Monday, August 31, 2009

From cover to Cover -Jay-z

This ad is incredible. Jay-z reenacts all of his classic CD covers.

Band of Outsiders F/W 09 with Jason Schwartzman

This shoot is pretty amazing. Hilarious yet complete with some really sharp looks that evoke Europe in the 1970s...

I almost wish there was a movie attached.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Micromortgages and property rights

Last week Muhammad Yunus and Hernando de Soto received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the United States' highest civilian honor. This has resulted in renewed debate surrounding both men's worthiness for this commendation.
Muhammad Yunus has become world famous for winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 for his work in microfinance. The idea of microfinance is to extend credit in very small amounts to the poor so that they might participate in the economy to a greater degree, with the end goal of allowing them to pull themselves out of poverty using such loans to start small business etc. Yunus was able to implement this idea in Bangladesh, establishing a bank (The Grameen bank) that provides microfinancing. He discovered that once given the chance, generally speaking, the vast majority of loans were repaid.

His idea has encountered its share of problems, however. It has failed to truly be effective. Part of this can be attributed to the not-for-profit nature of the Grameen bank. Though loans are repaid, additional capital must be donated or acquired in a non-profit method (contrary to fundamental ideas of most banks - lend, make interest, lend more). In response, despite the moral implications of profiting from the poor, a group of Mexicans created a bank called Compartamos which uses a for-profit model and a 100% interest rate to achieve viability. Though such high interest rates are reasonable for such risky loans, they do hamper the end goal: allowing people to bring themselves out of poverty. In sum, microfinance loans are reaching very few of the world's many poor.

Perhaps more unfamiliar to the west is Hernando de Soto. He is a Peruvian economist who contributed extensively to Peru's economic development. (recovery? I think this is somewhat debateable...) Anyways, his role in aiding poverty has been important. He has been a pioneer for granting property rights to the poor. de Soto estimates that there are trillions of dollars worth of assets held by the poor that are not officially recognized (most importantly property). Consequently such people are unable to take advantage of potential sources of capital they are literally sitting on. That having been said, granting property rights is a massive undertaking, especially by developing countries which are still trying to cope with basic infrastructure.

Writing for Foreign Policy, researcher Peter Schaefer has honed in on a possible solution: Combining both ideas using micromortgages. A micromortgage would allow for long-term, low interest rate loans. Further, costs associated with property registration could be rolled into the micromortgage. This would then create a self-sufficient microfinance/property institution. I think some significant number crunching needs to be done though, before this is fully realizable. (It could also potentially a sub-prime mortgage crisis amongst the poor as banks compete to lend to riskier and riskier poor, or of a run to take advantage of profiting from the poor)

Though I think the debate is far from over, I think that Schaefer has come within arms length of what I see is a reasonable conclusion: despite the flaws in both innovations, there is no question that in a world that undoubtedly follows the capitalist system, these men are thinking in the right direction.

Read Schaefer's article here.
Wikis for Yunus and de Soto

The Threat of Zombies, explained via IR

Daniel Drezner, Professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University and hilarious, yet brilliant (and practical?) blogger discusses how different theoretical approaches to IR would deal with the threat of Zombies.

I particularly liked his take on the Liberal Institutionalist approach:

"A liberal institutionalist would argue that zombies represent a classic externality problem of... dying and then existing in an undead state. Clearly, the zombie issue would cross borders and affect all states -- so the benefits from policy coordination would be pretty massive. This would give states a great opportunity to cooperate on the issue by quickly fashioning a World Zombie Organization (WZO) that would codify and promnulgate rules on how to deal with zombies. Alas, the effectiveness of the WZO would be uncertain. If the zombies had standing and appealed any WZO decision to wipe them out, we could be talking about an 18-month window when zombies could run amok without any effective regulation whatsoever.

Fortunately, the United States would likely respond by creating the North American F*** Zombies Agreement -- or NAFZA -- to handle the problem regionally. Similarly, one would expect the European Union to issue one mother of a directive to cope with the issue. Indeed, given that zonbies would likely to be covered under genetically modified organisms, the EU would likely trumpet the Catragena Protocol for Biosafety in an "I told you so" kind of way. Inevitably, Andrew Moravcsik would author an essay about the inherent superiority of the EU approach to zombie regulation, and why so many coluntries in Africa prefer the EU approach over the American approach of "die, motherf***ers, die!!" Oh, and British beef would once again be banned as a matter of principle."

