Thursday, December 30, 2010

44% of Online Sharing Occurs Through Facebook

I knew the number was high but wasn't expecting 44%. Wow.

VIA mashable

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Shop Vac

The best kinetic type piece I've seen to date.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Blackberry Torch (Blaze engulfs dozens of homes in California neighborhood)

Friday, September 03, 2010

Gender Transgression as a Mode of Expression

Androgyny and gender expression are more common than they are talked about. Some of my favorite examples of gender transgression as aesthetic modes of expression.

Following the release of this video in 1983 Annie Lennox was names one of Playboy's 10 Sexiest Women Alive. As a teenage boy I found this perplexing and a little uncomfortable. I get it now.

Marilyn Manson perverts the inversion.

Ralph Lauren for Women

That ain't no woman, it's a man, baby!
-Austin Powers

There is a cliche moment in many films, a morning after moment between couples, the woman is dressed in the button up shirt the man had on the night before. There are many ways to read this: symbolic submission, a symbol of their coming together as one. She on some level has crossed over INTO his world

The aesthetic narrative behind Ralph Lauren is that moment on a larger cultural scale. Ralph Lauren leverages iconography and symbolic imagery more effectively than any other fashion brand. It is a storybook narrative of a classic, eastern-seaboard America. A folklore or industrious and wealthy men who's patriarchy is so powerful that even the women's clothes seem fashioned from "his" world from things pulled from "his" drawers.

(From my essay: The Aesthetic Narrative of Ralph Lauren for Women)

The 80's Sunset Strip Metal bands are a great demonstration of how machismo always feminizes when taken far enough. Is it only with retrospective detachment that they all look like lady-boys?

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Reading Pictures: Sexual Expressions: Erections & O-faces

It's a classic Hollywood maneuver, a couple embrace in a kiss and the woman's leg bends at the knee and rises. A visual metaphor for arousal and erection. It's also an excellent example of what Freud referred to as "predicate thinking", the treating of dissimilar objects as equal when they share physical attributes, common in the primary process thinking of dreams.

Madonna with her own less subtle metaphorical erection.

A Bath and Bodyworks promotional coupon for a new product called "Dark Kiss" featuring a cosmetic photography cliche, the o-face.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Reading Pictures: Levi's Outdoor Exposure

What is happening in this picture?

The model is exposing himself to us.

He sits on the corner of a car's trunk, legs slightly spread. His crotch is dead center of the image. A tarp, pulled up and tucked beneath his crotch reveals the car beneath, reinforcing and doubling the expression of "exposure". The position of the gathered tarp and exposed, protruding portion the the car draws further attention to his genital region and focuses energy into the image's center.

This is not a flirtatious exposure, but a menacing one, as is clear by the model's non-verbal expression. The fact that he is sitting on a car also has communicative significance. If the car belongs to someone else, it is an act of dominance and transgression. If it belongs to him it is a display of possession, of "owning".

It is no accident that the tarp is blue (jeans are blue) and the car red (the color of genitals flushed with blood).

Is it going too far to look for further connections between the car and sexualized behavior? Cars, in the context of advertising, are often fetishized sexual objects. Acts of indecent exposure often take place in modes of public and private transportation.

Reading Pictures: The Ambush

It's as if, walking down a city street you've turned and found yourself face to face with a gang of male assailants. The visual narrative of confrontation, the ambush, of imminent attack so popular in fashion photography and music of all genres.

Reading Pictures: Raped and Left for Dead

Another fine example of one of fashion photography's favorite narrative cliches, the raped and disposed of model.

Previous post from March 02: Reading Pictures: Raped & Left for Dead

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Sense of Smell: Stinky Utility Bills

Utility bills that smell of rotten eggs.
As part of a safety campaign, Puget Sound Energy is including a scratch-and-sniff pamphlet with its billing statements to remind customers of what leaking gas smells like.

Natural gas is odorless, but providers add a chemical to the gas that has a distinctive, sulfur-like aroma similar to rotten eggs so leaks can be detected.

VIA the AP: Wash. utility adds rotten egg smell to bills

Friday, August 20, 2010

Demographics: Single in the U.S.

VIA CNN: Single? You're not alone

About 46 percent of all U.S. households are maintained by a single person, says the Census Bureau. More than half of the unwed are women. Know what else? For every 100 single women, just 88 single men are available.

There are 96 million people in the United States who have no spouse. That means 43 percent of all Americans over the age of 18 are single, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

"Single" is defined as adults who have never been married, are divorced or are widowed in the bureau's America's Families and Living Arrangements survey of 2009.

