31 October 2007

27 October 2007

"The Impact of the Cities," after Bertolt Brecht

Please check out an 18-image photo essay, "The Impact of the Cities," here.

23 October 2007

12 October 2007

Law And Order: Assisted Living

This is the best that United States politics has to offer? Why throw out a perfectly good used lobbyist like Fred Thompson when he could still be doing play-for-pay on Avenue K?


"Sliming Graeme Frost"

New York Times columnist Paul Krugman lays out the facts of the matter in the recent decision by stalwarts of the right to attack, belittle and stalk children for being poor and sick. Their crime? Disagreement. "Two weeks ago, the Democratic response to President Bush’s weekly radio address was delivered by a 12-year-old, Graeme Frost. Graeme, who along with his sister received severe brain injuries in a 2004 car crash and continues to need physical therapy, is a beneficiary of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program. Mr. Bush has vetoed a bipartisan bill that would have expanded that program to cover millions of children who would otherwise have been uninsured... The Frosts and their four children are exactly the kind of people S-chip was intended to help: working Americans who can’t afford private health insurance. The parents have a combined income of about $45,000, and don’t receive health insurance from employers. When they looked into buying insurance on their own before the accident, they found that it would cost $1,200 a month — a prohibitive sum given their income. After the accident, when their children needed expensive care, they couldn’t get insurance at any price. Fortunately, they received help from Maryland’s S-chip program... Graeme Frost... is exactly the kind of child the program is intended to help. But that didn’t stop the right from mounting an all-out smear campaign against him and his family... [W]e’re not talking about some obscure fringe. The charge was led by Michelle Malkin, who according to Technorati has the most-trafficked right-wing blog on the Internet, and in addition to blogging has a nationally syndicated column, writes for National Review and is a frequent guest on Fox News. The attack on Graeme’s family was also quickly picked up by Rush Limbaugh, who is so important a player in the right-wing universe that he has had multiple exclusive interviews with Vice President Dick Cheney... [A]n e-mail message from the office of Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader, sent to reporters and obtained by the Web site Think Progress, repeated the smears against the Frosts and asked: “Could the Dems really have done that bad of a job vetting this family?” ... Politics aside, the Graeme Frost case demonstrates the true depth of the health care crisis: every other advanced country has universal health insurance, but in America, insurance is now out of reach for many hard-working families, even if they have incomes some might call middle-class. And there’s one more point that should not be forgotten: ultimately, this isn’t about the Frost parents. It’s about Graeme Frost and his sister. I don’t know about you, but I think American children who need medical care should get it, period. Even if you think adults have made bad choices — a baseless smear in the case of the Frosts, but put that on one side — only a truly vicious political movement would respond by punishing their injured children."

11 October 2007

White puddle in rainbows

From the New York Times, Jeff Leeds writes, "In Radiohead Price Plan, Some See a Movement." "It was, more or less, an accident. The chief advisers to Radiohead, the Grammy-winning British rock act behind platinum albums like “OK Computer,” were lounging around, having a “metaphysical” conversation about the value of music in the digital realm, when they struck upon the idea of simply releasing new music online and letting fans settle the matter themselves... [W]hen Radiohead quietly divulged plans to let fans name their price for the digital download of its new album, “In Rainbows,” it incited talk of a revolution in the music industry, which has found the digital marketplace to be far less of a cash cow than it once dreamed. Though Radiohead is in a position that can’t easily be replicated — it completed its long-term recording contract with the music giant EMI while retaining a big audience of obsessive fans — its move is being seen as a sign for aspiring 21st-century music stars. “To put your record out for someone’s individual perceived value is brilliant,” said David Kahne, a longtime music producer who has collaborated with artists like Paul McCartney and Kelly Clarkson. While it presents obvious risks as a business model, he noted: “It’s a spiritual model. That’s what it feels like to me.” Of course, as the article continues, "Radiohead’s move comes just as a federal jury in Minnesota last week decided that a mother found liable for copyright infringement for sharing music online should pay damages amounting to about $9,250 apiece for 24 songs. Mr. Edge summed up the pricing pandemonium simply: “Digital technology has reintroduced the age of the troubadour. You are worth what people are prepared to give you in the digital age because they can get it for nothing.” In another departure from convention, the band declined to send out early copies of the music for reviewers and has not settled on a traditional single to push to radio stations.. Various voices in and out of the industry have urged Radiohead to detail its “In Rainbows” sales data, but the band’s managers declined to reveal them in an interview this week. It is not clear that the band will ever disclose how many copies of the digital album it has distributed or the average price paid, though Courtyard has been running an office pool on the results. But Radiohead’s managers did dispute rumors that more people have bought the deluxe boxed set. And they added that most fans who have ordered the download have elected to pay something. “The majority of the public are really decent human beings who are honest,” Mr. Hufford said."

