey Bishop at a deli. It’s a show based on horse pucky on braggadocio. As Weintraub writes: “If I had been around with Van Gogh or Melville, they would not have had to wait so long for fame.” Weintraub has been married twice, the second time to singer Jane Morgan. They never divorced, and she gave him her blessing to live with his new discovery, Susie Ekins. ” Warren Beatty, lothario of lotharios, once asked me the secret. ‘How did you make it work, Jerry?’ “

He’s a steamroller with gold cuff links. His gift, he likes to say, is packaging, and what he most of all packages — even better than a show or a movie — is an impression. When he started booking shows for Led Zeppelin, the band complained that the sound system was not loud enough. Weintraub vowed to fix that. He spent the day of the next show painting speaker-size cardboard boxes black and making a wall of fake speakers beside the stage. That night, the band was impressed, and grateful, that Weintraub was able to deliver. He had fooled them, but he had satisfied them. “If you expect loud, loud is what you are going to hear,” he writes.

Everything Weintraub’s gotten in life has been based on a capacity for making connections. Even he can’t fully explain it. He tells the story of how he became friends with Bud Ekins, Hollywood stuntman and Susie’s father. Quietly, Weintraub steered the hard-living brawler, and Catholic, to Judaism on his deathbed. Weintraub was asked to speak at the funeral. He felt a need to tell the assembled friends what Ekins had done in his last days and why a rabbi was presiding over the funeral. He knew they would be shocked.

“I spoke of how he had decided to become a Jew. Many of the mourners looked confused. These were stuntmen and bikers, hundreds of tough guys with long hair and leather coats, giant guys named Tiny. ‘Let me explain why he became a Jew,’ I said. ‘Because Bud Ekins did not want to confess his sins.’ With that, the stuntmen and bikers went wild.”

Endlessly suggesting, relentlessly convincing — and then spinning the result. It’s what Weintraub has done his entire life.

“I’m not afraid to go out there and put my neck out on the table,” he explains. “If you are going to have celebrity like I do, I know this, you have to live with the consequences of it, the good and the bad. It’s OK, it comes with [the] territory. . . . I have access to money, I have access to people. I can be in any business I want to be in. And by the way, it’s my belief that they are all the same. At the end of the day, you either buy something or sell something.” He buys cardboard boxes and builds a stairway to heaven.

He was raised in the Bronx and received his extracurricular schooling in the mail room of William Morris and then working for Lew Wasserman at MCA. You’ve heard of the Great Man theory of history? “When I Stop Talking” is theory put into practice. Weintraub was introduced by Jane Morgan to George H.W. Bush long before Bush entered the White House, and one thing led to another. “He took me behind the scenes, showed me how the world was wired,” writes Weintraub. The mogul learned from the best, hectoring Col. Parker and persuading him to let Weintraub set up an American concert tour for Presley that, by cutting out local promoters like Bill Graham in the Bay Area, rewired the concert industry.

After that came tours with Sinatra. Then Weintraub got bored and took to Hollywood, where he produced “Nashville” and “Diner.” But of all the big shots he’s shot it with, perhaps nothing means as much to Weintraub as having built and managed the career of an icon who seems more Muppet than Great Man: John Denver.

It’s hard in 2010 to understand how big John Denver was in the 1970s, how his helmet of corn-silk hair and the easy grin appealed to a boomer generation that was eager to move on from the struggles of the 1960s and head for the mountains. But from the moment Weintraub saw him performing in a small Greenwich Village club, he felt he had found something special. And something that would be indisputably his, the way Elvis or Sinatra never could be. Weintraub makes clear the personal interest he took in Denver’s career. “He would be a test case for all my theories on selling and packaging, for everything I had learned since I left home,” he writes. Through Denver, Weintraub achieved everything he might have wanted, perhaps, but not everything Denver wanted. In the end the singer dumped the man who “cooked [him] from scratch,” and the book makes clear the move still angers Weintraub, though not as much as it baffles him. How could he leave at the peak of his success?

The phone rings; he lets it go. He looks like it’s killing him, but he’s trying to finish a big point here. “It’s very hard to leave the stage. Look at Brett Favre. Everybody thinks he should have left the stage five years ago. But he stayed there and stayed there and last year had the best year of his career. Sinatra never could leave, though he would claim he was retiring. No one leaves, you can’t leave. I’m not leaving the stage. I know I can hold my own . . . you want to go out on the top. But then you want to reach new tops.”