An increasing number of these single Americans -- more than 31 million -- are living alone, according to the census. They make up 27 percent of all households, up from 17 percent in 1970.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

On Color / Off Color: Pink vs Brown Nipples

The color of skin has a way of eliciting strong human emotional — even irrational and superstitious — responses. In Tanzania, witchdoctors kill albinos and ritualistically harvest their body parts.

In Japan it seems that nipple color has such a powerful significance than many woman are seeking cosmetic assistance in changing them from brown to pink.

And there’s a belief in Japan that pink nipples denote purity, while brown ones … don’t. A female plastic surgeon I know who works in Tokyo put it this way: “Japanese girls want to have pink nipples because Japanese guys like them. For some Japanese men, the less sexual experience a woman has, the better. Little experience means she is clean and precious for them.”

It turns out some women in Japan really feel this way. Why? “Because pink is cute,” she told me.

VIA The faster Times article by Daniel Krieger: Why the Japanese are Turning Their Nipples Pink

And one last bit from a healthcare perspective: What the Color of Your Areola Tells About You (Yahoo).

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Sunday School at The Sherman Foundation

Saturday, August 07, 2010

I'm Comic Sans, Asshole

A wildly amusing monolog via McSweeney gives voice to the font that many in the "design community" love to hate. Here's a brief excerpt:

While Gotham is at the science fair, I'm banging the prom queen behind the woodshop. While Avenir is practicing the clarinet, I'm shredding "Reign In Blood" on my double-necked Stratocaster. While Univers is refilling his allergy prescriptions, I'm racing my tricked-out, nitrous-laden Honda Civic against Tokyo gangsters who'll kill me if I don't cross the finish line first. I am a sans serif Superman and my only kryptonite is pretentious buzzkills like you.

I'm Comic Sans, Asshole by Mike Lacher

For the pretentious and controlling there is a website devoted to the extermination of comic sans: Ban Comic Sans

For the highly evolved there is always The Sherman Foundation and this blazing essay: As Stupid as a Graphic Designer: The Slippery Subject of Style.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Sunday School at The Sherman Foundation: Most People are Unsane

I just finished rereading Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind by Al Ries and Jack Trout. (They put out a very nice hardcover, 20th anniversary edition. One of the finest books on marketing ever written.) Towards the very end they reference Alfred Korzybski and his concept of insanity. It's so good I thought I'd type it up and share it.

What's the difference between sane people and insane people? What exactly do insane people do? Alfred Korzybski, who developed the concept of general semantics, explains that insane people try to make the world of reality fit what is in their heads.

The insane person who thinks he is Napoleon makes the outside world fit that notion.

The sane person constantly analyzes the world of reality and then changes what's inside his or her head to fit the facts.

That's an awful lot of trouble for most people. Besides, how many people want to constantly change their opinions to fit the facts? It's a whole lot easier to change the facts to fit your opinions.

Unsane people make up their minds and then find the facts to "verify" the opinion. Or even more commonly, they accept the opinion of the nearest "expert," and then they don't have to bother with the facts at all. (Word of mouth.)

2 of Korzybski's books are on The Sherman Foundation Dangerous Ideas Reading List. I highly recommend the General Semantics Seminar. Science and Sanity is incredible but not an easy read.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Phantom Presence

In my essay Sculpture, Imaginary Worlds and Home Exercise Equipment I discussed the ideas of contrived human "presence" and "metaphorical worlds" as they relate to figurative sculpture. On a fundamental level the placement of a figurative sculpture within a space is to create the presence of "others".

A series of sculptures currently on display in Manhattan's Madison Square Park got me thinking about these ideas again.

The identical bronze nudes stand upright, arms at sides, looking straight ahead. The uniformity and formal stance remind one of aliens, the "little green men" type you see in old sci-fi movies. The alien-like quality is further reinforced by the placement of the sculptures. In addition to the four that are near entrances to the park, others have been placed on building rooftops in the visible area surrounding the park. The feeling conveyed is "invasion".

It's worth considering the context that these sculptures have been placed in. Madison Square, like many parks, is home to other bronze figurative works, memorials to Admiral Farragut, Secretary of State William H. Seward, Roscoe Conkling, Chester Alan Arthur and Admiral David Farragut. This is another example of figurative sculpture creating "presence". In this case it is about preserving the lives and memory of these historical figures and most importantly, the ideological significance they represent.

