home my cv & bio my projects my friends & adventures my dog my blog my links

« October 2004 | Main

On the Move

In about two weeks, I'm moving to Seattle. This seems like as good a way as any to broadcast that news.


November 11, 2004 in Heads Up | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Reach Out & Touch Yourself


So obvious, it's brilliant. How do you solve the problem of presence in the context of phonesex (more specifically, the lack of physical presence of your partner)? Obviously, by "harnessing the vibrations produced by your phone and concentrating them directly on the area they are appreciated most...." Not only that, "it's great for solo fun too! Just set your alarm to ring every minute!"

(Hat tip to Stefano Mirti.)

November 5, 2004 in Techno-curios | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Holy @#&*!!!

Can't resist. Just caught this on the front page of CNN.com. And I'm wondering how to interpret Bush's halo.... Ironic or no? Hmmm.


November 4, 2004 in Is It Just Me...? | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Life Goes On


It's hard to imagine exactly how, but life goes on. And art goes on. And there are great people doing great, creative, inspirational stuff all around us. So heads up if you'll be anywhere near Portland, Maine between now and December 12: Marguerite Kahrl has a show up at the Institute of Contemporary Art at Maine College of Art. If you're interested in environmental sustainability, resource consumption and the toxic byproducts of human civilization, her work is always full of inspired and inspirational ideas. I love her drawings and sculpture, but most of all I love her junkyard vehicles.

Details posted after the fold.

Living Green: Examining Sustainability
Institute of Contemporary Art
Maine College of Art
October 30 - December 12, 2004
Marguerite Kahrl with Paul Ruff

"Marguerite Kahrl and Paul Ruff provide us with what appears at first glance to be a playful response to our country's overflowing landfills, overpopulated roadways, and noxious greenhouse gasses. Sculptural vehicles ingeniously constructed of parts salvaged from junkyards are powered both by solar energy and methane gas, a harmful pollutant given off by landfills that can be reconstituted as an efficient recycled fuel. Rather poetically, the vehicles become part of an ever-more engaged ecosystem—waste is produced, elements of that waste are re-imagined as new structures, new structures are powered with byproducts of the original waste, and inevitably new waste is produced from the resulting structures. Indeed, the deceptive simplicity of these vehicles offers a way of examining and negotiating the techno-industrial world in which we live. Works in the exhibition will include four vehicles along with Kahrl's blueprints, diagrammatic drawings and a video entitled SAVE."

November 4, 2004 in Heads Up | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Design For Democracy


Today -- on election day -- it's going to be especially difficult to stick to my policy of not blogging about politics. There are plenty of political blogs out there already. Plus, I don't want to blow my cover. I get a kick out of people's mistaking me for a Republican because I (essentially always) wear khakis and a button-down. But I just got back from the polls, and I do want to talk about that experience.

I've been voting for twenty years now, and I think I'm finally getting the hang of it. It's not something you do very often, and you sort of have to relearn the process every time you do. I generally fumble my way through it, trying hard to act like I know exactly what I'm doing and who those people are standing behind the lunch table with big pads of official-looking forms that they move from one ledger to another and ask me to sign and mark with their initials and tuck away in protective sleeves before they hand one of the forms to me and send me out into the open basement of the local elementary school to find an open voting booth and the really confusing part begins....

In Chicago we still have punch card ballots -- yes, the ones with the hanging chads. And I just realized why they are so confusing. Not only do the little holes through which you have to punch the stylus not line up quite exactly with the names of the candidates, there's also no visual feedback. After you've stuck the stylus through what looks to be the hole closest to lining up with the candidate you're trying to vote for, and determined that you're pretty sure that you felt the thing go through the paper card, it's almost impossible to figure out which holes you've punched through. The unpunched holes look exactly like the punched out ones through the cover of the guide that keeps the card in place.

Whatever. I think I worked it out. What I wanted to say was that a couple of weeks ago, I saw a presentation by Dori Tunstall of Design for Democracy (and Arc Worldwide). She was speaking at an event called Mapping the Vote that was put together by Jan Abrams and the Design Institute at University of Minnesota. (BTW, also speaking was Michael Frumin, who developed Fundrace.) Dori and Design for Democracy had done a really intriguing study of the experience of voting in Chicago -- mostly looking at signage and other information requirements. Their designs for a new communication system are online. And if you ever get a chance to hear her talk about the research behind those design proposals, I think that's the best part of their project.

November 2, 2004 in Rules of Engagement | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Neighbors, Porches & Pumpkins


Yesterday was Halloween...and another occasion to greet the neighbors and admire the energy they've put into decorating their homes and their children. The thing about Halloween in the US is that -- unlike Thanksgiving or Christmas -- it's a holiday that's less about celebrating family than it is about celebrating neighborhood. So -- as far as I'm concerned -- it's a great opportunity to take note of neighborly interactions and the semiotics of material culture. Halloween is one of the few occasions on which neighbors welcome one another into their yards, up on their porches, to their front doors. Anyone who is willing to put on a wig and some makeup and make the rounds of the neighborhood can drop in on any neighbor indicating his willingness to receive visitors with a jack-o-lantern on the porch.

Halloween is a day of inversions; signs that we normally use to frighten and turn away trespassers are used to draw them in: mutilated bodies, headless bodies, bodiless heads, blood and suffering, bugs and bats.... I saw a house that was draped in yellow crime-scene tape this year. Territory that is normally considered private is opened to the neighbors' approach. And neighborly interactions (hand-outs, no less) are politely demanded under threat of retaliation by vandals. You gotta love it.

Of course, I didn't have a pumpkin on my porch. (I don't really even have a front porch.) My lights were off and my front door undecorated -- an unambiguous sign. And it's not that I don't like pint-size superheroes or political satire as performed by teenagers desperate to maintain their sugar high. It's just that...I think that a single guy handing out candy to children is kind of creepy if he doesn't have any children of his own. Or maybe it's just that I'm too lazy to run up and down the stairs every three minutes to answer the door for all those trick-or-treaters. So instead, I take my camera and wander the streets. It's hard to explain to the neighbors that I'm taking photos because I'm interested in issues of territoriality, privacy, and ritualized interactions in urban neighborhoods. Now I'm sure they think I'm really creepy.

November 1, 2004 in Private / Public | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack


Send questions or comments to: [email protected]
Updated: May 8, 2004
Copyright © 1995-2004 Jay Melican