(LA TIMES  4.4.10)

find the full article here

“WHEN I STOP TALKING, YOU’LL KNOW I’M DEAD” 2010 by Jerry Weintraub




a new short about robots

“I’M HERE” 2010 directed by Spike Jonze

watch it here — !!!




the best Rube Goldberg Machine ever…

ok go


In music, timing is everything. When you’re dancing with an enormous machine, it’s even more important to get the timing correct, down to the microsecond.

For its latest video, released on YouTube Monday night, pop band OK Go recruited a gang of very talented engineers to build a huge, elaborate Rube Goldberg machine whose action perfectly meshes with the band’s song, “This Too Shall Pass,” from the band’s new album, Of the Blue Color of the Sky. For nearly four minutes — captured in a single, unbroken camera shot — the machine rolls metal balls down tracks, swings sledgehammers, pours water, unfurls flags and drops a flock of umbrellas from the second story, all perfectly synchronized with the song. A few gasp-inducing, grin-producing moments when the machine’s action lines up so perfectly, you can only shake your head in admiration at the creativity and precision of the builders. Those builders were Syyn Labs, a Los Angeles-based arts and technology collective that has a history of doing surprising, entertaining science and tech projects that involve crowds of people, at a monthly gathering called Mindshare LA.

OK Go developed a reputation for making catchy, viral videos four years ago with the homemade video for “Here It Goes Again,” which features the band members dancing around on treadmills. The company ran afoul of music label EMI’s restrictive licensing rules, which required YouTube to disable embedding, cutting views to 1/10 of their previous level. Now, the new video is up — and it’s embeddable, so the band seems to have won this round with its label — and is already generating buzz on YouTube and on Twitter.

Planning for the video began in November, when Syyn Labs secured a warehouse in the Echo Park area of L.A. But it wasn’t until January that work really got going. The video was shot on Feb. 11 and 12.

“A Rube Goldberg machine is in its essence a trial-and-error thing,” Adam Sadowsky, the president of Syyn Labs, told Wired. Sadowsky explained how many tiny details needed to be just right for the machine’s timing to work out. For example, the wooden tracks used to guide metal balls at the beginning of the video had to be cleaned and waxed to keep dust from slowing down the balls and making them stick. And the angle of that board was set at a precise 3.4 degrees of incline, which was perfect for the timing but sometimes led the balls to jump the track.

Given that each of the machine’s dozens of stages need comparably precise adjustments, it all adds up to a lot of labor by a lot of people. “It took about a month and a half of very intense work, with people on-site all the time,” Sadowsky said. Sadowsky estimates that 55 to 60 people worked on the project in all. That includes eight “core builders” who did the bulk of the design and building, along with another 12 or so builders who helped part-time. In addition, Syyn Labs recruited 30 or more people to help reset the machine after each run.

Because of the machine’s size and complexity, “We needed to bring in every resource we could to help reset,” said Sadowsky. Even with all those people helping, resetting the whole machine took close to an hour. The video was shot by a single Steadicam, but it took more than 60 takes, over the course of two days, to get it right. Many of those takes lasted about 30 seconds, Sadowsky said, getting no further than the spot in the video where the car tire rolls down a ramp. “The most fiddly stuff, you always want to put that at the front, because you don’t want to be resetting the whole thing.”

OK Go hired Syyn Labs to produce the contraption according to certain specifications. One example: The machine couldn’t use any magic. “That was really important,” said Sadowsky, “because we are all engineers, and we love magic. We love computers, and servomotors, and fire, and all of that stuff.” All those “magic” tricks — basically anything your mom can’t understand — couldn’t be in the machine.

The band was also heavily involved in the project for the final two weeks of its construction, and the band members are right inside the machine during the video, of course. “We wanted to make a video where we have essentially a giant machine that we dance with,” said the band’s Damian Kulash, Jr., in a short “making-of” video posted on YouTube. Otherwise, Synn Labs’ engineers went to town, dreaming up the most outlandish and elaborate mechanisms they could to “dance” along with the music. The results are impressive. Oh, and OK Go’s treadmill video from last year? It makes a cameo appearance in the machine too.

“It really was a labor of love,” said Sadowsky.

(WIRED  3.2.10)

check out the making of video and more Rube Goldberg devices


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