Parks are, after all, spaces where people go to congregate, to spend time in the presence of others even though they may not be interacting with one another. Memorial sculptures aren't placed on the sides of highways the way billboards are, so that the maximum number of people might be exposed to them. They are placed in environments where they might be considered, reflected upon and visited with.

You can see the ideological use of figurative sculpture to create a metaphorical world on the Supreme Court Building across from the park. These representatives infiltrate public space in a effort to shape reality in accord with the values they represent. They're like Jehovah Witnesses except they don't go door to door they wait for you in civic and public places.

Using figurative sculpture in this way has fallen out of favor for the most part. I like to think of it as a forgotten or abandoned technology. Emperors understood very well the importance of extending presence to preserve one's place in the world and to this day their images persist.

Monday, July 19, 2010

The Colony Experience

The Colony Experience is a recently launched project I worked on at Campfire Media to promote the second season of The Discovery Channel’s show “The Colony”. This augmented reality, online storytelling experience taps into users' Facebook accounts to simulate a world struck by a global pandemic.

I am particularly proud of this project. Most uses of Facebook Connect we've seen over the past year simply access users photos or photo galleries to do clever tricks with images, with The Colony Experience we went way beyond that, using the details of users accounts and details about friends to create a personalized, immersive narrative experience. Additionally, we developed online videos, galleries, news stories and media updates and to bring this innovative project to life.

Enter The Colony Experience on

Season 2 of The Colony premiers on The Discover Channel on Tuesday, July 27th at 10PM.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Visual Literacy Reading List

I am developing a project about visual literacy/interpreting images/universal stories/archetypes and have powered through several books related to the subject over the last month. I thought I'd share that list and a quick take on what I've read.

The Culture Code: An Ingenious Way to Understand Why People Around the World Live and Buy as They Do
- Clotaire Rapaille
By far the most interesting book on the subject of "culture" I've read in a long time. A very enjoyable read.

Reading Pictures: What We Think About When We Look at Art
- Alberto Manguel
An excellent read for those with a strong interest in art and art history.I recommend his lecture on Picasso (video) before picking up his book.

All Consuming Images
- Stuart Ewen
I've reread this book several times over the years. A must read for any serious student of media and culture.

Subliminal Seduction
-Wilson Bryan Key
A classic. A bit heavy on conspiracy theory but some of the the ad deconstructions are fascinating. You have to give it props, Marshal McLuhan wrote the introduction.

Ways of Seeing
-John Berger

About Looking
-John Berger
A classic on the subject of visual literacy.

The Mechanical Bride: Folklore of Industrial Man
- Marshall McLuhan
One of McLuhan's lesser read books and one of my favorites. The book is primarily a collection of 2 page essays, many deconstructing advertisements or aspects of media.

Decoding Advertisements
-Judith Williamson
A very serious semiotics perspective on advertising. I wish the writing style wasn't so academic but the deconstructions are excellent.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

@ Barney's 7.16.10: Whimsy & Violence

Why are there shoes on the mannequin's heads? This says carefree whimsy. This says let yourself go. It's ok to be frivolous, to be silly. There are no rules, go ahead, put shoes on your head. While you're at it, needlessly spend piles and piles of cash.

In contrast to the whimsy was a theme of violence on the floor.



Chicks with sticks.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Disaster Biopics & The Agony and Ecstasy of Phil Spector

Wednesday evening I saw The Agony and Ecstasy of Phil Spector at New York's Film Forum, the latest documentary in the genre I refer to as the "disaster biopic". I would include in this category the 2008 documentary Tyson, the thoroughly postmodern film JVCD (Jean-Claude Van Damme) and the E! True Hollywood series. (I highly recommend both Tyson and JVCD.)

The Agony and Ecstasy is a sloppy piece of documentary filmmaking. Much of it consists of music playing over courtroom video with captions describing the music or it's production. A bit disjointed and hard to form any opinion of the murder based on the film. What is amazing are the one-on-one interviews with Phil Spector himself, a true musical genius who's prolific output in the 60's and 70s is mind blowing. He's also out of his mind. His, sometimes justified, egomaniacal quips, his impression of John Lennon and his gripes with Tony Bennett and Paul McCartney are endlessly amusing.

One of the most interesting and bizarre revelations is that the crazy hairdo Spector sported in court was a tribute to (former Detroit Piston) Ben Wallace.