Read the post here.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Heartless, covered by The Fray

Some say this version is too cheezy, some don't even like the original song. I happen to like both, and I think the Fray successfully took the original song, and did their own thing with it.


The video is pretty well done also.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Banksy Interviewed by Shepard Fairey

Banksy interviewed by Shepard Fairey for Swindle Magazine.

One of the most inappropriate nicknames of all time, at least in my opinion, belonged to Ronald Reagan: “The Great Communicator,” who we’ve come to learn did a pretty shitty job of communicating the government’s problems and indiscretions. A nickname like that deserves a more righteous, honest owner—someone like BANKSY.

Most people think of art as a way of conveying emotions, as opposed to language, the means by which we express ideas. Whatever line there is distinguishing art and language, BANKSY paints over it to make it disappear, then stealthily repaints it in the unlikeliness of places. His works, whether he puts them on the streets, sells them in galleries, or hangs them in museums on the sly, are filled with imagery tweaked into metaphors that cross all language barriers. The images are brilliant and funny, yet so simple and accessible that even children can find the meaning in them: even if six-year-olds don’t know the first thing about culture wars, they have no trouble recognizing that something is amiss when they see a picture of the Mona Lisa holding a rocket launcher. A lot of artists can be neurotic, self-indulgent snobs using art for their own catharsis, but BANKSY distances himself from his work, using art to plant the feelings of discontent and distrust of authority that anyone can experience when he prompts them to ask themselves one gigantic question: Why is this wrong? If it makes people feel and think, he’s accomplished his goal.

BANKSY’s work embodies everything I like about art and nothing I dislike about it. His art is accessible rather than elitist, since he does it on the street; it has a powerful political message that’s conveyed with a sense of humor, which certainly makes the bitter pill easier to swallow; it’s pleasing to look at, because it’s technically very strong but not overly complex and intimidating; and he pulls it off in such a way that its presence in its context communicates not only his message but his dedication to effecting the change he promotes in that message, whether he’s defying Israeli hegemony by painting the separation wall in Palestine or bypassing the elitist review board of a museum by hanging his work himself. He definitely has his share of critics, who say that he burns too many bridges by rejecting countless opportunities to gain money or fame, but he simply has no interest in doing anything that falls outside his goal of making provocative, powerful artwork. He’s a good friend and a tremendous source of inspiration; he’s The Great Communicator of our time, and the most important living artist in the world.

How long are you going to remain anonymous, working through the medium itself and through your agent as a voice for you?

B: I have no interest in ever coming out. I figure there are enough self-opinionated assholes trying to get their ugly little faces in front of you as it is. You ask a lot of kids today what they want to be when they grow up, and they say, “I want to be famous.” You ask them for what reason and they don’t know or care. I think Andy Warhol got it wrong: in the future, so many people are going to become famous that one day everybody will end up being anonymous for 15 minutes. I’m just trying to make the pictures look good; I’m not into trying to make myself look good. I’m not into fashion. The pictures generally look better than I do when we’re out on the street together. Plus, I obviously have issues with the cops. And besides, it’s a pretty safe bet that the reality of me would be a crushing disappointment to a couple of 15-year-old kids out there.

What got you into graffiti? I know that you did more traditional graffiti at one point.

B: I come from a relatively small city in southern England. When I was about 10 years old, a kid called 3D was painting the streets hard. I think he’d been to New York and was the first to bring spray painting back to Bristol. I grew up seeing spray paint on the streets way before I ever saw it in a magazine or on a computer. 3D quit painting and formed the band Massive Attack, which may have been good for him but was a big loss for the city. Graffiti was the thing we all loved at school – we all did it on the bus on the way home from school. Everyone was doing it.

What’s your definition of the word “graffiti”?

B: I love graffiti. I love the word. Some people get hung up over it, but I think they’re fighting a losing battle. Graffiti equals amazing to me. Every other type of art compared to graffiti is a step down—no two ways about it. If you operate outside of graffiti, you operate at a lower level. Other art has less to offer people, it means less, and it’s weaker. I make normal paintings if I have ideas that are too complex or offensive to go out on the street, but if I ever stopped being a graffiti writer I would be gutted. It would feel like being a basket weaver rather than being a proper artist.

