Thursday, September 16, 2010

Artful Enterprise

Everybody passes the time somehow. People play video games and take up knitting. People surf the Web, play football and climb rock walls.
Some people do things the rest of us don’t. These are inspiring things. These are horrifying things. These are utterly ridiculous things. Read on to see what people do when they aren’t on Facebook.

The color of progress

Street art isn’t simply for hoodlums with paper phobias and perma-stiff middle fingers. If Michelangelo taught us anything, it’s that architecture makes a good canvas.

Theater company Amadeus and other groups initiated a graffiti project in Foz do Iguaçu, Brazil September 2. It extends more than 37,000 square feet and is the world’s largest graffiti display as of that date. It arcs along a stretch of highway trafficked by more than 100,000 people. The artwork advocates youth rights. The project’s goals are to enliven that section of the highway, attract tourists and break graffiti’s criminal stereotype.

The project took 10 days to complete. Many artists from Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina pooled their talents for the effort. Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva inaugurated the artwork.

This street-side tapestry may gain ground for human rights. It may bring economic and artistic growth to the Foz do Iguaçu community. It may also free six-year-old Michelangelos to create Crayola ceilings in their Sistine Bedrooms.

That’s a child right I can support.

Tree carving is last century

If buildings don’t sound like appealing mediums, try the human body. Except trade the paintbrush or air nozzle for a scalpel. If the neighborhood medical supply truck is late, try a cauterizing tool. Or a searing wedge of iron. Then commence the process of scarification.

People have formally mutilated themselves for millennia. Like its food, entertainment and entire way of life, America appropriated this cultural idea. Sharon Guynup of National Geographic said scarification began in San Francisco in the 1980s. Victoria Pitts, professor of sociology at the City University of New York, said scarification gained widespread popularity in the U.S. and other countries in the late ‘90s and early 2000s.

The process is simple. A stencil on the skin creates the shape. Then the skin is cut or seared away to reach appropriate depth and width.

Ryan Ouellette, a body-modification artist in New Hampshire, said the procedure can be finished in minutes.

“… I've also done pieces that took eight hours over two days,” Ouellette said.

The motives for scarring the body run wide. Some do it to separate themselves from mainstream society. Others do it to tap into deeper spirituality. A few might be nutcases with basement shrines to Hannibal Lecter.
Different strokes, I guess.

Social change

One doesn’t need a scalpel to appreciate the body’s artistic qualities. Randon Beasley of Fayetteville, Arkansas has a pretty sweet belly button.

Beasley recently achieved the summit of belly button athleticism. He broke his own Universal Record Database world record for quarters stuffed inside. The previous record was 20 quarters. Beasley managed 30 this time.

The amazing thing isn’t the number of coins. It’s that he had the ambition to pound his past efforts into old laundry lint. It’s that sort of drive the world needs. People should spend less time competing with each other and more time bettering themselves.

Not everyone can make it in the Olympics, after all.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

All Your Base

Not your pappy’s playground

Remember elementary school recess? Remember the sandboxes, jungle gyms and grassy hills? Remember the automated door guard with the 12-guage shotgun? Chad Person, an artist in Albuquerque, N.M., has constructed a survival bunker he calls Resource Exhaustion Crisis Evacuation Safety Shelter (RECESS). Buckshot R2-D2 was part of construction.

Person has spent more than $30,000 on the project. He’s stocked the bunker with 300 gallons of water, batteries and solar panels despite water and electrical connections. There’s an air filtration system. He can avoid flooding, capture rain water and dispose of waste. Fiber-optic cables reveal outside conditions and capture UV light for plant growth. The 300-lbs. steel door can take a blast from an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle.

To reach the door, one must best its guardian. Person crafted the boomstick ‘bot using open-source material online. He slapped the 12-guage together from rubber bands, pieces of wood and steel pipe. Person can control the sentry from inside the facility and feed two scoops of hearty lead to intruders.

Person is grateful for his wife’s patience through the process. I’m sure she’d be grateful if he just finished cleaning the garage. The project is for the best, though. Once the zombie invasion hits and changes music forever, the Persons will be ready.

Sprinkles and the second renaissance

Even shotgun-toting robots won’t always be reliable. The Matrix backstory begins with man’s dependence on machines. Some supply man’s need for power or transportation. Some supply man’s need for ice cream. The Yaskawa-kun, an ice cream serving robot at Japan’s Tokyo Summerland park, may herald our enslavement.