Related Post: Postmodernity Now

Film Forum website: The Agony and Ecstasy of Phil Spector

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Norman Rockwell (Steven Spielberg and George Lucas)

I've never been a big fan of Norman Rockwell's work. The earnest American ideals and the 40's/50's sentimentality has never held a strong appeal for me. The narrative makes me suspicious as well. Are these reflections and idealizations of existing values or scripts with sociopolitical agendas to live by? On a related noted, I always viewed "Sex in the City" as being a contemporary form of Norman Rockwell. Narratives about characters pursuing idealized lives which, more than reflecting contemporary society, supplied an updated script for people to live by, replete with props (drinks: cosmos, shoes: Manolo Blahniks) settings (Meatpacking District) and vernacular slang.

Despite my personal preferences there is a lot to be said and much to think about when considering Norman Rockwell's work. His paintings are masterpieces of storytelling and art direction. It seems that Rockwell thought of himself as a movie director, painstakingly casting the models he used as reference and selecting the props and clothes himself. He would go so far as to buy clothes from people on the street to get the right piece for a painting. In essence, he meticulously crafted single frame stories.

American directors Steven Spielberg and George Lucas are avid collectors of Rockwell's work. Their collections are on display at the Smithsonian in an exhibit titled Telling Stories: Norman Rockwell from the Collections of George Lucas and Steven Spielberg. The podcast on the Smithsonian site features interview's with both. Their breakdowns of the pieces in the exhibit are great, the kind only a director could give you.

Below left: "Freedom from Fear" by Norman Rockwell. Right: A tribute to Rockwell and still from Spielberg's film "Empire of the Sun".

Below: 3 stills from "Minority Report". Moments of idealistic Americana appear often in Spielberg's films. In this scene a classic family at the dinner table moment is punctured by the action of the film. (Tom Cruise's character Tom Anderton, clinging to a police officer wearing a jet pack, pounds and then bursts through the floor of the dining family's apartment.)

Related Links: Spielberg, Lucas Celebrate Rockwell's Iconic America

Vanity Fair Article: Norman Rockwell's American Dream.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Clotaire Rapaille on Reptilian Marketing and Nike's "Just do it" as American philosophy.

French psychologist and research marketer Clotaire Rapaille on Reptilian Marketing, SUVs and dominance and Nike's "Just do it" as American philosophy.

Clotaire Rapaille doesn't appear until about the mid point of this video but his observations on intellectual alibis and the "reptilian hot button" of dominance with regards to SUVs are quite interesting.

I've been doing a lot of reading on universal stories, archetypes and visual thinking. Clotaire Rapaille's book, The Culture Code (An Ingenious Way to Understand Why People Around the World Live and Buy as They Do) is up next.

The Poetry of Destruction: Exploding H-Bombs In Outer Space

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Grammar of Porn: 2010 Eizo Pin-up Calendar

For years I've wanted to do a piece on the grammar of porn, the "template" poses that are endlessly repeated in adult photography. The 2010 Eizo Pin-up Calendar cleverly reveals the underlying visual structure of pornography without indulging in it. Brilliant.

Thanks for sharing Kathleen.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Visual Tropes: Pastoral Farmlands

A sure sign that a processed food product is terribly unhealthy: the use of naturalistic imagery, particulary lush pastoral scenes and edenistic farms. In this subway poster Ben & Jerry's doubles down by using the cornucopia visual metaphor.

If you pay attention you'll notice how rampant the use of naturalistic imagery has become is in the selling of garbage foods. Even Frito Lay is doing it to peddle potato chips. Legal restrictions regarding verbal food claims are strict but the high level of visual illiteracy allows marketers to say whatever the hell they want with pictures. Absurd.

From the Frito Lay website.

Related Sherman Foundation posts:

Paradoxical Food Advertising & Caregiver Abuse

Infantilizing Reality with Imaginary Worlds

Sculpture, Imaginary Worlds and Home Exercise Equipment.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

David Byrne: How architecture helped music evolve

Fascinating talk on the relationship between the spaces that music is performed in and how music develops in response to those environments.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Photoshop Cream

The secret to Madonna's success. Hilarious.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Animated Cartoons are all about "Ass Play"

If you've never noticed, animated cartoons are all about "ass play".

The hips and buttocks play a central role in defining the overall gesture and movement of many characters. The way Bugs Bunny's butt sticks out borders on "presenting". (See The Sherman Foundation post on Fashion And Display Behavior.)

The older Looney Tunes cartoons are the best and richest examples of the subtle and pervasive featuring of butts and "ass play".