Who are some of your favorite graffiti artists?

B: My favorite graffiti is done by people that aren’t in books. I’m really into the amateurs, the people who just come out of nowhere with a marker pen and write one funny thing for one night and then disappear.

“Street art” has been the cool buzzword, and artists have obtained instant credibility from these new fly-by-night galleries, skate companies wanting to do a new street art t-shirt series, whatever. All these people are picking artists that deserve to be picked and have really done work on the streets for 10 to 15 years, but then they also pick a lot of artists that have been doing something for four to six months and built themselves a nice little website. Where do you see yourself fit into that? If the pedestrians at these companies don’t really know who’s done what, how do you separate yourself from that?

B: Most graffiti writers arrive at a style by the need to work fast and quiet. If you arrived at a style by painstakingly drawing in your bedroom and touching up on Photoshop, then people can smell the difference from about five miles away.

How do you decide what commercial projects to work on?

B: I’ve done a few things to pay the bills, and I did the Blur album. It was a good record and it was quite a lot of money. I think that’s a really important distinction to make. If it’s something you actually believe in, doing something commercial doesn’t turn it to shit just because it’s commercial. Otherwise you’ve got to be a socialist rejecting capitalism altogether, because the idea that you can marry a quality product with a quality visual and be a part of that even though it’s capitalistic is sometimes a contradiction you can’t live with. But sometimes it’s perfectly symbiotic, like the Blur situation.

I’m sure you get offered jobs left and right. Are there things that you think about doing that you don’t do, or things that you wish you would’ve done?

B: I don’t do anything for anybody anymore, and I will never do a commercial job again. In some ways it’s a shame, cuz I’m sure I’d have had a good time doing posters for that frozen yogurt company in Hawaii and now I’d have friends I could go visit on the other side of the world. But it’s part of the job to shut the fuck up and not meet people. I never go to the openings of my shows, and I don’t read chat rooms or go on MySpace. All I know about what people think of my gear is what a couple of my friends tell me, and one of them always wants to borrow money, so I’m not sure how reliable he is.

I think there’s a lot to be said for the fine line between secondguessing yourself and respecting a dialogue with people whose opinions you trust, or even people that are great because they don’t know shit about art and you get the most honest reaction from them. Because so many artists, they worry about what trends are happening in art and design and street art, they read too many magazines, and they are too wrapped up in everything; they’re paralyzed.

What’s the most perfect non-traditional piece of art that you’ve seen that’s not currently hanging in a museum?

B: The most perfect piece of art I saw in recent times was during an anarchist demonstration in London a couple of years ago. Someone cut a strip of turf from the grass in front of Big Ben and put it on the head of the statue of Winston Churchill. Later, the demo turned into a riot, and photos of Winston with a grass Mohican were on the cover of every single British newspaper the next day. It was the most amazing bit of vandalism, because it was the perfect logo for this eco-punk movement that was trying to reclaim the streets, bring an end to global capitalism, and defend the right to sit in a park all day getting wasted on discount lager.

Your art is still free on the streets but costly in the galleries. What dictates that?

B: What I find is I don’t have much say in what things cost. Every time I sell things at a discount rate, most people put them on eBay and make more money than I charged them in the first place. The novelty with that soon wears off.

You were talking about how you want your books to be cheap because they show the work in the context of the street, as well as the installations in museums and other pranks, which are actually honest representations of your work. But then people want objects, so they’re going to want the canvases and things like that, and you’re just kind of accepting that people fetishize objects and are willing to pay a lot for the status of owning something that they can hang up.

B: I stenciled the door of an electrical block in south London and recently someone sawed it off and sold it at a famous auction house for £24,000, but in that same week Islington council power sprayed off eight of my new stencils on one road. What I’m finding is art is worth whatever someone is willing to pay for it, or willing to pay to not have to look at it.

The redistribution of the wealth then allows you to have that freedom to put work on the street without the pressure of having to sell a thousand cheap canvases – work that’s free and accessible. It really means that the art objects, the canvases, only really play into the people that think in an elitist way and have the money. So really, it kind of balances out. That’s an issue that a lot of artists have. They believe that their work should be accessible to a lot of people, and that actually is the opposite of the way the art world works.

B: The art world is the biggest joke going. It’s a rest home for the overprivileged, the pretentious, and the weak. And modern art is a disgrace – never have so many people used so much stuff and taken so long to say so little. Still, the plus side is it’s probably the easiest business in the world to walk into with no talent and make a few bucks.