The concept is simple. Little Keanu puts his grubby mitts on a touchscreen. Yaskawa-kun smiles absently and prepares his selection. Keanu says “Whoa” and returns to peeing in the pool. He remains oblivious to the machine revolution.

There’s irony drizzled all over this. The Wachowski brothers, creators of the The Matrix, were partially inspired by Ghost in the Shell. This film explored the boundaries between technology and humanity. A Japanese man named Mamoru Oshii directed the film. Japan is a major technological center. Everything adds up to the automated, sprinkle-covered apocalypse. I’m going to start packing Go-gurts.

Who needs a telephone

The organic purge may begin sooner than we think. Hiroshi Ishiguro, a director of Intelligent Robotics Laboratory at Osaka University, Japan is making androids. He’s developed the new Telenoid R1 model with help from Advanced Telecommunications Research Institute International.

The R1 is meant to aid personalized, long-distance communication. It’s telephone-operated via computer webcam. The webcam picks up the user’s voice and head motions. The user can affect other behaviors with buttons. The R1’s design is humanoid but generally featureless to make it relatable for any age or gender. It’s portable because it’s lightweight.

Also because it doesn’t have any limbs. Freakish half-length stems poke out where limbs would be. In a demonstration video, the R1 hangs on a stand and talks to someone. Its mouth doesn’t fit the voice and opens intermittently. It twitches its limb-stalks in the air. It bends its neck to give the illusion of nods. The thing looks like a deaf, mute alien with down-syndrome writhing in silent agony.

Though horrific, the R1 will never rule world. But watch out. We’re screwed if the machines stop inbreeding.



Hippocrates Doesn't Know You Like I Do ...

Let’s say it’s Generic American Holiday evening, and I’ve just finished a savory slice of Aunt Mailsthepresents’ famous pie, drizzled with cream and warm as the love she knitted my latest sweater with. I sit back, content, and wipe a napkin at the stain on my jeans from the pie’s juicy berry insides. A few hours go by when my stomach decides it wants to sumo wrestle my lower intestine. I excuse myself and hope everything stays inside the wrestling circle. A few parts of an hour pass. I wipe the sweat from my brow and take a glance down. Those juicy insides will need more than a napkin.

Fast-forward a few hours and I wake up in a hospital bed. A guy in a white coat tells me I have a rare case of food poisoning. It’s terminal. Probably. He’s never seen anyone suffer total organ failure from expired rhubarb preserves, so he can’t be sure.

Dr. Badnews lets me hold his hand. I weep for all the terrible sweaters that will go without spineless, devoted nephews to wear them. I ask him if he believes in the afterlife. He shakes his head. Then he breaks all kinds of medical regulations by opening his coat, lifting his “Hawking Is My Homeboy” t-shirt and revealing a chest-hair-bearded Darwin tattoo.

Judging from a UK study of more than 3500 medical practitioners, published on the Journal of Medical Ethics website two weeks ago, I’d be within my rights to give the good doctor a pathetic nudge to the groin and loudly wheeze for a second opinion.
The article abstract states: “Independently of speciality, doctors who described themselves as non-religious were more likely than others to report having given continuous deep sedation until death, having taken decisions they expected or partly intended to end life, and to have discussed these decisions with patients judged to have the capacity to participate in discussions.”

Now, if UK people are anything like us, assisted bucket-kicking probably isn’t at the top of their bucket lists (despite their collectively superior sense of irony which any good test with beakers and scurrying lab students would overwhelmingly confirm). So if dying’s not on the itinerary, one should check the spiritual suppositions of the person administering care.

The difference between religious and non-religious respondents is a tad unexpected. Still, I can understand why a guy racked with nightmares of a student debt monster with thousands of hairy, sweating tentacles dragging his mortgage into an alley and beating it till it wets itself in the fetal position would have some bitterness issues. But come on, Doctor Who. Does rejection of the supernatural take away all reason to live? What about bagpipes? Marry Poppins? The chance to live in a castle haunted by the spirits of your warrior ancestors like every other decent UK inhabitant?

At least they bother to discuss things with their patients. If everybody’s favorite Irish philosopher and Bishop of Cloyne George Berkeley has taught us anything, it’s esse est percipi – to be is to be perceived. Those crushed, joyless UK physicians are being awfully considerate, and I perceive them to be gentlemen of the highest Kevorkian order.


Tuesday, June 8, 2010

What I see...