When characters take on a different persona, pants/shorts/skirts often play a central role in defining that characterization. Much of the slapstick humor in cartoons involves abusing a character's tail and characters being hit in the ass with something.

In contemporary cartoons the ass is celebrated and used overly in comedic gags.

Leave it to the Simpson's not to be subtle about the appearance of a butt.

If you want to see Bugs Bunny's penis Click here!

On Melodrama: TV is all about "Making Faces"

I don't watch much TV, I watch lots of films but not very many television programs. Far less than I should given my work and interest in media, culture and pop-culture. One of the benefits of watching little TV is that when I do, I am overwhelmingly struck by the characteristics and exaggerated characteristics of the television program format.

In the past month I strayed way outside of my comfort zone and watched Survivor (I never watch reality TV), CSI Miami and the final episode of Lost. What really stood out for me is how much TV is about people "making faces" at one another and by extension the viewer. In the final episode of Lost most scenes end with a close-up and hold on an actor making a dramatic face into the camera. Most scenes "procedurals" like CSI Miami are loaded with shots of actors making dramatic faces.

What would an episode of CSI Miami be like if all of the frames that included dialog were edited out? (This would be the most interesting way to reveal the melodramatic "face-making".)

If I shortened the long, dramatic shots on actors making faces in CSI Miami I wonder how much it would shorten the episode?

It would be fun to storyboard out the close-ups on faces in each episode of a full season of CSI Miami and look at them side-by-side.

Melodrama defines Melodrama as:
1a. A drama, such as a play, film, or television program, characterized by exaggerated emotions, stereotypical characters, and interpersonal conflicts.
1b. The dramatic genre characterized by this treatment.
2a. Behavior or occurrences having melodramatic characteristics.

Violence and over-sexualization in media get a lot of attention, but what is completely overlooked is melodrama. In addition to "face-making" I would include "attitude" and "posturing" as expressions of melodrama in television shows. I speculate whether Melodrama is to blame for increasing sarcastic and snarky behavior exhibited in society. The kind of behavior recast in shows like Glee and iCarly).

The rise of reality television makes perfect sense if you see it as a purer and more raw expression of melodrama (stereotypical characters, interpersonal conflict and exaggerated emotion). The overly drawn-out scenes in reality programs when contestants are being eliminated are filled with dramatic "face-making" shots.

Final thoughts on television.
I don't believe that televisions are devices for transmitting and receiving moving images and sound. That definition makes sense if you look at the object in the room. If you examine process, a more accurate way of defining television is: a device for eliciting patterns of emotional response from human beings. People look at television in order to go on an emotional thrill-ride filled with ups, downs and loop-de-loops. (Given how bad most of the writing is it can't possibly be about narrative and telling stories.)

"The face" of melodrama.
If I had to "put a face on" Melodrama it would most certainly have to go to actor David Caruso (Horatio Caine on CSI Miami). No one hams it up like David.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Life's Sweet Ironies: Cancer Causing Sun Screens

As it turns out, sunscreen products may be cancer accelerants. Lab animals coated in a vitamin A-laced cream developed tumors and lesions up to 21 percent faster than animals treated with a vitamin-free cream. Only 39 of the 500 products tested were considered safe and effective to use.

Via AOL News: Study: Many Sunscreens May Be Accelerating Cancer
WASHINGTON (May 24) -- Almost half of the 500 most popular sunscreen products may actually increase the speed at which malignant cells develop and spread skin cancer because they contain vitamin A or its derivatives, according to an evaluation of those products released today.

AOL News also has learned through documents and interviews that the Food and Drug Administration has known of the potential danger for as long as a decade without alerting the public, which the FDA denies.

Monday, April 26, 2010

On the Perception of Time, Temperature and Banking Institutions

As a child I found it curious that banks always had signs with the time and temperature displayed. You still see it occasionally, usually on older banks. I often re-notice it when I spot a bank that's a classic representative of an earlier decade's architecture.

I recently re-asked myself that question: Why did banks have signage that included the time and temperature? One reason, I suspect, is that it helped position banks as local institutions and part of the community. Sharing that information acts as a public and civic service. It also transforms a bank into a point of focus within its surroundings. It gives people reason to "look to" the bank. This is where the practice becomes treacherously clever. By anchoring themselves to fixed, universal aspects of reality it presents banking institutions as part of the natural order of things. Immalleable, unquestionable, and irrefutable presences in the world.