08 October 2007


SATURDAY NIGHT DUSK and the Milwaukee Avenue storefront below North, between a botanica and Rodan, glows white from within, an exhibition that will last only the night. The artist's 5 ½ x 4 ¼ promo card is slapped inside the front window with a thumbprint of masking tape. Furnishings shop Fenway Gallery vacated the space only the day before, and the artist and her friends were up until 5am assembling "Melina's Big Drawing." (In a couple of days, Una Mae's boutique will begin to build-out the space.) The commissioned piece, its sprawl of scrawl seemingly invisible until you're up close, although its nine panels are three sheets high from floor to ceiling on two walls, is graphomanic succession of floral patterns, insect tracks, migrations of marks, reminiscent of Kerouac's legendary scroll manuscript of "On the Road," but instead of keystrokes and language, it's tracks and burgeoning glyphs. Artist Melina Ausikaitis, 30, describes her style as "repetitive patternmaking, mark-making." Neighborhood stalwarts and friends drift through the space. A couple of hardback chairs are in the middle of the room if you want to stop and stare. A folding chair sits in front of a monitor with DVDs playing unbroken shots of Ausikaitis drawing… drawing… drawing.

Ausikaitis worked for a year, with a commission as unusual as the exhibit's mayfly ephemerality. On the breeze from the open back doors, the Blue Line thunders. Ausikaitis' style began while in art school about a dozen years ago on a cross-country train voyage with a friend from Boston to Los Angeles. "My friend can sleep anywhere. I was alone a lot of the time. Staring at the scenery, it had a pattern to it. I wanted to see how many pages I could fill up with it." But more recently, she says, "I'd look at my art resume and say, 'Lots of group shows!' I never had a solo show, and I had to make my own first solo show." The lawyer father of a friend, Urs Trepp, a bear of a man with a cockatiel quiff of white cotton-candy hair, was in Chicago and made a studio visit.

"He came over one afternoon and I showed him my drawings. I had a few really big—big for me at the time!—pattern drawings, pen on paper, no color, no images. He liked those the best. We were just talking as we were walking from my house and he was like, 'I wanna tell you, I want to give you this commission. I want a thousand square foot drawing.' He tells me this while we're walking across Palmer Square. 'But I have some conditions,' he said. We talked for a long time about my state of mind, with being an artist and having enough confidence to get stuff done.

"I had applied to UIC for grad school and didn't get in and I started to question whether I should even continue making art. Which is a serious fucked-up thing when you've been doing it a long time and call yourself an artist! His condition was I had to quit both my jobs, at Rodan and Skylark. He asked how much I made in a year. I thought about it, I just said, 'Thirty grand." He said, 'Okay, give me your bank account info and I'll wire it to you when I get back.'

"We went to Rodan and had some drinks and I told my boss I was quitting." She used the money on supplies and living expenses, but not much else. "I thought about getting a computer but I didn't."

"If it happened now," she continues, "I'd ask more questions about why he wanted to do it in the first place, since I’m more confident than I was then. My whole perception of Urs as a person is different now. I've never met a guy with that much money before. He is American but he lives in Europe. That impressed me. I just felt really out of my territory, with somebody who would do something like that. I didn’t ask any questions! The magnificence of the whole idea of this commission, like, who does that, who says, 'A thousand square feet'?"

Ausikaitis thinks for a second. "He's a really brash guy. He was always setting people back on their heels. I think he enjoys pointing out things about people that other people are too polite to mention." And what is this piece? "It's just pencil and paper… it's just one person drawing the same thing over and over again for a year. I wish it had been smaller since it was so difficult to hang. It's a face-value piece except for how long it took. It's almost like you're at a lookout point, 'Those clouds up on that mountain ridge are kind of cool.'"

While building owner Gary Marks let her know around Labor Day he'd lend her the space for the night, Ausikaitis says, "Our only goal was to get it up and see what it looked like, we just needed to see what it actually looked like. I hadn't even seen one section in its entirety. The last time I talked to Urs, he was like, 'Just get it up anywhere.' I got paid for it, he gets his art, all the goals have been met. In that way, it was totally successful. And I got through 'Tale of Two Cities' on audiobooks. I could never get through the book. I listened to 'Huckleberry Finn,' too."

Introduced to her patron, I ask Trepp's inspiration, what does he admire about Ausikaitis' art? "I like her legs." I know that smile is the only answer I’m going to get.

Published in a different, shorter version in Newcity, 4 October 2007.

06 October 2007