The murals you did in Palestine, I would assume, involved personal risk. You’re there, and you could definitely get some people pissed off and put yourself in jeopardy.

B: Every graffiti writer should go there. They’re building the biggest wall in the world. I painted on the Palestinian side, and a lot of them weren’t sure about what I was doing. They didn’t understand why I wasn’t just writing “down with Israel” in big letters and painting pictures of the Israeli prime minister hanging from a rope. And maybe they had a point. The guy that I stayed with got five days with the “dirty bag” for waving a Palestinian flag out a window. The dirty bag is when Israeli security services get a sack, wipe their shit on it, and put the bag over your head while your hands are tied behind your back. I spat out my falafel as he was explaining that to me, but he just goes, “That’s nothing. My cousin got it for two weeks without a break.” It’s difficult to come home and hear people complaining about reruns on TV after that. It’s very hard for the locals to paint illegally over there. We certainly weren’t doing it under the cloak of darkness; you’d get shot. We were out in the middle of the day, making it very clear we were tourists. Twice, we had serious trouble with the army, but one time the Palestinian border patrol pulled up in an armored truck. The Israeli government makes a big fuss about how they own the wall, despite building it right through the farmland of Palestinians who have been there for generations, so the Palestinian border police don’t give a shit if you paint it or not. They parked between the road and us, gave us water, and just watched. It’s probably the only time I’m ever going to paint whilst being covered by a cop from a roof-mounted submachine gun.

Did they realize that it favored the Palestinian perspective?

B: I have sympathy for both sides in that conflict, and I did receive quite a bit of support from regular Israelis, but if the Israeli government had known we were going over there to do a sustained painting attack on their wall, there’s no way that we’d have been tolerated. They’re very paranoid. They don’t want the wall to be an issue in the West. On the Israeli side of the wall they bank it up with soil and plant flowers so you don’t even know its there. On the Palestinian side it’s just a fucking huge mass of concrete.

You’ve never really been busted to the point of potentially not being able to do street art, but that’s always a possibility. I could be wrong – you could be incredible and never get caught, but everybody gets caught at some point. What would you do if you were put in that position? Would you rent walls? Would you try to find legal walls? Would you still try to find ways to have work on the street and still maintain your anonymity to a degree, but keep it out there through more legal means? Would you move to another country? What would you do?

B: I’m always trying to move on. You’re not supposed to get dumber as you get older. You’re not supposed to just do the same old thing. You’re supposed to find a new way through and carry on. I invest back into the street bombing from selling shit. Recently, I’ve been pretending to be a construction manager and paying cash to get scaffolding put up against buildings, then I cover the scaffolding with plastic sheeting and stand behind it making large paintings in the middle of the city. I could never have done that a few years ago. Plus, I’m always interested in finding new places to hit up; it’s easier to break into zoos and museums than train lay-ups, because they haven’t had so much of a graffiti problem in the past. Ultimately, I just want to make the right piece at the right time in the right place. Anything that stands in the way of achieving that piece is the enemy, whether it’s your mum, the cops, someone telling you that you sold out, or someone saying, “Let’s just stay in tonight and get pizza.”

BANKSY will be showing some of his work in Los Angeles from September 15-18, 2006. For exact location and other details, check out

Now and Then

Georges Seurat's famous painting "Un dimanche après-midi à l'Île de la Grande Jatte" recreated with modern photography.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Flight Path

This video was created using long exposures to capture the light reflected off of bugs as they fly around street lamps.
Pretty cool, i'm sure there is some entomologist out there somewhere who would be quite interested in this. That having been said, it looks pretty cool.

flight patterns from Charlie McCarthy on Vimeo.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Tape the streets red

Aakash Nihalani uses tape to express his reaction to his surroundings (New York). His technique plays with scale, perception and the usage of parallelograms to re-imagine the urban landscape.

"My street work consists mostly of isometric rectangles and squares. I selectively place these graphics around New York to highlight the unexpected contours and elegant geometry of the city itself...

...My work is created in reaction to what we readily encounter in our lives, sidewalks and doorways, buildings and bricks. I'm just connecting the dots differently to make my own picture. Others need to see that they can create too, connecting their own dots, in their own places" says Aakash.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Today was a good day