I see that it's plenty obvious that there are people trying to help me out. I think. They could just be really great at putting on a show, but I liken myself to be a decent judge of character.

Some shit is just fucking ridiculous. Insurmountable in the quantity and quality of dickings these past few weeks, well, shit, months have been for me.

One thing I can't help but wonder to myself in my journey thus far is if I only bother because of the challenge. Given how few rewards I've seen the light of along this path, the answer seems to be a loud and resounding "FUCK YES".

But I have great news. By the time I get back to the States, I'll be apt to save a bunch of money by switching my car insurance to Geico.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Currently In the Phone Booth

In the process of changing my outfit. Metaphorically speaking. Instead of flying by the seat of my pants a la Powdered Toast Man, I've decided to take a more active and substantial approach to this blog. Starting now(ish), I'm going to do research. Yes, my reader(s), actual REASEARCH. Hopefully, this will lead to good things. And we all like good things. Expect something in the next 1 - 7 days. Maybe a week, at the absolute outside.

In the meantime, watch and be amused at this. If you're blind and you've come this far, though, you probably have super powers anyway, so you may find it dull and plebian. Apologies in advance, iDaredevil.

(On the off-chance you are in fact iDaredevil and you're looking for a sidekick, I'm still in the market for summer employment. I'm loyal, obedient, more than a little desperate, and willing to do anything for approval and/or cash. Like a big, dopey black lab that dresses in drag and sits expectantly on a street corner between the hours of 7 p.m. and midnight. I'm also completely unopposed to leather.)

See ya soon, fair citizens.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

The Jeffersons

Things will be a-movin' on up. New posts coming soon. Not to a theatre, of course, but here. Because I'm not cool enough to make movies yet.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

I Think My Eyes Are Getting Better - Instead of a Big Dark Blur, I See a Big Light Blur

It probably won't surprise anyone to hear, but this isn't my only failed writing project. I've also got a journal - you know, those weird things that came before blogs that look like books, but are filled with blank pages on which people used to, like, actually write words and stuff, with pencils and pens and everything. I bought the thing two or three years ago, and in all that time I've managed to fill about two-thirds of it. Color me ambitious, I guess.

Besides the fact that I'm a lazy poot, one thing that keeps me from writing as much as I might is the notion of what good a journal entry really is in the first place. At (rare) times when I think it could be swell to pen something into the pages of posterity, I often find myself asking ... myself ... What's the point? Really? Why should I record the events and ideas and experiences of my life? Will it help me to make sense of things, to create some sort of closure or context out of the myriad pieces of my world? Maybe. But then, I thought Jesus was the Person to whom I should cast all my cares, commit all my plans - my very life. Is writing down and thinking through all of my existence going to afford me greater perspective, help, clarity, joy, or rest than a loving, all-knowing, all-powerful God?

Not that I don't believe writing things out can be useful. But a journal shouldn't be the ultimate way in which I deal with life. Nor should anything else, on that note, be it drugs, alcohol, sex, comfort food, reading, playing teh vid3o games, watching anime, or whatever other mechanism I might use to cope. (Here's looking at you, music collection.)*

And what does documenting memories and experiences really do for me anyway? Saves them for me to read later, and not much else. I could say the same for photos. So maybe journaling (not a real word), like photography, can just be a fun hobby - something to bring the enjoyment of remembrance and introspection. That's a thought I can get behind. I enjoy writing; for whatever reason, I also like the concept of having some record of myself. And reading over old entries can be an illuminating experience, too - if only to show how much of a self-conscious dufus I really was (naturally, I've changed heaps since then).

For anyone (unfortunate enough to have wasted his/her time) reading this, I'd like to hear your thoughts. Do you journal, or have you been captured by the slimy, writhing corporate sarlacc that is the Interwebz? Tell the ol' ISP what you love to write about. What issues, like mine, have you wrestled with? Do you have a favorite pen, or do you prefer to cheaply outsource the labor of writing to a weaker, subservient sibling to whom you dictate? Let the system work for you, I always say.

... you know, I bet Lando Calrissian kept a holo-journal. Facing the prospect of being slowly digested over a thousand years would give anyone some issues to sort out.


*Despite what I said, I'm not in any way a very "practicing" Christian. I made a choice long ago to live my own way, and it's gotten me a lot of strife, confusion, doubt, and worry, mixed in with some momentary pleasures. But despite my choices, I can't bring myself to deny what I once held fast.